The last meal I made for my mother was toast.
She said it was delicious.
But it was just toast. 5 minutes for the toast to be done, less than a minute to slather on generous amounts of butter and kaya.
Her usual intake then was 2 bites. She ate half the toast. And kept saying it was delicious.
My mother wasn’t generous with compliments to me. She was with my brother. I always thought it was unfair, considering how she made me achieving 255 in PSLE seemed normal but my brother’s 211 seemed like he did the best thing ever to make the family proud. The list goes on. My brother went on to become an overachiever, I’m still at the state I am. Kinda doing well without seemingly having to try too hard.
But she adored me. My own mother adored me. It’s not just plain being proud of me. She talked about me to others often. My aunts told me how she would look at me with adoration. But I wasn’t looking. When I do look, we end up quarreling over the most trivial of matters.
My temper may have taken after my dad, but for the most part, I am like her. I am not like her, but I am like her.
I took after her flair for the arts. I took after her love of thought, of philosophy, of music, of languages. She was a stubborn woman; I am a stubborn woman, with a really short and hot temper. I look more like her now.
This woman gave me life. But now she’s gone.
And even at her last moment, her praise for me wasn’t direct; “my daughter is still the best”.
After the funeral, the hospice worker called to share with me some things.
She talked about me to the worker for a good 30 minutes. About how much she loves me, about how she really didn’t love my brother more than me, about all the other things.
I heard all these before. Not a lot, but I did hear them before, usually after I throw a tantrum and got really upset that they made my achievements seemed so normal, and after some time of cold war, I would apologize through actions (never through saying “I’m sorry”; my pride was in the way), and she would, sometimes, tell me these things.
I remember the first thing I said to her when I rushed home from work to see her the last time was “I’m sorry”.
I can’t apologize enough.
For all the times she did not tell me how much she loves me, I too, did not tell her how much I love her.
I slept next to her that night, after I made her toast in the day.
I held her hand.
"What are you doing?"
"Just felt like it."
For a moment I let go of her hand to adjust myself.
Once I was settled, she held mine.