It was the wettest December I had ever experienced. The torrential rains had ruined my holiday plans as floods continued to wreak havoc in several states. I had pleaded with dad to allow me to go to the east coast with my friends but he had been unyielding. The thought of having to stay indoors for the next two weeks was not only depressing but also unbearable. Television did not excite me anymore. I was fed up of watching the same old movies on cable television. Even the other channels had nothing exciting to offer. Finally, I decided to go into the attic to retrieve some books which I had not read for a long time.
The attic was surprisingly clean - a sign that mum had finally completed the chore that she had kept putting off. I looked around and noticed a teak chest that I had never seen before. Curiosity got the better of me and I walked towards it. I lifted the lid slowly and was pleasantly surprised to see a variety of things in it – all of them reminders of my childhood. I looked nostalgically at the clothes I had worn as a child and the toys I had played with. ‘Bobo’ the teddy bear, which I had slept with until I was ten, had been dry-cleaned and kept in a box which also contained the first Mother’s Day card I had made myself. I was not prepared for what I saw next. Lying at the bottom of the cardboard box was an old black and white photograph of a young woman. I stared at it incredulously. It was as if I was looking at a female version of myself. All sorts of questions and dreadful thoughts flooded my mind. I held the photograph tightly in my hand and dashed out of the attic, only to bump into my mother.
“Mum....who is this?” I asked in a quivering voice.
From the look on her face, I knew it was a question she did not want to answer. Quietly, she held my hand and led me towards the study where dad had been working all morning. She knocked on the door once before opening it. Dad looked up, and his expression of annoyance disappeared when he saw the photograph in my hand.
What I heard that day is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. The woman in the photograph was my mother, my biological mother — Lily Lee.
“Son, Lily loved you very much; just as much as Janet here loves you.”
Dad’s use of the past tense made me uncomfortable. It took a great deal of effort on his part to narrate the painful past.
My biological mother was six months pregnant when the incident happened. She had been walking towards her office when a motorcyclist came from behind and grabbed her handbag before speeding off. As a result of the sudden assault, she had lost her balance and fallen on the kerb. The head injuries she had sustained had a devastating effect on her health. The only option was to perform surgery, but due to her condition, this option was risky. The doctors had wanted to terminate her pregnancy to save her life but she had refused. A month later she fell into a coma. Although the doctors had given up hope, Lily continued to live, though in a comatose state. It was as if she was not giving up on life till her baby was born. When the doctors deemed it safe, they performed an emergency C-section. Lily breathed her last the moment I was born into this world.
Dad sobbed softly as he finished relating the heart-wrenching story. All sorts of emotions consumed me. I was sad, confused and angry. Was I adopted? What about my father? Who was he? Had he abandoned me? After a while, I braved myself and stated what I thought was obvious.
“So, that means you are not my real parents. I am adopted!”
“No, son. You are not adopted. I am your father. Lily was my first wife. She made me promise her that I would marry her younger sister, Janet, so that you would not grow up motherless.”
The sense of relief that I felt at that moment was indescribable. I looked at mum and I saw the pain and anguish in her eyes, as though she was anticipating rejection. Quickly, she looked down.
Slowly, I got up from my chair and walked towards her. I went down on my knees and held her hands in mine. Her eyes remained downcast, fearful of rejection.
“Mum, I know I am only seventeen but I am more mature than you think. You might not have given birth to me but you are and will always be my mother.” I comforted her as much as I comforted myself.
She looked up slowly, her eyes searching my face for sincerity. Then with tears in her eyes, she hugged me tightly.