I’m sorry I forgot to wish you happy birthday, mum.

As I was struggling with my bag of groceries while walking back to Devonshire, my phone vibrated. It was not the usual 3-time new WA message vibration. It was not a single one either, which indicates a new text message has been received. It was a continual ‘ZZ ZZ-ZZ’.

It was a phone call.

Yesterday, dad called me to remind me to call mum. It was her birthday the next day. Conversations with parents seem to be more interesting when you’re so far away from each other, 16 flight hours excluding the 4-hour transit to be precise. We talked about how my day was and also told me to dial my sister up as she had not picked up a few calls from mum and dad lately.

“Ah, ah, ah. Yes. Okay, okay. Love you too. Bye!”

My mum and I are very close to each other, especially after so many arguments and soulful talks about conflict and misunderstanding. It felt hopeless; I thought about how both of her children wouldn’t be there to celebrate her special day with her. It gets lonely for her, I assume. It gets lonely here too, not having your parents lovingly disturb you amid your daily routine. It’s a good kind of disturbance. A caring sort.

Dad is terrible with displays of affection. He teases her a lot, like how I do with Hsu-Ven. Also, he never gets creative whenever the topic of gifts is brought up. For him, a bag and dinner. Done. I told him to get flowers for mum during the phone call. He forgot to buy her flowers today. He told me that today. In actual fact, I reminded him of the flowers today; but he wasn’t the only one who need to be reminded.

Exhausted, I picked up the phone and waited for the traffic light to go green for pedestrians and placed that cumbersome reusable grocery bag on the ground. My mum’s cheery voice beamed out the front speakers; like the rare hints of sunlight during a cloudy day. It was a bad day for me because I had an over-seasoned and greasy lunch along with the mucus overflow.

Guess what? Her first line was, “Son, forgot to wish me today ah?”

In an instant I felt so disappointed with myself, as though having failed to meet that one criterion of being a son. Selflessly, she brushed it off and told me it was fine that I forgot. I apologised many times but I had and still have the phrase ‘What’s the point of apologising, it is no use!’ lingering, much to my chagrin. I wish I had that trait of mum’s: Selflessness. I’ve never been like that before. Selfless. I’ve been trying but it is not enough. If it was enough, I could have wished mum happy birthday before she called me.

Once again, I’m sorry mum. Maybe you will read this post after I respond positively to your Facebook friend request.

Happy birthday, mum. With lots of love, your son.