Mother and son

For years I saw him walk past our house with his mother.  He was older than me but I never saw him by himself or go to school.  Sometimes his siblings would walk along with him but his mother would always be there too.

Back then, the term used was ‘mongoloid’, a word that puzzled me.  We knew nothing about the disorder, why it had that name or what the symptoms were.  It wasn’t until I was in secondary school that I learned about the condition and its proper name.

photo credit: baldyczeks via photopin cc

We lived in a village on the outskirts of a small rural town.  It was a place where religion and superstition lived hand in hand; where transgressions and gossip were as significant in people’s lives as their daily bread.

It was unusual then, for a disabled child to live at home rather than in an institution but his mother was determined to keep him with her despite the criticism and pressure from family and neighbours.  She got on with her life, raising several children and doing the hard work that women in villages had to do.  She learned to live with the stares, the whispers and the hurtful remarks. Eventually as the years passed, mother and son became a common sight and they were left alone.

In time his brothers and sisters left home and his father died.  But still, as late as his forties, he and his mother would go for their walks.  They always walked at the same pace; she dressed in black, old and hunched, slightly ahead; him close by, always at the same distance, always looking just ahead.  I never saw them talk to each other but whenever they passed someone he would always say the same words “what time is it?’

I used to wonder what would happen to him if his mother died first but I learned some time ago that he was the first to go.


Cats, tattoos and unconditional love

I often hear people say they don’t like cats because they are ungrateful. What they really mean is that cats are not loyal, dependent and needy creatures.  People expect unconditional love from their pets but as a rule you do not get from cats.

If cats don’t like their home they look for somewhere else to go (as long as they aren’t locked, obviously).  The only pet I have had as an adult was a cat that chose to live with us.  He came from a messy house full of cats and for a while shared his time between a few neighbors, until he eventually chose to make ours his permanent home. He remained with us until he died a few years later.

Cats are uncompromising in making their boundaries clear.  If they love your company they show it, if they don’t, there is nothing you can do about it.  What is seen as ungratefulness, I see as independence and this is the characteristic that most appeals to me in cats.

If you think about it, don’t human beings enter relationships because of what the other person gives them?  I have no statistics to back me up but I would say that, if we were truly honest, most of us would admit that what we love in our partners – their kindness (good to me); their sense of humor (keep me entertained); their money (comfortable life); their good looks (good genes for procreation) or the same values (easy life) – is what makes us feel good, safe or whatever it is we need to feel happy.

Most people would not choose a partner that makes them unhappy (there are exceptions I know).  Eventually some relationships end up that way but that was not the goal.  And most people chose to move on – again I know there are many complexities in human interaction but given the choice, most people would choose to be happy.

Putting aside the myriad issues that may stop a person from taking action, most people want to move away from situations that make them unhappy and look for new opportunities to become happy.

Now what does this talk about cats, relationships and unconditional love has to do with tattoos?

My niece loves body art and plans to have several tattoos done. I have to confess that whilst I truly admire the art I do not appreciate tattooed bodies.  And the idea that my niece will be ‘defacing’ (my opinion) her beautiful body kills me!

During my last visit, my niece asked me if I would be with her while she was getting her first major tattoos done, a couple of days before I was due to leave. Her asking me to be part of such a significant event to her meant a lot to me.  I only see her a couple of times a year and we don’t communicate a lot in between visits. She could have asked a friend but she asked me, her aunt, to be with her!

She did not tell her parents what she was going to do.  I became anxious about this as I felt I was betraying my sister’s trust.  After some thinking, I told my niece I would not speak with her mother (my sister) about it but I would not lie if she asked me outright why we were spending the morning together.  My niece and I were clear about the agreement and both waited with anticipation and anxiety for the big day.

My niece has learned that her life is easier if her parents only find out about what she does after it has happened.  When I think back at how I was at her age, I remember always being ready to confront my parents about ideas, rights and any controversial topic I felt like shocking them with. But I realize that I also did not tell them about the things that were very personal and important to me or, if I did, it was after the fact. However we feel about it, this is a natural part of growing up.

I spent three hours sitting on a chair, tightly holding on to my niece’s hand while she had two tattoos done.  I did it because I love her.  I did it because it was important for her to have someone there who accepts and respects her choices.  I did it because she needed the support.  I did it because I felt honored that she asked me.

The big question is, did I do it out of unconditional love for her? Or did I do it because I want to be loved by her?  I cannot answer that with true knowledge but if I stick to my own theories about cats and love then I have to presume I did it because on some level it made me happy.  Ultimately I am glad that I did it because I believe it made her happy and that is enough reason for me!