It was sometime in the middle of 5th grade – after my parents divorced, my brother moved out, our house burned down, and my mom changed jobs to be closer to us – that I chose to walk with my head down as my mom dropped me off for school. I wasn’t sure if I was embarrassed because the winter had eaten away the bottom half of our car, the fact that the morning rain caused the timing belt to squeal loud enough to drown out the radio, or if it was because she rolled down the window to remind me that she loved me and did so in a voice that was a little too loud.
I wasn’t embarrassed of her until six years later, when I had to help her up the bleachers at my high school soccer tournament. She strategically tied an elastic-cord between a crutch and her shoe so she wouldn’t have to rely on me for assistance but the cord snapped. Sadly, all of her love and devotion wasn’t enough; part of me just wished she would have stayed home.
Nine years later, here I am, still regretting those two moments I let her down, two moments she probably didn’t even notice. Even if she was aware, she probably doesn’t remember, not because the MS she was diagnosed with slowly eats away strategic parts of your brain, but instead because she’ll choose to focus on everything I do for her.
Most would say that MS has pulled us together, but I don’t think that’s the case. Her “disability” has pushed us apart. Anyone you ask will disagree, especially her. People think we are closer because one time I carried her across the beach to sit in the ocean when her wheelchair got stuck and her legs gave out, or because I drive her to the grocery store, push her with one hand and pull the cart with the other, or because of the simple rituals of me tying her shoes like she did for me only twenty years ago. But I know we are further apart than before MS struck, just look at the distance.
I’ve moved over seven-hundred miles so that if she falls I can’t pick her up, if she cries I can’t wipe her cheek, if she gets hungry I don’t have to cook and if she’s sick I don’t have to worry. Unfortunately, the distance wasn’t enough. As I walk in the door and her shoes have the same loose knots from three months earlier, I realize it wasn’t the disease that brought us together it was her love. She chooses to keep the same knots, not because it allows her to slip her shoes on and off, but instead because they remind her of me and when I’m coming home.
There are still things that I get embarrassed and irritated about when I’m with her, like when she ignores the phone, forgets to invite family over for holidays, is rude in public, or insists on “helping”; however, helping my mom out because I love her and not because I feel bad for her will never be embarrassing.
We all have choices to make, but when we look back at life, we realize – our choices have made us.
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