Dear Mama, When I Grow Up, I Want To Be You: A Daughter’s Ode
Almost six months ago, my mom had a total right knee replacement surgery. The surgeon, a top-notch orthopedic specialist, inserted a titanium implant in her knee (where the joints meet each other), broke her leg in two places because replacements are induced fractures, and sent her out of the OT in less than three hours.
It was the longest three hours of my life.
Ordinarily, I am not a praying kind of woman. It’s not like I don’t have faith in God. I just had more faith in the three surgeons and one anesthetist who’d taken the person I loved the most in the world inside an operation theater to perform body-altering surgery on her. But it still was the longest three hours of my life because I wasn’t in there with her.
I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know if she was cold or hot or in pain and …I didn’t know. I had no control over my mom’s surgery or it’s eventual, almost, guaranteed positive outcome. And I am not a praying kind of woman, although I have prayed for her to be pain-free all through my life.
So, I did something else. I opened my laptop and I went to work. I sat on her hospital bed (the one she had slept on the previous night), opened the document of the novel I had to release in July and started editing it.
I loved working on it. And I even finished proofing the whole book before she was out of surgery.
That was my prayer.
And I learned it from my mother, Kala Venkatraman.
My mother has never had an idle day in her life. If she isn’t dressing up fabulously to go to work, she is cleaning out her wardrobe at home or admiring her jewelry – her collection is incredible – or taking care of my grandparents, sorting out our finances, making grocery lists, chore lists, having fun lists, call lists, reading books or… her newest obsession watching silly Bollywood gossip videos.
If she isn’t doing any one of these things, she is helping my dad out with a religious or family function (read planning it) or talking her often-neurotic daughter down a metaphoric ledge.
FYI, she is doing all of this right now, as I write this post, all while looking absolutely fabulous.
My mom would never admit it, she’d not even think about it this way, but she doesn’t know what it means to just be. Just be.
The surgery recovery time for a single total knee replacement is six weeks. I had made lists of all kinds of movies we would watch, the books we would read and the weekly massages we would get as mom slowly and painlessly recovered from this surgery. My main agenda was to make sure she got adequate rest, the kinds she’s never had in her life.
Five days after she was discharged from the hospital, nine days after a surgeon tore her knee open, inserted a foreign object, stapled her skin back together and surgically glued it shut, my grandfather passed away in his sleep.
Needless to say my plan of making sure mama rested was shot to hell after that.
As eldest daughter-in-law of the family, it fell to my in-recovery from surgery mother to perform the final rites with my father. In Hindu lexicon, we had two weeks of funeral rites to get through.
And, you know what? She did it.
She stood right up there with my father, gritting her teeth, hopped up on painkillers. The physical therapist (an ex-schoolmate and now very good friend) came every day for the two weeks of the funeral and he even came to the funeral – because my grandpa was also his patient.
Mom was adamant that she would do her duty as a daughter-in-law of the Raman clan as well as her duty by herself.
I know of no other person on the planet who would undertake the immense physical and mental stress that comes from participating in a fortnight-long funeral just days after they’d had surgery. I’m not sure I am capable of it and I come from her blood.
My mother and I had the worst fight in recent history during those two weeks. I was immensely, intensely down with viral fever and emotionally overloaded on basically everything that happened. Mom said something in jest – which actually wasn’t all that funny and which I can’t recall now, to be honest – and it was the first time we went to bed angry and upset with each other.
It was so bad that my aunt had to mediate and get us together on a call so we could talk to each other. We talked, we made up, we hugged and then…she took care of me while she herself was recovering.
I say it with no small amount of shame, I wish I’d done better that week. I wish I’d not fought with her but the issue we fought over was valid and she actually course-corrected her behavior after that. And our relationship emerged stronger for it, as it always does after whatever fight we have.
My mother and I are allies. We are soldiers. We are best friends. We are role models to each other. We are adults who drink (okay, I drink and convince her to). We are goofy silly girls and we are… together.
As another year comes to an end, an impossibly hard and amazing year for the both of us, I just wanted to acknowledge this bond we have. And I wanted to tell her this: Mama when I grow up, I want to be you.
Self-loved. Self-aware. Selfish when required. And just absolutely fabulous in every shade in between.
Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal is the bestselling author of more than 10 books. She is also an amateur poet and fierce feminist who loves naps and the city of her birth – Mumbai.