This I Believe

Lolita - Durand, Illinois
Entered on September 19, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: family
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I Believe Motherhood Is A Lifelong Commitment

I am the mother of three children and I believe motherhood is a lifelong commitment. For Lisa, 45, and Kurt, 43, it means doing anything from sewing up a split seam to standing by during surgery. For Linda, 46, it’s care 24/7 because she is retarded and stays at home.

Linda is a conundrum that has never been solved. She was a docile baby who crawled, walked and talked in sentences in step with Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care.” We were not aware of any problems until psychological testing in first grade showed she was educatably mentally handicapped. After an epileptic seizure later that same year, an EEG revealed brain damage from an unknown cause.

During her grade school years, Linda attended special education classes, rode a bike, roller skated and swam. She participated in Girl Scouts, including camp, and sang with the children’s choir at our church.

We met with various specialists seeking help but found none. I learned a mother has no standing in the world of professionals when the school psychologist ignored the workbooks Linda had completed at home one summer. “I don’t know who did this work,” he said.

When Linda was 14, her teacher complained of behavior problems that we weren’t seeing at home, so we took her to a residential facility for observation and testing. When she came home a few weeks later, she had regressed in many ways including wetting her pants and using her hands like flippers instead of individual fingers. She couldn’t return to school for several months.

Linda was 16 when my dad died and a short time after that, she quit talking. Whether the two were connected, no one could say. A neurologist dashed our hopes for finding any answers when he said, “If anything happens to that little gal, an autopsy would certainly be interesting.”

During the late nineties, Linda had trouble sleeping at night and was rowdy during the day. Still, I did not want to use the strong medications suggested by her doctor because of the side effects. I found a recommendation on the internet for magnesium, which has given us quiet nights and peaceful days since 1999. It has also relieved her constipation and regulated her menstrual periods.

I am not the martyr type and I cannot extol the benefits of having Linda as part of our family–it’s just the way it is.

I am a writer because of Linda. In 1969, when I was looking for a part-time job that would fit with my family responsibilities, I became a community correspondent for a daily newspaper. When the newspaper cut part-timers thirteen years later, I was hooked on writing so I found other markets for my freelance articles.

Today Linda no longer says I love you but she does respond to affection. I believe she deserves to live with her family where she is loved.