Monday, March 9, 2009

Tears of the Sun

I thought about my family today and realized it's been a month since my mother returned from Vietnam and I have yet to hear from her.

When she spoke of going back to her country I was apprehensive about the outcome. I suppose I had every right to feel that way - I have yet to communicate with her since. It has been 41 years since she last saw her country as a teenage wife and mother fleeing her war torn homeland. I remember her telling me that I was the reason she didn't return home after the war had ended.

My mind drifted back to the first severe punishment she ever endowed upon me. I remember her telling the story of her brothers lying supline on their stomach while the punisher lashed their backside for as long as the punisher felt was deserved. All the while, never moving nor flinching from the pain and discomfort - rather taking this reprimand with dignity and respect. This was the behavior she expected from me, and because I was unable to lie dormant and suffer, the punishment was more severe.

After this beating, I remember crawling to her for forgiveness, and hoping that she would mother me and scoop me into her arms and gently rock away that pain. Rather than the love I desired, she turned to darkness, avoiding my pleas and touches - behaving as if I were unworthy of life and affection. These are the memories I am left with when I think of her return adventure to her homeland.

It was late in the 70's that I recall a shoebox my mother always hid on the top shelf of a linen closet. In this box contained pictures and letters written in her native tongue - all of which she would never translate nor read to a child eager to know of grandparents or uncles so far away. What she did tell me - often out of loathe - was that her father had wrote her professing an end to the war and a request for her to return home. When she informed him of my existence, his reply was to leave me behind and return alone. I was the sole reason she never returned, and she made no bones about reminding me of the burden I'd put upon her. Obligation as a mother prevented her from going home, prevented her from the existence she desired. She made it clear that she despised me for this, and I'm almost certain that she carries this animosity yet today.

As I was the burden, my middle sister was an attempt to save a dying and loveless marriage. The youngest sister was created to serve as a teacher to the middle child, as doctors speculated that the 7 year difference between her and I was too broad for a child with special needs to mimic from. In between these pro creations my parents slept in separate rooms and separate beds. Perhaps it is these reasons why my mother favors my youngest sister, or maybe it is because she too was the youngest in her family.

There are days, like today, where I equally loathe both my youngest sister and my mother for the feelings of inadequacy I am left with.

My sister has always realized the vantage point she sits upon. Knowing that she's the favorite, as well as her offspring, gives her leverage for preferential treatment when gifts or financial rescues are granted. I know that she didn't conscientiously choose this favoritism based on birth order. She has however, evolved to expect these gifts and never hesitates to boast about her superiority, nor does her children hesitate to remind my daughters of their inferiority when gifts are mailed from grandma.

Rather than despair about inequality and wallow in self-pity, I have vowed to let God deal with the things they do, but I must admit, I have a hard time waiting patiently for justice.

More than this, I worry about history repeating itself within my daughters. My oldest; brooding, needy, transcending into adulthood and pushing away from my protection, while my youngest, knowing she is the last, lavishes in the love of a despairing mother clinging onto the desire for the unconditional love a young child offers. Each two very different individuals, as my youngest sister and I, and I wonder if time will find me in my mother's shoes - granting preferential treatment of one over the other. Despite my vows of equality amoung my girls, I worry that one day I may find myself loathing my oldest because of opportunites I bypassed for her well-being as my mother does me. I worry that the rift of these teen years will rip apart the fragile fibers woven between mother and child, and I pray with passion that she will never know the emptiness that fills one's soul upon realizing the void of a mother's love - this very void I am left with today.

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