My mother was sick. Back then, I never knew it.
She was always very good at hiding that fact. I was 9 years old at that time. My mother and I lived alone with an old maid, Mrs Colson, who, whenever I looked at her wrinkled face, never thought she would ever have been young, until I saw a picture of her ‘young days’.
My Dad had died, leaving me and mother all alone in that big house. 2 years after my Dad passed, I remember the day it was – a bright sunny day in Spring. Mother and I were outside, playing. I had a doll father gave me a year before he died. I always cherish that doll to this day. On that Spring day Mother and I were playing chess. I was 7 years old, a kid, and a spoiled one at that. Well… not the spoiled brat kind but, the one who had a lot of love showered on.
I had a weird interest in bugs. Mother didn’t like them and neither did Mrs Colson. Anyway the time spent in the garden in that Spring was fun… I mean she would win in the game all the time, and as if rubbing it on my face she would show me mercy at times and yet I would still lose. I had a keen interest in riddles too, but whenever I asked her she would always tell the answer. It got to the point that I couldn’t take it no more and I started being someone who couldn’t take losses. I applied the best strategy I had – I sat down and started crying. And as mother was getting up to consolidate me as I looked upon her kind loving face, the next moment my heart skipped a beat. I remember vividly; she collapsed.
That was the first time and I didn’t yet know she was sick.
After that the doctor would make visits every two days. Mother would spend most of her time on the bed. I knew she was sick but, I wasn’t sure about the extent of her condition. Every day I would run to her room with the doll only to be told by her that she wants to rest.
3 months passed by like this, after that everything seemed to be back to normal. I was happy. Mother was with me most of the time. We would resume things we did and missed for a long time. At times she would lose her breaths but be fine the next. I was young, and I didn’t know until the following year. She once again collapsed and this time she stayed put for a very long time. I had this feeling inside that kept saying she was going to die soon. But I brushed it off.
I started seeing her less. One day I was passing by her room when I saw her hugging our maid and crying. I still remember those words, “Please take care of Ana. After I’m gone make sure she lives and grows up to be a fine lady.”
I realised she would not stay long. However, I did not let her know that I knew her fate for she tried hard to hide it. She would always smile whenever I asked her if she wanted to play house. Deep down, I always knew she wouldn’t be there for long. I had to make every single memory with her to be cherishing as much as I could. Towards the end of her life, about 3 weeks before she died, relatives would come to our home talk to her behind closed doors; I was left all alone during that time.
2 weeks before she died, I would always see her sitting on her bed with her study table, lots of papers and pen. She was writing something… and she was writing letters. However when I would ask her to whom they were for she would always say that they were for someone very far away, and send me off.
On a certain Spring Day, I wanted to recreate the memory I had when I played with her last Spring before she collapsed. I asked her to come out and play with me. She said no; she couldn’t, as she had to finish the letters.
And I lost it…
I started shouting with tears, “Mother I know that you don’t have long to live, I know that very well! I have been a good girl all these times, haven’t I? I want you spend the last of your days with you playing house, you showing me mercy when we play chess, you hugging me when I throw a tantrum because I always lose. I knew about your sickness a long time back. I did not say anything because I knew you wanted to hide. But now towards the end, I want to spend my days with you. Why won’t you leave those letters and come play with me? Who are those letters for anyway?!”I broke down until Mrs. Colson took me away. She took me outside, hugged me. I was crying.
She them told me, “Your mother is writing those letters for someone very important to her ” I did not understand who it was after that. Mother had finished writing letters the next day. She came outside in the garden where I was she called me “Ana, do you want play with me?” For those 3 days it was as if life was back to normal, like mother wasn’t sick at all. She stayed with me all the time, read me stories, played chess, showed me mercy.
I didn’t want those days to end.
4 days after this certain bliss, I wore a black dress holding an umbrella.
I saw them carrying her casket. I spoke not a word. I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe it – she was there the night before with me. I knew this would come, but I didn’t want it to come now. I had the last look at her face before I lost her 6 feet under the ground. She died on a Spring Day.
I did not find out who those letters were for until my 10th birthday.
The following year I received a letter. As I opened and read I couldn’t stop crying.
It was from my mother. All those days she was busy writing letters for me.. I couldn’t stop crying. The letter started speaking (or in this case, my mother…)
Happy 10th birthday! I know I should have been there. I should have baked your favourite weird combination of chocolate, vanilla and banana cake for you. I’m apologise for I can’t do that now. I know there are a lot of things you want and wanted to say to me and those things made you sad. You may be crumbling under the weight of responsibility. I’m sorry for that. But don’t give up!
There will be times when you will be lonely, sad and afraid, but don’t give up. Still, if you want to cry then cry… though I can’t lend you my shoulder for you to cry upon.
Just know I always love you.
Your loving mother.
She still keeps sending me letters on my birthday I can’t tell you all here but..
On my 18th birthday this was the letter I got…
Happy 18th birthday! I’m sure you must have grown very tall, and into a pretty young lady.
Do you still love bugs and riddles? I’m sure you still do. Do you remember the dance you would do whenever I couldn’t answer one of your riddles.
And wait, have you managed to get a boyfriend? Although I won’t approve you having a boyfriend because you know, parental issues, I always know that you will pick someone you know would always love, cherish you and never leave you alone like I did.
However, whenever you feel that you are alone and lonely, just know that you will find me by your side. Dare to live a good life!
Your loving mother.
I now have a family of my own and, I still get those letters!
Idk for how long will I keep getting them but… I do hope my mother has even written a letter when I AM on my deathbed.
(I only wonder, who took this heck of a big responsibility?)