“You can do anything you set your mind to do.” My mother used these words to encourage me as I was growing up. I believe in those words because my mother was proof.
My mother’s words could be construed as only words, but the way she lived her life showed me it was more than a mantra. At 12, she was stricken with polio and spent over a year in the hospital enduring horrific medical practices. My mother had her leg tendons cut and wore a body cast for months. She spent hours in an iron lung and was not expected to live past 14. She set her mind to live and that is what she did.
My mother’s story could have ended there. Doctors told my grandmother that my mother would never walk nor have children. Fortunately, neither my grandmother nor mother was paying attention. My grandmother spent hours each day rubbing and stretching my mother’s leg, encouraging her to walk so that she could go to school. My mother loved school. My mother walked and continued to do so until recently. She set her mind that she would walk and that is what she did.
My mother’s life was not only stricken by polio, but an abusive father as well. She was the oldest of six and suffered beatings for her younger siblings’ actions as well as whenever my grandfather felt like it. Despite of this, she was a straight “A” student. Sadly, she chose to quit school and marry to escape the abuse. I remember my mother telling me that one of her teachers tearfully begged her to reconsider and stay in school, but it didn’t work. She set her mind to escape the abuse and that is what she did.
My mother’s desire to have children defied the doctors’ predictions. First, my sister was born and five years later my brother. Then, her husband died in an accident. For 16 years she worked and raised her kids on her own. Then, she married my father and I was born. My mother set her mind on having children and that is what she did.
My mother’s marriage to my father wasn’t “Ozzie and Harriet.” She had to escape yet another abusive relationship, but without saying a word she showed me a woman shouldn’t tolerate abuse. She set her mind to no never tolerate abuse and that is what she did.
My mother’s love for school never faltered. In her late fifties, she decided to complete high school. She enrolled in our local community college and received her General Equivalency Diploma. My mother set her mind on completing high school and that is what she did.
I believe that you can do anything you set your mind to do, because my mother lived it. Unfortunately, my mother can no longer live those words as she slips into the mind abyss, Alzheimer’s. She is not longer in control of her mind and cannot “set it” to do anything.