Thanks, Mom

When I was growing up in the early 1960s in Washington, D.C., it was nearly impossible to find a Mother’s Day card for my working mother.


The cards all seemed to be written for moms who did not work outside the home; but my mother didn’t have a choice whether to work or not.   At 43, she became a widow with five children, ranging in age from 12 to 3 (I was the youngest). And, as my sister said in her eulogy, our mother was no saint.


When my father died suddenly from a heart attack, like far too many in this world then and now, she self-medicated her depression with alcohol.  In 1957, AA was just 18 years old and women a rarity in the rooms. But now we live in a world with antidepressants and 12-step programs of recovery for any addiction or obsession, from eating to work.

After my brain injury, I remembered something my brother once said to me, “No matter how bad things are, I just think about how our mother woke up the day after Daddy died, with five kids,  no savings and a Grade 4 government job; life will never be that hard for any of us.” And he was right.
After this slow-motion brain injury gradually sent me from healthy to wheelchair-bound in five months, I realized that my mother had modeled a kind of strength that I had never really appreciated when she was alive.
As a child, I had compared her to housewives on TV, like Donna Reed and June Cleaver. They were total fantasy. 
My Mom, on the other hand, went to work every day and sent us through parochial schools and then we paid our way (mostly) through state college. She was determined that we would graduate from college, and 4 out of 5 of us did just that; my oldest sibling chose to work full-time after high school graduation.
No TV mom could hold a candle to this stubborn first generation Irish-American.
So once I beat the odds and survived two rare diseases, I was determined to get my life back and enjoy each day of it as much as possible.
I have set and achieved many small goals from being able to stand, then walk, and then being able to stay home alone safely. 
But the changes are so gradual, it often takes the reaction of a medical professional who hasn’t seen me for months to make me realize how far I’ve come.

So when they say my progress is amazing, I reply, “Thanks. My mom instilled a great work ethic in me  …  and I have never worked so hard in my life.”

Thanks, Mom.


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