A mother seldom reveals parts of her resume. So, there were many sides of my Mum I got to know of by accident.
She was entrepreneurial, a dressmaker in the family otherwise known for Salonpas and pharmaceuticals; a winemaker who ran an underground milk-wine business around Christmas. I once was a part accomplice, printing labels for her limited edition brand, Cathy’s Vineyard. In between these two moonlighting jobs – three, if you considered the cake orders she took – she was a formidable tennis player with a wicked forehand. I’ve seen photographs of her posing with trophies, and heard stories of her in action at the Bandarawela Tennis Club.
My short answer to the question people always asked about how she was so active for so long, was this: The Legion of Mary work she did in the evenings was like her gym membership. If you’ve been up and down a flight of stairs at the Bambalapitiya flats you’d know what I mean. Until a few weeks ago I would be amused at how she would describe her friends at St. Martin’s Home for the Elders as “these old ladies!” many of whom were much younger than her.
Speaking fitness, last year we took her on a train trip to Bandarawela, and in Ella faced with a very steep flight of 90 steps, took it in her stride. If I asked her do Adam’s Peak next year she might have agreed.
Mummy loved my long-winded letters and until a few years ago would write back. Then in June she made it a point to mention that she liked an article I’d written in LMD. “You did?” I asked, perplexed. It was a feature about Facebook. (I tell the publisher that his readership is skewed. Besides CEOs and tech people, nuns at her home, and someone born 65 years before the Web was invented read the publication.) Sometimes an audience of one is all you need, isn’t it?
I’ve met many people who had stories of my Mum’s quiet power and influence. She had a sense of humor, and was an incurable optimist. She ended many phone conversations saying how blessed she was to have so many friends and relatives around her, and more than anything else, thanked God for her good health. “I’m getting more forgetful,” she would tell me, but in the same sentence recall details about Nadia and Aaron, or Tanu’s fruit trees. If she forgot anything it was forgetting to keep grudges, and forgetting to complain.
So, it’s hard to sum up someone who’s been a dressmaker, cake maker, winemaker, homemaker, devout Catholic, tennis player, a wonderful mother, aunt, grandparent and friend to many. Oh she was also a member of what we called the BBC, that three-part team of sisters Bridget, Beta and Catherine. They dominated the Bharatha channel so many of you tuned into. On Saturday August 24th, the last small powerful voice on the BBC went off the air.
My brother Tilak and I, and her dear brother Ben will miss her very much. We thank all those who connected with her, and supported her over the years.