I just said goodbye to my mother at the Osaka airport.
She’s now on her way back to Germany and we haven’t made any plans for when we’ll see each other again.
We didn’t cry because there was no time. We quickly hugged each other, gave each other kisses on the cheeks, and after a few goodbye-waves she was out of my sight.
I don’t feel empty, I don’t feel too sad. I mostly feel proud of my mother.
I see her in front of me; how she gave me a last warm hug, and strong encouraging smile, and then turned around and walked off with the same confidence and flair of a model in a shampoo commercial in slow motion.
Her life in fragments
She didn’t have an easy life, my mom. She was born in a tiny Alevi-Kurdish village in central Turkey, had to leave school at an early age after her father had left the family for another woman, which led to her working in factories in the big city together with her mother in order to provide for her younger siblings.
In her teenager years she met my father - an Alevi-Kurd, on one of his summer-vacation trips to Turkey as a son of a guest worker family from Germany. They were both very young when they fell in love and got married. She left her family behind and went to Germany to start a new life with my father … AND his mother and five younger sisters. A year later I was born. She was only nineteen and didn’t know a single word of German. What could she have possibly known about taking care of a big household or a baby in a foreign country? With my dad being young and not really very understanding, and a mother-in-law treating her like Cinderella (BEFORE the prince falls in love with her) she was basically on her own. All she had was her brave heart, her skill to adjust quickly, and a positive outlook on anything that came her way.
The disappearance of the cheerful girl
Once she told me that the moment I was born she felt a boost of energy and strength like nothing could ever defeat her. In her twenties she was able to keep her innocent and cheerful nature but all the trouble she lived in her thirties - betrayal in trust, financial crisis, a divorce, family concerns and many other things - made her lose her faith in everything. That's when a deep sadness and disappointment carved scars in her heart and life became tiresome. The only thing that kept her going was I and the responsibilities she had taken on.
For over two decades she lived and worked for me and others and kept on supporting her siblings and mother.
Not giving up
During that time I know that she worked a lot on herself. She went to therapy, listened to good friends and followed their advice, and read books that helped to find herself again. Still, that heavy cloud above her head had became so much part of her aura that the girl that was full of life and dreams that she had once been seemed gone for good.
For over ten years I’ve been living in Japan and when I visit her once a year I was always aware of that sad aura, which used to make me feel helpless and sad too because I didn’t know whether she’d ever enjoy life again.
This time though I saw a change in my mom. Her attitude was a mix of“Fuck it! Life is too short for this drama and pain!” and “I cherish this moment and am grateful for everything in my life”. Obviously she hadn’t completely transformed. If that had been the case I would have thought something is rotten in the sate of Denmark.
But it was clear that a few thick layers of her sad aura had peeled off and she appeared and felt much lighter.
Our time together in Osaka
For the first time in my life my mom and I spent a wonderful, relaxing, time together. We didn’t argue, we spoke a lot (over coffee), we understood each other and gave each other advice, and we laughed and cried together.
I don’t have a child and I can’t claim to know how hard it must be to have your only child live far away from you. Though I know it pains her that we can’t be around each other more frequently she said to me this time that when we say goodbye we both will turn to the lives we live. We will do our best with the people around us and all our daily activities, and enjoy what we have until the next time we see each other and then we'd create beautiful mother-and daughter memories again.
And she meant what she said. It wasn’t just to make me feel relieved.
That’s why I’m proud of my mom. She has come a long way to be able to say and mean these things and start embracing life again.