Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mak In Remembrance

Mak with four of her six daughters. From left: me, Zahana, Hanizah & Zaridah. Not in pix Zanariah & Norliza.

It has been such a roller coaster ride these past few days with mum's death and all, that I feel life has gone a little off-tangent.

There is this feeling of emptiness slowly gnawing inside, a yawning chasm that only serves to heighten the pain.

In a way I am fortunate because I am one of those placid, boring old souls not given to much excitement and displays of emotion.

I have always been the kind who keeps things bottled up inside and this time it is no different; I grieve in silence.

Even though I am mum's firstborn daughter (I have two brothers ahead of me), we never had that traditional mother-daughter relationship.

This is because I never grew up with her. Instead, being the eldest granddaughter, I was farmed out to be raised by Opah (Grandma) and Tok Ayah (Grandpa) from infancy.

I grew up to be a loner, spoiled and quite brattish too, revelling in my status as "Opah's favourite" to the exasperation of everyone.

Having said that, mum and I got on reasonably well together as we age, especially after I became a wife and mother myself.

When my grandmother died six years after my marriage, it was to mum that my parental loyalty shifted.

Mum was hard to fathom. Quiet and retiring, she had the patience of a saint. She also never raised her voice nor her finger at any of her children.

That 'dirty' job was left to Bapak, who would roll up his "Berita Harian" newspaper to swat his kids by way of disciplining them.

Comical as it may seem now, that roll of newspaper never failed to put the fear of God into them all.

By the way, Bapak was no ogre; he was a big softie and one reluctant disciplinarian. But somebody had to do the job!

My mother was a fiercely independent woman. Even In her declining years, she refused to lodge with any of her children, preferring to live on her own in her neat little bungalow by the sea in Dungun.

Fortunately, my sister Ani and her family live just two doors away, so she wasn't without company.

When she was stricken with renal failure, however, mum grudgingly allowed herself to be transported to Kuala Terengganu, to be under the care of another sister, Idah.

She loved coming to Kuala Lumpur, making the rounds visiting her children and grandchildren. As her health rapidly deteriorated, however, her travels became fewer and far between.

Mum enjoyed travelling and before her illness, she even made a trip to the United States to visit our youngest sibling, Liza, who lives and works there.

Oh, my mother, bless her soul, was also a vainpot and we loved to tease her about it. Her illness notwithstanding, she would strive to look good at all times. Not a hair out of place, always.

I am ashamed to say I did not inherit this trait of hers. With my occasional worn t-shirt, faded sarong and mousy hair, I have been known to be mistaken as the family maid!

With mum's passing, we have lost a matriarch. I am afraid I am not up for the job, at least not just yet, and I don't think anyone among us could fill her shoes.

In retrospect, we have a lot to be grateful for. We have had a wonderful person to call Mother. It was God's blessing upon us. We couldn't have asked for more.

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