The most hateful words she has ever said to another human being were to her mother. She was sixteen at the time. They rose from the storm in her chest and she let them fall in a fury of hailstones: “I hate you. I wish I were dead. ” She waited for her to collapse, stricken by what she had just said. She was still standing upright, her chin tilted, her lip stretched in crazy smile. “Okay, maybe I die too,” she said between huffs.
“Then I no longer be your mother! ” We had many similar exchanges.Sometimes she actually tried to kill herself by running into the street, holding a knife to her throat. She too has storms in her chest. And what she aimed at her was as fast and deadly as a lightning bolt. For days after their arguments, she would not speak to her. She tormented her, acted as if she had no feelings for me whatsoever.
She was lost to her. And because of that, she lost battle after battle, all of them: the times she criticized her, humiliated her in front of others, forbade her to do this or that without even listening to one good reason hy it should be the other way. She swore to herself she would never forget these injustices. She would store them, harden her heart, and make herself impenetrable as she was. She remembers this now, because she was also remembering another time, just a few years ago. She was forty-seven, had become a different person by then, and had become a fiction writer, someone who uses memory and imagination. In fact, she was writing a story about a girl and her mother, when the phone rang. It was her mother, and this surprised her.
Had someone helped her make the call? For a few years now, she had been losing her mind through Alzheimer’s disease. Early on, she forgot to lock her door. Then she forgot where she lived. She forgot how many people were and what they had meant to her. Lately, she could no longer remember many of her worries and sorrows. “Amy- ah,” she said, and she began to speak quickly in Chinese.
“Something is wrong with my mind. She thinks she is going crazy. ” She caught her breath. Usually she could barely speak more than two words at a time. Do not worry. ” She started to say.
“It is true,” she went on. She feels like she can not remember many things. She can not remember what happened a long time ago, what she did to her..
. ” she spoke as a drowning person might if she had bobbed to the surface with the force of will to live, only to see how far she had already drifted, how impossibly far she was from the shore. She spoke frantically: “She knows she did something to hurt her. ” “You did not,” she said. “Do not worry. ” She did terrible thing. But now she can not remember what ….
And she just wants to tell her…. She hopes that Amy can forget, just as she has forgotten. She tried to laugh so she would not notice the cracks in her voices. “Really do not worry. ” Okay, she just wanted her to know after they hung up, she cried, both happy and sad. She was again that sixteen year-old, but the storm in her chest was gone. Her mother died six months later.
By then she had bequeathed to her the most healing words, as open and eternal as a clear blue sky. Together they knew in their heart what they should remember, what they can forget.