As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I have my mum, my eldest sister and my niece staying with me until early April. It’s been great having them with me here as I certainly enjoy their company a lot. I try my best to be the best host and to showcase some of the best places that Adelaide and South Australia have to offer. However, living with them for the last ten days has also shown how our paths have diverged. Having lived in Australia for the last ten years has shaped the way that I think and behave, and Yani and I have also slipped into a comfortable equilibrium that both of us enjoy. Picture a typical evening where I tinker with my computer in my study at the back of the house, while Yani watches the telly or lies on the couch, playing her iPhone games. It’s different having my sister – she has the habit of calling out my name from a different room, only to inquire what I am doing and to ask trivial things. I forgot that shouting was one of the acceptable norms of communication in our family *grin*. Having them around has really given me a lot of food for thought – I thought about putting them into words only after they have left, but I don’t want to lose the lessons that I have learned, so I thought I should write it down.
An incident today makes me pause and think about the unfortunate curse of expectations. Yesterday, I told Mum that we would have yum cha on Sunday morning at one of the Chinese restaurants in town. Mum was happy with that decision and told my sister about it. So we drove to Chinatown at around 11am, to give ourselves plenty of time before our church service at 2pm. As Mum’s knees are pretty weak now, she can’t walk very far – even with the rollator that I have bought her. So it was a bit of a struggle to walk for 200m from where I parked the car, to the restaurant. We had a good meal at the restaurant, and it was good to see Mum enjoying the food. Because of Mum’s condition, I decided to walk to the car park and drive over and fetch them in front of the restaurant, rather than making Mum walk all the way back again.
After church, my friends decided to have dinner in Chinatown, Mum wasn’t that keen but she said that she wouldn’t mind going. However, after we parked our car and (again) moved very slowly to the restaurant – we realised that due to a miscommunication, they had picked another restaurant instead. If we had decided to join the folks from church, Mum would have to walk even further. We were all still full after our hearty yum cha, so I threw the idea of going to a cafe instead.
I thought it would be good for Mum to visit the new churros cafe on Rundle Street – however, after driving round and round like a hapless moth around a flame, I still couldn’t find a parking spot near East Terrace or Rundle Street. I wanted to get a spot as close to the cafe as possible, so Mum wouldn’t have to walk too far. By then, Mum had got impatient as well and suggested that we should go home instead – she said that she was getting tired. In my frustration, I said that we had limited time where the five of us could go and enjoy our time together. During the week, either I have to go to the uni to do some work, or Yani is scheduled to work – so it is a challenge to fit everybody’s availability. I told Mum that it was mind over matters – that she should really try to exercise a bit more, so she could regain some strength on her knees and legs. I was pretty frustrated with her staying home a lot although I had wanted to drive her around and see a lot more places around the city. Mum said that all she had wanted was to see Yani and me, and that that was enough for her. She was pretty upset at the end as well – saying that she couldn’t help being weak.
I drove home in silence, still seething. I walked Indy around the block to calm myself – and even gave Indy some scolding when he ran off to chase the neighbourhood cat.
The walk gave me a chance to think.
My sisters have been telling me that Mum really has to watch what she eats so she can be healthy again. However – in the ten days that she has been with me, she hasn’t really eaten that much sugary or savoury stuff – except when we go together and visit a cafe or a restaurant (which we don’t do often anyway, as she always says that she prefers to stay at home). Maybe it’s just her slow metabolism – after all she is 73. I know that there are a lot of strong and independent seniors in Adelaide, but she’s not like that after Dad passed away a couple of years ago. Some sparks have gone. When Dad was still around, Mum used Dad as a source of irritation and challenges that would spur her to push on – even just to annoy Dad. Now it’s as if she were just going through the days, doing the best that she can to fill the hours with knitting and sleeping. I know that my sisters have been pretty hard on her, criticising her diet and her lack of exercises – I think she keeps her sadness inside because of that.
And now I have contributed my annoyance of her to her sadness. I told her that she wasn’t being very appreciative with my effort to please her – I just didn’t want her to waste the time and money, coming to Adelaide only to spend most of her time at home …
It got me thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t consider her visit to Adelaide a waste – even if what she sees is only my house, the church, Chinatown, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, and Hahndorf. She had wanted to see me and Yani, and attend my graduation. I shouldn’t force her to accept my way of appreciation, if it is truly not what she really wants. I know that my time with her is limited – sooner or later I will have to let her go and this is by no means a morose thought – I’m just being pragmatic. If I fill the remaining days of her visit here feeling disappointed with her preference to stay at home, I may end up wishing – sometime in the future – that I could turn back the clock and letting Mum do whatever she had wanted.
Expectations can be a curse sometimes. Parents do that to children, and as children we do that to our parents as well. We want them to be forever strong, forever the figures of authority, wisdom and knowledge – and when they get old and weak and just ask to be left alone, we get disappointed as they do not fit with our expectations. Maybe our love is enough as a way to show our appreciation – they don’t need us to show them places and they shouldn’t be forced to do what we want them to do.
Maybe we should just simply love them in their years of weakness and frailty, and let them be happy.
Maybe I should.