For years after my National Service stint my mother has asked if I could make time – at the end of the year – for the family to travel a few weeks together, and for her it made even more sense last year. On my exchange semester in Helsinki, Finland I travelled to different cities in Europe, and not only was she excited to visit the places I’ve been to as well as to go on obligatory shopping and sightseeing trips, above all I think she wanted us to be together.
“You have to identify the things that matter and the people who matter”, a friend advised when I shared about my commitments (completely aware of my scepticism). “And in the long run you’ll learn to appreciate your family and friends, more than your endeavours”. Perhaps it’s easier said than done? Perhaps it’s a problem unique to someone who shies away from expressions of affection and gratitude, and therefore seems cold and callous? Perhaps it’s the latent feelings of insecurity and arrogance, despite a resolution to start over?
I don’t talk much with or about them and I don’t always embrace them (read: it’s sometimes awkward), yet I have the utmost love, admiration, and respect for my parents. They never had the privileges I have – no worries about putting food on the table or landing a pragmatic job for the money, for instance – and they are seriously hard grafters. With both of them at work I was accustomed to finding my own engagements, especially in community service. To a large extent my present commitments are extensions of what I’ve been involved in, and hence with my work ethic (an inherited trait, I presume) I’m always focused on bettering myself. To chase the hero who is always ten years away, as Matthew McConaughey would muse.
The difference is that my parents are getting on in years. I used to be apathetic to friendships and relationships – with a little more resolve now to improve after a self-leadership exercise – but I would be silly to pay so little regard to my parents. Excuses about the lack of time were moot, since I knew I had no trouble managing my routines. It was a question of willingness.
Before the passing of my maternal grandmother in 2007 my mother told me how glad she was to have brought ah-ma on a trip to Australia, because after a bad fall years later her mobility was limited. Before my conscription my parents organised a holiday to Korea with my paternal grandmother. “It’ll be hard for her to walk around the attractions in the future”, my mother said. Ma-ma really enjoyed herself throughout the nine days (she does love her Korean dramas). That was back in 2009, and we speak of the Korean trip even till today. How we – the privileged ones – take things for granted eh?
Maybe this year we will finally go on the trip. About time, my mother would say.