Dr. Mehta found a lump my mom’s breast. I just found this out after calling my sister to wish her a happy birthday.
“Did Dad tell you that Mom is going to Surgical Associates tomorrow because of a lump in her breast?
“Dr. Mehta found a lump and decided to send Mom for a follow up. I’m not sure if they are doing an ultrasound or biopsy. I had to go a few months ago myself, but everything turned out to be fine.”
“What!?! Doesn’t anyone tell me anything anymore? So you’re not sure what she is going in for?”
My relationship with my mother is best described as contentious. As a kid, I would try always to undermine my mother’s authority. She would make roti and saag. I would scream that I wanted McDonald’s. She would dress me in a gifted salwar kameez from India with the matching bangles and necklace. I would pout and then run off to put on a pair of jeans. My mother’s English is broken with a thick accent. I was embarrassed when she would talk to my classmates, teachers, coaches, or anyone. People didn’t understand what she said and would look at me to “translate.” But I realize now, it couldn’t have been easy for my mom.
Mom and Dad married in India in 1970. Dad was living and going to school in the U.S. in the late 1960s. He returned home to get married and bring his new bride to the U.S. They were introduced by my mom’s oldest sister and were married in my mom’s family compound in Rajkot. I’ve looked through their black and white wedding album dozens of times, and I keep stopping at a picture of my mom sitting at the edge of a mat.
She is wearing her wedding sari and matching bridal jewelry holding a dish in her lap. She is looking off in the distance. She had to have had mixed emotions about her impending move to the U.S.
Getting married and then moving to the other side of the world had to be a scary and, at the same time, exciting experience. I keep looking at that image hoping to delve into my mom’s thoughts. What was she thinking?
To move here, there would be sacrifices. Communication would be sporadic from India. Letters would be the main source of news about births, deaths, and marriages, with the occasional phone call from village phone. It had to be hard to hear the news from a letter. It had to be even harder to hear that familiar voice on the other end of the phone and realize they were not down the block or in the same time zone. It had to be hard to explain to a grocer what vegetable she was looking for or explain why she was returning a pair of pants to the clothing store. It had to hard for her to see her children deal with bullies and discrimination and then reject aspects of their own heritage.
“Ma, I just wanted to call. How are you?”
“Good. Good. Everything alright?” she said in her heavy accent.
“I’m good. I was checking on you. I heard from Rakhi that you had to go to the doctor.”
She hesitated and responded, “Oh. Doctor Mehta found a lump in my breast. I have to go to see specialist.”
I have to wonder what my mom is thinking about right now.
Will she be able to explain how she feels to her doctor, to my dad, to her daughters?