Horizon at Sandy Point

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lessons from my mother

Today is my mother's birthday. She would have been 83. The last birthday I spent with her, she was 70, and triumphant to have reached that milestone, plagued as she was with late onset diabetes - full blown after her last pregnancy in 1961 - which led to heart disease and complicastions of glaucoma and other organ failures. She would be a cautionary tale for appropriate nutrition and  lifestyle practices but for the fact that she was not particularly unhealthy in her eating habits or inactive. She certainly instilled in us a nutritional foundation based on three meals a day,  balanced with protein, carbohydrate and vegetables; and the values of hard work, as much of it as possible outside - in her garden. If there is a caution, it is that as a population - descendants of immigrants in a land where we fed on cane sugar, white flour, rice - we are prone to this hereditary disease, diabetes, that is promoted by lifestyle factors.

Our mother, Yvonne Assing, before she was a mother; and possibly before she was a wife! c 1950

My mother raised us well in every respect - but one. I don't think she ever considered  - even in oblique remarks - the complexities of relationships outside the home and family and social group, including sexual relationships.  I think she must have felt blind sided by boy friends and girl friends of other ethnic groups. other religions. Never mind that she did  grow up in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Trinidad and Tobago, and sent us to school in the golden age of equal education and opportunity. As a young girl, her marriage to a young Chinese shopkeeper raised no eyebrows, offended no social norms, and kept her within a traditional Chinese and Chinese descended social group.

But the world after the sixties was spinning too fast. And each of her children spun off in a different direction with persons who tugged at our hearts, whose parents like ours, were never asked - except in the most cursory fashion -  to give consent. Love affairs, marriages and break ups were neither destined nor life-changing, but simply phases of individual evolution. Painful, heart-breaking at times, but helping us to evolve character and spirit. We looked for pleasures and satisfactions, and were lucky when we found contentment and joy.

These days, as I study my mother's life - so much was never told to us, just passed on through osmosis of feeling and snippets of arguments and conversations caught in passing - I wonder what my own legacy would be. How much more do I need to express about loving deeply and living lightly, about being in the world yet being in one's own spirit. This is now the purpose and hope of a long enough life. And to wish that my children - through birth or influence or our direct conversations - might indeed know contentment and joy in relationships. That however fleeting these moments might be, that they provide resources that can be continuously tapped and replenished for their own long, healthy and productive lives.

1 comment:

  1. I am almost sure, that what we pass down to our children- the significant messages, and moments, will not be the things that we think they will be.

    I met a past student of mine not so long ago, who is now a medical doctor. He made a special effort to come over and to talk to me. He had just graduated from medical school, and was interning at the time. He was now about 6 feet 4 inches tall, and a young man.

    He gave me a big hug and a kiss and said, "I am so happy to have met up with you. I have always wanted to thank you so much for something that you taught me".

    Of course, I was very pleasantly surprised, as you never quite know what a previous student, turned adult, might think of the days gone by, in the thick of the battle ground that is the classroom. And with twenty-five energetic and sweaty little people, who have a very important and life altering examination to write!

    My mind went back to the years that I had taught this student, and the struggles and triumphs of those times, and I especially remembered the trials and hours spent on the math, of the very rigorous Common Entrance Examination.

    I was sure it must be fractions, or something along that line, that he was going to thank me for.(In fact I sort of prided myself on being able to teach that part of the syllabus very well, with the students leaving me actually understanding it!)

    I was totally surprised by what he said next.
    "I have always wanted to thank you for teaching me to meditate, and to use the relaxation exercises!"

    I was so surprised! That is the very last thing in the world I was expecting him to say. I teach these exercises every year to my Grade 5 class to help arm them for the big exam, and to help them to handle the pressure placed on their little backs, by well wishing parents and an insecure society.

    He then went on to say that he literally uses the exercises and techniques, every day of his life. And he feels they are responsible for his success at University and Medical School! He said that he didn't think he could have survived the pressure and demands of the programme, without them.

    So, no matter how much you may think you understand your input.. or your conscious desires for your children, it is almost certainly going to be something else that made the largest impact!