Nearly four years into this gig as mommy, and I'm still taken aback when people wish me happy mothers' day. I always have this moment of *blink*, oh, they mean me! I mean, yes, Frank calls me Mommy every day of his life. ("Mommy? Mommy! Mommy...") But I have this vision in my head of what a Mommy really is, and I feel most of the time like I don't live up to that. Yes, I care for him, and cuddle him, and teach him, and fight for him, but still...there's this thing that we have about mothers, putting them on pedestels, almost, and I certainly am not worthy of that!
I think about my own mother. My mother, those who know her will agree, is not a warm fuzzy mommy. My mother in years past would have been called a Tough Broad. She's an RN, retired now, forced into early retirement by ALS. At age 63, she has lived in assisted living for almost two years, and is still by about ten years the youngest person who lives in her building. This June, it will have been seven years since her ALS diagnosis; she was having trouble with her feet for several years before she received the diagnosis. When she leaves her room at the home, she is almost completely wheelchair-bound now, a state which I know must infuriate this woman who has spent so much time taking care of others, both professionally and personally, as well as herself. For me, her oldest child, watching this slow deterioration, the thing that hurts the most is knowing that such a strong, independent woman cannot take care of herself anymore, and cannot fix this, no matter how much she wants to.
It's the not being able to fix it, I think, that gets me. I have many health problems. When I was little, and I was in an out of hospitals for well over a year, there was even some question I know now, as to whether I would live to adulthood. For a while it was thought I had cystic fibrosis, as well as other illnesses. It turns out what I had was something different- bronchiectasis, a lung disorder that at the time was mostly found in old people, and msot of them died within ten years of receiving their diagnosis. (It has since been discovered more and more in younger people who go on to live normal lifespans. Indeed, it seems that the reason prognosis was so poor for it in 1978 was because most of the old people being diagnosed with it at the time would have died within ten years anyway, because they were old!) I also have a Primary Immune Deficiency.
What all of this means is I get sick a LOT. (It also means that choosing to make a career of working with kids may not be the most intelligent career choice I could have made!) One year I was absent from school for 30 days. I was the kid whose attendence you look at and say, "I don't understand how this kid is passing, because she's never here!"
The answer is simple: I passed because of my mother. In a time before IDEA, my mother established an agreement with teachers at the beginning of each school year. Not only would I be able to excuse myself to get some water any time I wanted, without asking the teacher, but any time I was absent, they got all my work together and sent it to the main office. Mom would pick it up, and make sure I did it all. This meant that when I got back to school, whether a day or a week later (or, in the case of chicken pox, two and a half weeks later), the only things I generally needed to make up were tests.
My mother never let me feel sorry for myself, or use my physical limitations as an excuse. I took regular Gym classes. (I kinda would have liked an excuse note or two there, Mom.) I sang in choirs from fourth grade right on up through senior year of high school. I fenced for four years on my high school's fencing team, and went to fencing day camp during the hot 90+ degree summers. I was never, ever allowed to use one of my absences as an excuse for not doing homework or not getting something. "If you don't get it," she said. "It's your repsonsibility to go to the teacher and ask for help."
Mom drilled me all of fourth grade on my times tables. She quizzed me on spelling words. She never proofread essays for me, because she freely admitted that my writing skills were better than hers by the time I was in the sixth grade. That year, I tested as reading at the college level. (I always had a very sophisticated vocabulary as a child. I have a feeling that was at least partly because of all the time I spent in the compay of medical people.) But she made sure my homework and projects were completed on time.
Now I am 38 years old. I am married and a mother. I have a job I enjoy (when not overrun by beaurocracy) and two college degrees, both of which I essentially paid for myself. I got the second one while working three jobs and going to school at night. I have had the courage to travel overseas, and speak a foreign language with native users of that language. I now fight for my child, who also has special needs, albeit needs much different than mine.
All that I am today, I am because of my mother. She is feisty, argumentative, stubborn, loyal, devoted, and loving. She is Mom, and I love her. Happy Mothers' Day, Mom.
6 years ago