Day Three: My mother.
I woke up early in the evening to the sound of raised voices coming from downstairs. It rarely happened now; the familiar sound used to be more frequent while I was growing up.
It was just one voice. A woman’s, harsh and angry. And it probably can be heard from across the street. Righteous anger always trumps her usual shame in being caught in embarassment.
I went down and asked what the commotion was about. The house helper earlier said her nose bled while in school; it was apparently a common occurence. She was evasive when questioned about her medical condition, and she gave very flimsy excuses when asked to have her sister phoned for answers.
My mother is a temperamental woman. It was borne, I suspect, from various frustrations she carried while growing up. She was the middle child, possibly an unfavorite. She graduated class valedictorian in high school, but rebelled in and eventually dropped out of college. Through the years, she’d tell us of stories of her life while growing up. In retrospect, there was always a tinge of hurt in those stories. It reminded her of what she did not become.
Those frustrations lash out in her angry outbursts, scary and surprising. It is the anger of someone deprived of opportunities to become better, but will not complain of what was her lot.
I tried to calm her down, but I knew I can only diffuse her a little. Once worked up, she can go on for an hour or two. The house helper, a girl of sixteen, hid her face underneath a pillow, still not saying anything. Oh, the many things she got things wrong.
My mother is often a kind, sympathetic woman, but she demands respect from those under her authority. We, her kids, as expected, constantly challenged her; even more so now that we are adults. We got our temper from her, after all. It is especially true with me, who might have made several of mistakes she made when she was younger, only worse and for worse reasons. Growing up, arguments with her became a game of waiting for her to say, “what did I do to deserve you?”
My mother eventually simmered down and I urged the house helper to return to her room. After I told her maybe half a dozen times, she decided to get up and move away. That girl didn’t seem to have much sense in her.
People who have met and talked to my mother would tell me she’s such a nice person. And she is. Except during those times when she isn’t.