Ma


I refrained from posting this on Mother’s Day out of respect for all my friends who are mothers and for all my friends who still have mothers.

But Mother’s Day is tough. Very tough.

Nine years ago, my mother died.

May 19, 2001.

A few months before 9/11. It became a year that everyone remembers for the terrorist attacks. I remember it as the year my father died, and, exactly two months later, my mother.

Every year on this day, a melancholy descends on me.

I don’t feel like doing much of anything save look at her photographs and her handwriting — I still have all the letters she wrote me from Kolkata. I even have her clothes, fresh from her closet in our flat. Even after all these years, they smell like her, though the scents are fading and I desperately don’t want them to. I put a few of her things in a plastic bag to prevent her from escaping.

I miss her smile. I miss her hand on my forehead. I miss her kiss and her embrace.

I miss everything about her.

She had a massive stroke in 1982. She was only 51 then. But she lived another 19 years, bound to a wheelchair, half her brain cells gone. Toward the end of her life, we exchanged roles. I became a mother, taking care of her, making all the important decisions in her life. She was almost like my child, completely dependent on me.

And yet, every time I gazed into her eyes, I thought of the immense sacrifices she made — as a young Bengali woman who came to these shores not speaking English, not knowing how to operate an electric stove or drive a car. She endured the death of her own parents from afar, endured her loneliness. Never shared her pain with us; only her joy.

Only later, only after she died and it was too late to talk, did I discover her journals and writings. Only then did I realize how incredibly steely my mother was.

Only now do I appreciate her fully. Now that she is gone. Forever.

And a deep void fills my life. Today on the anniversary of her death. And every day that I live.

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