Sunday, September 7, 2008

My mom-in-law & me ~ a blind date,an accidental love..

The blind date

I learnt a few things about her from my husband during our days studying for our masters degree at the Univ of Warwick, UK in 1991-1992. But that didn't help much actually since the few information i had was only her name is Rogayah binti Abdul Rahman and she was a PJ born. I once asked my husband,then my boyfriend, " hey, what's your mom like?". The only answer i got from him " orang la..". Unsatisfied with that i asked further "ye le...what's she like to do ke..ape2 la..". My husband said "ntah..mengemas le kot..i asyik nengok die bekemas je..."...urghhh...hopeless betul rasanya bila tanya dia ni...

My mom-in-law on her wedding day in 1966

The first time i met her, it was an arranged meeting. Of course it was - that was the day i got engaged to my husband! Was i nervous? U bet i was..I remembered i was even more nervous to lay my eyes on my mother in law for the first time rather than the fact i was going to be engaged...hahaahahaha!Alamak, nak pakai baju ape ni? Apa nak cakap ni..? Nak duduk camane ni...on the floor...on the chair...cross the leg..or should i just pin my kne..e...? What should i refer her as...aunty? mak cik? mak gayah?? oh god...i WAS felt like meeting someone on a blind date which i honestly never had any experience of any sort..

Thy shall not step foot in the 'royal circle'....

When i got married to my husband and consequently be part of her family, i believed there were many aspects about me she was not happy with. It took me quite a long time to figure out why she acted the way she acted and why she said what she said but as i got to know her and accepting her as part of my life...i understood why she was what she was.

There are only two of them: my mom in law and her only and favourite brother, Pak long Omar. Pak long Omar is everything good and nice in my mom in law's eyes. Well, he is as a matter of fact a nice and kind uncle to my husband and his brothers. Their biological mother passed away when my mom in law was four and pak long was three. Ever since then, they were brought up by their rich grandparents in Petaling Jaya. They all lived in a big mansion along with their uncles and aunties and her countless cousins. The funny thing was (well at least i used to think of it as funny..), all these people were later matched to marry. So during those days, they all married their cousins or their cousin's cousins..and her parents were no exception. Her parents were cousins.

I took this pic from her old album. These people were her aunties and uncles who were cousins matched to marry. I am not sure if one of the couples were her parents..

Losing her mother at that tender age of four consequently made pak long Omar and her favourite cousin, a.k.a. Cik Bocha,her only confidentes through her growing up years. When she got married and has her own family, now there were her husband and her three sons. These people seems to me like her 'royal circle'. She didn't have the maternal relationship with anyone which made her not so generous in showing affections to others outside this 'royal circle'. She trusted these people in the 'royal circle' so unwaveringly like she built a castle wall around them; not allowing anyone to enter;always coutious or skeptical or paranoid if others would have a control or influence on these people. The saddest thing was that of all those outsiders she was trying hard to protect her 'royal circle' from, the most 'dangerous' people in her eyes were us...her sons' wives. No one could ever imagine what i had to go through to infiltrate this circle as i was the first outsider who invaded her territory ~ i married the eldest son.

When there is compassion, there will be love...

In my early days with her, i remembered i was all the opposite of what her vision of a daughter in law would be . I was like her nightmare in the daylight...hahhahaha( now i can laugh la...but i don't think i laughed this much 15 years ago). I was this young lady, educated, vocal yet considered as 'outdated' just because i wore tudung in public...hated pakai emas bergayut2 to weddings....and the most intolerable curse of all time..."this was the woman MY son would now listen to and consider her opinions and worst of all, if her opinions formed the basis of MY son's decisions".

No matter how explicitly she displayed her disapproval on most aspects about me, deep inside i somehow knew i gained her respects and i believe this still stays till this day. Without fail, since the first day my parents in law set foot in our house, there was always food on table and 95% of the time, i cooked for them when they came to visit us. My arwah father in law used to love my pecal and my kuah lodeh. Everytime he ate the pecal, i remembered him saying " abah suka ani masak mmg favourite abah dulu lagi.." . There was one time i made the roti jala and we all used to eat roti jala with kuah kari ayam pekat but my mom in law would say.."ni fav mak ni, tp kalau makan dengan kuah durian la,lagi sedap.." and i would straight went to the kitchen and made the kuah durian for her. She sooo loved the kuah durian...she could eat the kuah durian just like that on its own to the last drop i tell you..And then, there was this unwritten tradition. According to my husband, his arwah nenek used to make this sandwich cake that was soooo scrumptious that he missed so much since his nenek passed away. I looked up in my old recipe book which i bought when i was in the UK and i found this recipe "victoria sandwich cake". So, Hari Raya that year, i braved myself trying out this recipe and bon appetite! The moment i opened the cake dish, my parents in law were elated. I remembered my arwah father in law bragging about his mom used to make the cake every raya that his mother's was unbeatable..."macam ani buat ni la..." he said. I smiled looking at them enjoying the cake ( sorry to say, i don't like it so much..its sooo sweet). Since that year, Victoria Sandwich Cake is a MUST to have item in our menu raya.

The day my father in law passed away, my husband and i were the only two by his side. My mom in law was sleeping. I remembered holding her hand, gently waking her up and said
"mak...bangun ye...mak, abah dah tak de..." i broke the news to her. She panicked for a moment. My husband hold her tightly...she broke down and cried. Since we were in the hospital, my father in law's body had to be brought to the mortuary to do everything necessary for us to be able to bring my late father in law's body home. I was alone with my mom in law outside the mortuary. I held her hands and consoled her not to worry about being alone because we all would take care of her...that her sons are all responsible men and would never leave her on her own. She said "seb baik ani ada kawankan mak...kalau sorang macam mane lah kita nak ngadap smue ni...". I stayed quiet. Deep inside me i was actually glad to be with her at this crucial episode of her life. At that particular moment, for the first time in my life with her, i felt accepted.

The aftermath ~15 years after my invasion of her territory...

Last weekend, my mom in law agreed to stay with us for at least a week and will come and stay with us again during the first week of raya. As usual, and since it's ramadhan, i will cook and attend to everyone's needs including my mom in law's. Now that she is not so energetic anymore, i asked her to relax and rest most of the time. During these moments i have her in my care, i can't help noticing a few changes in her behaviour. She used to be very like very particular on many things. The other day she forgot to switch off the iron, another day she forgot to close the water tab and let the water running the whole night. But the most startling event was when four days ago, i made the roti jala and her all time favourite kuah durian for buka puasa...she suddenly commented "macamane nak makan ni? mak tak penah makan ni...". Spontaneously i replied "eh, kan mak suka kuah durian ni...dulu ani buat mak suka sangat...". I exchanged look with my husband but said nothing.

When we sent her back to her house in KL just now, before we part with her to go back to Shah Alam, my mom in law cupped my face in the palms of her hands, looking into my face...then kissed my cheeks on both sides...while hugging me, she said "timekaseh ya ani..". My heart melted as i looked into her aging face...despite our differences in the past...i know i love her. However,one question keep fix in my thought since that incident at buka puasa four days ago...IS MY MOM IN LAW SHOWS SYMPTOMS OF DEMENTIA?

My mom-in-law and my eldest aisyah...aisyah is like a miniature of her grandmom kan?

Look at these two pictures: above was my mom in law (in specs) in her younger days...below is aisyah two years ago...serupa kan?...hai aisyah...rupa awak dalam gamba ni cam 'cikgu rokiah' .... hahahah...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My son Danial and Autism ~ Grief and acceptance

Danial started speech therapy a month later after i had come to term with Danial's problem. I remembered i couldnt sleep for a week ...i couldnt eat much...i cried most of the time. Panic...afraid...i was consumed with all sort of mixed and confused feelings. The possibility of Danial having a developmental delay came as a shock to me. A lot of questions lingered in my thoughts...How severe was it? What treatment available? Is this something that can be cured? What kind of school for such children like Danial? This might sound weird but to tell you the truth, i had never set my eyes on austistic kids. So when the therapist told me that Danial's austism was considered as mild....i could not appreciate it. Mild?? What did she mean mild? How would kids with severe austism look like then? I was totally of no clue of whatsoever what the therapist was talking about. Out of desperation of finding answers and depression of not comprehending the whole situation...i cried for days..i cried when i had my lunch...i cried while sipping my cup of coffee...i cried in the shower...Come to think of it again, i think i have never cried that much in my entire life!
One morning, while sobbing, i told my husband it was not that i blame God for Danial's condition. It was not that i could not accept Danial's condition. I knew right from the moment the doctor pointed out the possibility of Danial being autistic that never once i questioned God "why does this happen to me?". As a matter of fact, i am,to this day, very glad that that question has never come across my mind. So why did i cry u might wonder? Why was i in such grief u might ask...
I was very particular when comes to raising my children...and to many extend, i did not (and still am i think) trust my kids in the care of others. So when Aisyah and Najwa were little, u can imagine i did everything by myself with no maid to assist me. I woke up as early as 5am, cooked baby food for my baby's lunch (as i adamantly believed canned food or instant food on the shelves at Giant was not nutritious enough and i didn't trust the babysitter to cook for my baby),bathed them before sending to the babysitter's house, sent them to the babysitter and zoomed to my morning class at UiTM....At night, i slept with them, woke up three to four times at night changed their diapers...prepared milk with my eyes half closed...those were tiring moments. That did not include those sleepless night when they were ill. You see, with my older two daughters, i did everything all by myself.
Then came Siti, our super duper efficient maid. Siti came in and worked for us as a maid when Nuwairah, my third daughter was only two months old. She was trustworthy, efficient...excellent with children...Siti was a maid made in heaven...She was a true definition of a maid of every couple's dream. When Nuwairah was only eight months old, i got pregnant with Danial.
Because of my hypertension i developed the moment i delivered Danial, i didn't sleep with him at night. And because i was busy juggling my time with work and settling my 2 older girls' who were then have started schooling and catering a demanding 4 year old Nuwairah...i didn't realise i neglected Danial and left him quite totally in the care of Siti. There were many times when i walked in and left the house not realising "eh, i haven't hug Danial yet...". I didn't even realise Danial's poor eye contact and that he didn't respond to his name even at the age of two. The only obvious condition as far as i could remember was that, at the age of two, Danial still wasn't speaking yet and didn't call me or address me as 'mom' like Aisyah or 'ibu' like Najwa or 'mommy' like Ira...He didn't call me anything!
I was in grief because i blamed myself letting go most of my duty as a mother in the hands of my maid until i didn't realise or notice my son's developmental delay in speech was due to austism. I was in grief because i scolded myself for not being a caring mother like i used to be with my older two daughters...I was in grief because i was so scared there was nothing i could do to help my son and that i was too late to help him...
I did not allow myself to be in grief too long. I remembered my husband said... " you just cannot do this to yourself and most importantly, u cannot help Danial if u cannot help yourself...Danial needs you to be strong for him and if you do not have confidence in him, he will never have the confidence he needs to get through all these...yes, of course you can be sad but we cannot just sit and cry but do nothing". My husband's words gave me strength. The words of a caring and responsible father. That moment, i just knew i have to get hold of myself and stop this grief immediately. I had no time to delay. I had to lay out plans for Danial. I knew, i had to give Dr Amdan a visit. And this time, i will be ready with all the questions on austism...and i had my little note book in my hand to jot down every littlest detail of my discussion. At that moment, i looked at Danial and in my heart i silently said "Danial my son, today...ibu will hold your right hand and abah will hold your left hand walk with you and all your three sisters will be walking behind you...we will all walk with you and help are in save hands".