When I was growing up in the early 1960s in Washington, DC, it was nearly impossible to find a Mother’s Day card for my working mother.
The cards all talked about 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 4.
And as my sister said in her eulogy, our mother was no saint. Like far too many in this world then and now, she self-medicated her depression with alcohol.
But now we live in a world with antidepressants and 12-step programs of recovery for any addiction, from anorexia to spending. AA was just 18 years old and no women in it when my father died suddenly from a heart attack in 1957, sending my mother into a lifelong depression that was never treated. The Social Security death benefit is what kept us afloat.
As my oldest brother put it, “No matter how bad things are, I just think about how our mother woke up the day after he died, with five kids, no savings and a Grade 4 government job; life will never be that hard for any of us.”
Since this brain injury gradually sent me from healthy to wheelchair-bound within five months, I realized that my mother had modeled a kind of strength that I had never really appreciated until now.
So once I beat the odds and survived, I was determined to get my life back to as “normal” as I could. And I have never worked so hard in my life.
I have set and achieved many small goals from being able to stand, then walk, to being able to safely be home alone. But the changes are so gradual, it often takes the reaction of a person who hasn’t seen me for months to make me realize how far I’ve come.