I have not known my late mother, and love is not part of our vocabulary.
I knew her as a devoted and caring mother; but I did not get to know her as a person: her preference, her concerns, struggles and her inner emotion.
I was too young to know and understand her. She passed away at the age of 55, when I was in my last year of junior high school, ie I was barely 14 years old.
She became paraplegic after a stroke three years earlier. At 11 years of age, I suddenly became more patient and obedient, and took turns to care for her: to feed her with food and water, help with her medication, hand wash nappies in freezing cold water.
Each time, I had to rush home after school, as she would have been waiting for me to get home and bring her out of the house, and pour drinking water for her.
In summer days, I remembered she was really thirsty, her hand trembling and drops of tears in her eyes when I passed her a bowl or mug of water.
I was proud seeing her finishing off the last drop, yet choked in my throat.
Love is not part of our daily vocabulary, we did not have “subtle” emotions education, responsibility and care were the things in our strive for subsistence, survival and success.
She was busy as a bee, never stopping. I did not know she had any pastime, recreation, never seeing her touching Majiang, the national pastime and game.
The day she passed away was the 8th day of Chinese New Year. My sister who married into another family came home to visit her and got ready to walk back to her kids. My 2nd eldest brother brought his son to mother , for her to mind him. It snowed, and was very cold, she got up in a hurry, and fell to ground before she could stabilize herself. It would be her 2nd stroke, she never opened her eyes since the fall.
I was not sure if the marriage was a happy thing for her, I cannot image what sort of comfort and prosper my late father could have provided for her. She has NOT taken a single photo in this world.
Her mission completed at 55 years of age: being a devoted mother, being a committed wife.
I would trade every cent I have for a chance to pour her another cup of water, to talk to her as an adult and let her get to know me, not just as the 4th and youngest son she has cared for and worried about, but as a man she had raised up. A man who has inherited a healthy body, a good brain and a mild temperament, and gratitude for life.
The rumour in the village had it: she almost tried to give me up during late of the pregnancy in 1966 , in a rural village in Central China. Attempts were also made to let other family to adopt me.
But, in the end, I thank her for giving me the opportunity to experience this life, and to care for her in her last 3 years of life.
(S Lin, in tears, reflecting on Mother’s Day )
（母亲节 四立 泣字 ）