It’s Mother’s Day! Did you know that according to Wikipedia, 85 countries celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May? That’s a lot of moms being honored today. It’s easy to tout the greatness of moms in a short two-liner on Facebook or in a card, but my mom is a complex person so in addition to my obligatory Facebook post, I’m taking today to give a deeper glimpse into my mom and me.
In late 2013, my mother was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. What followed in the first six months of 2014 were chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and now, chronic pain management.
From March to May last year, I moved in with my mom and her fiancé, let’s call him Kenji. Kenji and I tagged teamed to nurse my mom through the latter half of her chemotherapy. My primary roles were short order cook and dealmaker. I was constantly bargaining with my mom to get her to eat. Want something savory? How about bone broth? An omelette? Congee? Got a sweet tooth? How about a lemon tart? Gelato? Chocolate tapioca? Most of the time, my creations were met with only one or two reluctant bites. On a good day, my mom ate just ½ a cup of food 2-3 times a day.
It wasn’t fun. My mom wasn’t an easy patient. In fact, I’m not sure how Kenji did it alone for three months before my arrival. Mom was frustrated with our constant nagging to take medications, vitamins, and our perpetual requests that she eat, drink, and repeat. We were frustrated that mom was so resistant. Couldn’t she understand that this was for her own good? Why was she always refusing to eat, drink, and take her medications? The cycle continued every day. Wake up, slice up fruit, line up the pills, shake up the nutrition drink, fill up a glass of water with ice and lemon, place it all on the coffee table, and cross those fingers that it will be a good day.
There were bad days. There still are. Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago when mom and Kenji flew up from Florida to meet me. I was really looking forward to seeing them both, but then– a bad day hit. My mom had one too many drinks and she got tired. She forgot to bring one of her medications and suffered through some rough withdrawal symptoms. And all the while, even when I could see her pain, discomfort, and nausea, I found it hard to be supportive. I was annoyed. I was not empathetic. Why did she have that last drink? Why wasn’t she more careful about taking her medications? Why did we all have to suffer because she made a bad decision?
In a moment while Kenji was rubbing her back and talking to her in his ever-patient voice, I watched, amazed that he wasn’t having the same annoyed reaction that I was having. Then, I realized that I was the one in control of my feelings. My mom didn’t purposely forget to bring her medication. We’ve all unintentionally forgotten something we needed for a trip; I know I have many occasions. Sure, maybe mom had one too many drinks the night before, but who hasn’t? After all, my neighbor used to say, “no good story ever started with a salad.” I scolded myself. Shouldn’t I be grateful that she’s completed her treatment, out and about, and flying up to Chicago to be with her daughter? Yes. I should.
I don’t have children, so I don’t always learn those lessons about our mothers after we become mothers ourselves. But, as I watched my mom suffering the side effects of cancer (these are the life changing side effects that are seldom talked about because everyone else is simply celebrating the “cancer-free” status) I realized that my mom has been just as annoyed, pressed, and frustrated with me in the thirty-five years she’s been my mom. Probably a thousand times over and even more so. And you know that mother’s love we read about on Mother’s Day cards? I know it. I see my mom glowing when she catches her first sight of me, hugging me tighter each time, providing a never ending stream of positive encouragement, and overlooking all those times I’ve let her down. My mom doesn’t hold grudges when it comes to her daughters. She simply showers us with love.
My mom is my forever champion. That’s the lesson that was underscored for me in this story. Her patience, love, forgiveness, and understanding are unconditional. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying my best to do the same for her.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I love you with all my heart. Oh, and here’s that chocolate tapioca you asked for. 😛
- ½ cup tapioca (small or large pearl, use your preference)
- 2 cups cold water
- 1 cup milk
- 1 15 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 egg yolk
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place tapioca in a medium mixing bowl with 2 cups of cold water and let it stand over night, covered.
- When you are ready to make the tapioca, drain the water from the pearls.
- In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the milk, coconut milk, egg yolk, and sugar. Stir in the tapioca pearls and let stand for five minutes.
- Cook the mixture on medium heat, stirring consistently.
- When the mixture starts to bubble, add the chocolate and the cocoa powder, and continue to stir until chocolate is melted and all of the ingredients are well blended, and the tapioca is tender.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Transfer the tapioca pudding to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap against the top of the pudding (this prevents the pudding from forming a skin.
- Let the tapioca pudding cool and set for 15 minutes.
- You can also refrigerate and serve this chilled, but note that the consistency may be firmer than traditional pudding because of the addition of coconut milk.