Preface: It is 1:30AM Sunday morning as I’m writing this, just so that you understand why I’m talking about tomorrow, (though technically today). Although by the time you’re reading this, it either IS Mother’s Day, or it has come and gone. Regardless, here it goes.
There is not much I can do for my mom this Mother’s Day. I an unable to go buy her anything without her assistance (she probably would not let me anyway); I don’t have the complete tools, set up, or function to cook dinner, clean the apartment, or somehow lighten her load as my primary caregiver; and I highly doubt she would want to go out to eat on one of the busiest days in the restaurant business, in what will presumably be bad weather, and let me pay. Instead, I have her in a city she does not particularly like, cramped in a small apartment, and sleeping on an air mattress for thirty days. So, I will do the only thing I know how to do best: write about how amazing she is.
For those who are unaware, my dad passed away in 1998 from cancer when I was just 11 and mom was left with seven kids to raise. Fortunately, we are spread out in age and I’m the youngest, not to mention I am incredibly blessed with a large and loving extended family. Despite those circumstances, for the last 14 years, she has filled the role as both mom and dad to me and my siblings; and she has done so with incredible strength, grace, faith, dignity, and love. There are plenty of times in my adolescence where I did not make it easy for her, but her love and support for me, or any of my siblings, never faltered.
One of my immediate thoughts after my injury, as I lay paralyzed on the sandbar, was how this would affect her life. I never questioned if she could mentally handle it, I already knew she could, but I was never one who wanted to be a burden to anyone of any sort. At 18, I moved out on my own and lived independently for five years before my accident. Then, suddenly, I was 23 and completely helpless. Finally, at a time in her life when all of us were grown and independent, she was suddenly my primary caregiver- a full time job. There was never any question or doubt I would go home to Pascagoula to be in her care; she would not have had it any other way.
The first thing I did after I was pulled out of the water was to tell my friends to call my mom. From the night of my accident, after immediately leaving Pascagoula to come to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, almost 2 hours from home, my mom never left my side. For the first few weeks, Mom, along with some of my siblings, slept in the ICU waiting room and never missed a visit. We were very fortunate that some generous friends let us borrow a camper, which Mom slept in for the three months that I stayed in the hospital. My mother was never the camping type and after living in a trailer for nearly a year post Katrina, it was not something she was eager to do; but she did so, without hesitation or complaint.
The next move was living in Jackson, MS, almost four hours from home, for four weeks, while I attended Methodist Rehab. The purpose of this month long rehab was actually considered a “Caregiver’s Program”; teaching and training my mom how to take care of me. Spinal cord injury (SCI) goes far beyond just being unable to walk. There are bowel and bladder issues, skin checks, temperature regulation, autonomic dysreflexia, medications… The list goes on and on. Everyday, Mom attended therapy with me to learn about SCI and slept in the same room; which meant being woken up every two hours as the nurses would come in to do weight shifts to prevent any pressure sores. At that point in my recovery, just four months post injury, and with my high level of injury and complete lack of finger function, I was basically helpless. By the time I came home, I could barely feed myself.
Then, just as sudden as the accident had happened, we were discharged and sent back home into the “real world.” — no more nurses to help, no more doctors to ask questions, no more therapists to do my daily exercises. Mom was now solely responsible for my 24/7 care, a rather daunting task in the beginning; but, just as I mentioned earlier, she did so with strength, grace, faith, and love. As hard as it was for me, I cannot begin to imagine how hard it was for her. I tried as best as I could not to be too “needy” or cause any additional stress, but at that time in my recovery, I relied on her for everything. As much as you love someone, especially a mother to her child, I know it was exhausting and stressful; but she rarely let that show. In addition, she also modified her home for me: adding ramps, redoing the bathroom, and letting me take over the sunroom (her favorite spot) as my studio/office/gym area. She altered every aspect of her life to accommodate me.
From day one, she has been my biggest advocate and supporter. Times when I was denied proper care, such as Medicaid and Vocational Rehab, she was the “mad mama bear” who fought my battles for me. I get so much of my strength (and stubbornness) from her; since 1998, she has been my rock, my hero, and now, my best friend. We don’t always get along, and I am the first to admit that I’m guilty of purposely pushing her buttons, but she has never given up on me. People always joke they are turning into their mothers, and I would have no qualms with that. Sometimes, I think we’re too much alike anyway (ie, stubbornness).
Days when I feel like my injury is too much for me to handle, I think of her struggles and see how her strength and faith have carried her through. When I have a hard day and feel like I can’t go on, I remind myself that I’m not only doing this for me, but I’m doing it for my mother. I am forever grateful and forever indebted for all that she has done for me, I don’t think I could ever truly “repay” her. I think the greatest gift I could ever give her is to regain my independence, make something positive out of my life, and to one day walk again; therefore, proving her right and making her proud.
But until then, I write this blog in honor of her, how much I love her, how much she inspires me, and how much she has sacrificed for me. I know it’s not much but it’s all I know to do. It breaks my heart that I know people whose parents abandon them to a nursing home after their injury. I obviously would not be here without her; but regarding my recovery, I truly would not be here without her. So, despite the fact I will tease you and give you a hard time, please know how thankful I am to call you my mom and how much your character, morals, and values have shaped me into the person I am today. Thank you Mom, I love you, and Happy Mother’s Day.