Friday, 26 October 2012

Vegetable Politics

Now that my dad and I live alone in our apartment, and he is aging, sometimes, nay, more than sometimes, it is tough being his everything. Sometimes I fail and then sometimes I succeed royally. Like today, I was cooking dinner and told him we were running low on greens so for dinner I would toss together some tomatoes, celery and onions and make a raita. He was happy as he loves yoghurt, but when I cautioned that our yoghurt was pretty pungent, he immediately asked me to add ginger to it to cut the pungency. Well. I did not have fresh ginger for that. Only frozen, aged ginger, that I use for cooking curries, not for adding to a raw salad or to a raita.

Dad was not happy there was no fresh ginger to add to the raita and commented a couple of times that ginger would cut the smell/pungency of the yoghurt. I had to repeat that we had no fresh ginger and he looked at me over the top of his spectacles. 

I took a deep breath and told him, that it was close to dinnertime and I could not nip out for fresh ginger at the 11th hour as the curries cooking would be ruined and it was only the 2 of us at home. (I made a mental note to add fresh ginger to the grocery lists for the next grocery run.)

Then I told him that I could not be 3 human beings to him. I could not be my mother, Grandma Elsie, and myself. I could only be me. A flawed human being who does not have fresh ginger in the refrigerator. 

Sorry! (Woah, where did *that* comment come from!!!)

Dad had a stricken look on his face. 

He said immediately that I was so much more than my grandmother and my mother. That I was me and that was enough. That he did not need ginger after all. 

I felt waves of guilty feelings kicking me in the head and I made a hasty retreat to the kitchen immediately. No tears. No tears. No tears. 

Why should a dinner recipe descend into a maelstrom of grieving feelings that I am not my perfect mother?

Why is this blogpost so difficult to write? 

Maybe because it is difficult to admit that I am not superhuman like my mother. I am not superhuman like my Grandma Elsie. I am not able to multi-task to the extent that they were able to do, juggling children, husband, a business, pets and being able to cook, clean, sew, attend church, run did they do it? 

I know the answer. Blatant breaches of the Child Act and pure and simple child labour. 

My grandma Elsie had 3 sons and 2 daughters and 2 maids. She and my grandfather were doctors. They had a lot of support at home from the children and the help. Whatever my dad requested appeared before him like magic. My grandma had her 2 daughters, her 2 maids and herself too in the kitchen intermittently, running all chores from home. And as this was the 1950s whatever the son wanted, the son received. Amen. 

As for my mum, she had my brother and I to help her when she was my age, and she had 2 maids also to run her chores for her. All through my school years I remember the strict instructions to come straight home and not to play with my friends as there were chores to be done and I had to help my parents with the family business. They ran a kindergarten and a computer school. The kindergarten was more successful so in the end all hands on deck were ordered to help keep the kindergarten fully staffed and running. We had 5 full time teachers, 2 child-minders, 2 cooks/maids, and my mum oversaw the administrative running of the business. Well mostly my mum. I was the kid-of-all-work for any chores or work that my mum had no time to take on and so farmed out to me. I was often tasked with teaching the children music and art after I returned from school and with minding the child-minders (my mum did not trust the staff fully and always had her eyes on what they were doing with the children). I remember grumbling once or twice and then being told that I should be lucky that my parents are involving me in their work life. I was also told firmly that my childhood ended the moment their family business started as we would all have to pull equal weight in making the business a success.

Asian level parenting, 1980s style. 

I dunno if all the superhuman activities my mum did for the kindergarten and for the family is what burnt out her engines early and caused this very fit woman to suddenly suffer from cancer and then lose the battle with it within 7 months of diagnosis. 6 years after she died, my brother married my ex-colleague and moved out of our family home into my dad's other apartment situated in the opposite block across the swimming pool and condo gardens. 

So now at home, there is my dad, there is me, and there are 3 fat cats and 2 little cats. I doubt very much that the feline family members can help me with my business (, clean the house or cut the vegetables. 

I do not have the strength of 3 human beings. I do what I can to keep us both alive, fed and watered, exercised, ventilated and sunned, sufficiently nutrition-ed and rested, and that is the extent of it. I have no energy to ensure that all the vegetables of the world reside in my refrigerator for use when needed. I also do not have the energy to nip out to the shop while the curry is cooking over the fire, in search of extra condiments. 

This isn't the movies. 

There is no miracle at the end of the hardship or at the end of the rainbow, and no one to send out to get me ginger. If it were my mum or grandma, one member of the household would have been dispatched to the grocery store to see to it that dad's wishes were granted.  

This is my reality now. I have to be mother, grandma and daughter all rolled into one. 

Before I even attempt that, I should learn to bite my tongue more. 

Maybe the next stage of the process is that I start a care-givers support group for "adult single children caring for their aged parents" as maybe there are other people out there who feel the way I do and go through the things I go through. 

My dad's stricken expression flashes through my mind's eye again. 


I suck. 

I will shaddap now. 

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