This I Believe
In June of 1996 my mom returned home after a long absence that seemed like an eternity. She was different. Even though her face displayed emotionlessnes to the world, I knew she was more like the intersection of sadness and anger. She didn’t want to talk. Around her neck, she had something funny, pillowy, and white, which at the time felt fun to poke. I remember her lying flat down on our worn and torn blue velor couch. She asked me to get her an ice pack, and I gladly obliged.
She didn’t really move a whole lot for the first few months after her car accident. She had been rear- ended by a drunk driver high speeding through a school zone. When she moved in certain positions, I’d hear her cry out. I wished there was something I could do to take away her pain. Mostly, I knew I had to behave good by being quiet like a mouse, and making sure to pack up all my hot wheels when I finished playing with them, for fear she might slip on one and end up in a worse predicament. I helped a lot with fetching things like ice packs or water bottles or water, and as time went on I gradually assumed more responsibilities.
Her requests were few at first, but after a few months, they gradually increased according to her condition. She limped and had a horrible amount of back, arm, neck, leg, shoulder, and head pain. As luck would have it, we didn’t live close to any other family, or friends. We were new to the area. There were no delivery services or transportation. Basically, everything was on my mom, my younger brother and myself.
I remember her being in and out of wheel chairs. However, unfortunately it was difficult for her to lift, or fit the wheel chair in our small car. Sometimes she’d just take a chance. When we got to the market, she’d start walking. If she couldn’t walk anymore, she’d sit down on the ground to take a break until she was able to move on again. Sometimes there were many more items on our list that we needed because lucky for her ,my brother and I had a really big appetites.
Both of her arms were also injured so it was also difficult for her to use the wheel chair, or a cane. When I noticed she was on her “last leg “, I developed a little trick to help her get through the rough spots. I’d put her hands on my shoulders, so she would lean her weight on me, then we’d both step together in unison until she was able to get through what she had to finish, or to the nearest sitting place other than the ground. I could see her relief, and help her salvage a certain sense of dignity
There are a lot of scooters available to use in stores today, but not so back then. If there was a cart available because we were grocery shopping, I’d get one and bring it to the car. She would then lean on the carriage as a support. If the snow was too heavy to push the cart though, I’d once again offer her my shoulders,”Mom, let me be your walking cane.” I’d thoughtfully exclaim. She was usually hesitant to ask because she felt bad about leaning her heavy weight on my shoulders, but with my encouragement and smiling face, I knew I’d win her over. Plus, we still had a few more necessary items on our grocery list, and I knew could sense she wouldn’t be up for a second trip.
I used to help her get the groceries off the shelves. And unlike a lot of kids my age, I didn’t ask my mom for things that weren’t on our list. I learned to care for my mom in different ways at an early age. She would always praise me and say I was her savior. If she was in a lot of pain and couldn’t move, I’d bring the things to her. When she needed to empty out the groceries from her car, I’d take them out and put them away. If she needed something upstairs, I’d go get it. If she need help with my younger brother, I’d try my best. I can’t say we never fought, but we tried not to be too unruly or loud and noisy. As time progressed I even cooked, did the dishes, and helped fold the clothes.
Until today I still help my mom out with different things. Although she’ll never be the same, she has healed, and come a long way from where she started. I’m happy that I was able to be a part of her healing, and did whatever was within my capacity to help out .
She regrets that she wasn’t able to run around and play with us when we were young. But somehow she always managed to put out in other ways that made my brother and I feel loved and special. She still managed to volunteer at our school. She was the class coordinator for my brother and I, and Cub Scout leader for my entire class with all her disabilities. My mom was always been present in our lives. She helped us to understand our school work, but I found the most important lessons involved ethics, honesty, caring, and respect for others, and teamwork.
I think that my early years helped to shape and mold me into the person that I am today. When I look around me, I see some honorable old fashioned ideals that seem to be sorely lacking in our communities and society. I see elderly people rotting away in nursing homes. I see kids that have been provided everything by their parents that show little honor, respect, or thankfulness towards them. One day I saw an elderly lady out on the street holding heavy bags of groceries at a bus stop in sub zero temperatures asking strangers for a ride, and being turned away as car after car passed by. I saw a 70 year old guy packing groceries in the back of cars filled with people in their 20’s and 30’s. I wondered if his retirement wasn’t enough for him to survive on, if his benefits were cut, or if his medical bills were too high.
I see a world slowly loosing the love and empathy for its elderly. I am not saying that our elders are always perfect, but neither are we. I believe that showing respect to our elders, or helping them when they get old, or are sick is on the decline, and a little old fashioned respect wouldn’t hurt.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.