For several years, my mother was a nurse at the local children’s hospital, which included a rotation in their special care nursery. She worked all night and slept when she could during the day. When I was nine years old, she came home and told us she had met “her son.” He was a nine-month-old boy abandoned at the hospital. He had a severe birth defect that left him without abdominal muscles, destroyed his kidneys, and gave him bone disease. He had nearly starved to death while living at a nursing home that was ill-equipped to care for him.
She did ask my father, my sister, and me for our blessing, but honestly I don’t think she would have listened had we said no. Once we saw him, it was really a moot point anyway: he was amazing!
My mother brought the baby home, and over time she taught him to eat and removed his feeding tube. She helped him learn to walk following surgery to repair his legs ravaged by the bone disease. She gave him the kind of love that not only answers when you cry but anticipates your every need.
My brother is twenty-five years old now and is in cooking school. Cooking school! Still, after everything my mother has done to raise him, she thinks she’s “done all right.” But if you remind her that she saved a feeble little boy and turned him into a strong, conscientious, kind man, she would say that was in him all along—someone only had to see it.
Yet vision is a gift, isn’t it? So are resilience and patience and peace in the face of the challenges she and her children have faced. I have also benefited from her gifts over the years, especially in 2003 when I became pregnant and left a failed relationship. I was an emotional wreck and incredibly afraid when I got a phone call from my mother.
“You’re coming home,” she said.
As much as I hated to admit defeat, I couldn’t do this on my own. My mother rallied around me. She went to every appointment with me. She celebrated every milestone. We cried together. And when my son was born, she was my coach. She even retired from nursing to be his caregiver while I worked.
In preschool, when my son was asked to draw his parents, he always included his grandmother. Their bond remains strong today. And the bond between my mother and me is even stronger. She continues to inspire me every day.
My mother will tell you she hasn’t contributed too much to the world other than her children. She doesn’t believe in her own strength and courage, her own vision of right and wrong. I hate to ever tell my mother that she is wrong, but on this particular point, on this particular day, she couldn’t be more mistaken. Even my mother isn’t always right.
I believe in my mother even though she doesn’t believe in herself.
Alizon Kiel is an operations manager living in Austin, Texas. She is a poet, painter, digital artist, and the creator of the Van Gogh Complex, an online bipolar artists' colony featuring the works of artists with bipolar disorder.
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