I will never forget the look on your face when you walked into the hospital – the day you saw your only daughter lying there – completely incapacitated. You tried to be brave. I saw you bite your lip. But when you placed your hand on my head, and kissed my cheek, I could see your upper body shake, as you sobbed. I felt comforted by your presence and knowledge that Mom will make it all better. I felt a little scared of what lay ahead. But, to be honest, a part of me was irritated by your usual overreaction to every situation. I wanted to tell you that I was absolutely fine. Mom, you have no idea how much I wished (later) that you were overreacting that day.
Chad was not even ten months old so, I had barely begun to understand what it meant to be a mother. Now, twelve years later, I have a far better idea of how you must have felt that day. But I will never really know unless something terrible happens to Chad. I pray that never happens.
How many times did you say the words “Tracy, don’t do that! You will break your neck…” while I was growing up? As usual, I was strong-willed and never imagined it could ever happen. If only I had listened to you more often. If only I didn’t take off my seat belt that day. If only…
I will never forget your reaction when I told you that my husband wanted out. You were so angry with him. And so sad for me. You knew long before I told you that something was up. You know me so well. You had seen the change in mood long before anybody else noticed it. You kept nagging me to tell you what was wrong. I was so scared to tell you. I knew you would be devastated. We had barely begun to understand and adapt to the horrific changes that came with having a quadriplegic in the family. How were we going to cope with more bad news?
The truth is that I was also ashamed to tell you that I was getting divorced. One thing you always taught me was that marriage is for keeps. I remember asking you before I got married how you managed to stay in love with the same man waking up next to you for so many years. I was convinced that I would get bored. But, when I finally took that step, I never ever intended to break my promise. But then I messed it all up by breaking my bloody neck!
It is said that you know you are a real mother when you have poked your finger in more places on your child’s body than you ever thought possible. I bet you never imagined you would have to do that for your adult child as well?
You have always been a good mother. But, for the past twelve years you have been my life-line – my best friend, caregiver, nurse, counselor, nanny, surrogate mother to Chad, chauffeur, hairstylist, makeup artist, gourmet chef, personal shopper, signatory, employee (although I haven’t paid you a single cent for your services). But more importantly you remain the most valuable person in my life – my mother.
I remember watching you as a little girl, from the backseat of the car, as you would re-apply your lipstick and check your makeup in the mirror behind the sun-visor of the passenger seat – despite having done that a few minutes before at home. You taught me to always wear lipstick, no matter what. Not even a broken neck was a good enough reason to go without. And for that, I am grateful.
Your pearls of wisdom “when one door closes, another one will open” have elicited more eye-ball rolling behind your back over the years than you ever knew. But those are the very words that have given me the strength, courage and ability to face, and survive, the most horrific tragedies to continue living a meaningful life – despite being paralyzed from the neck down.
I had to learn to live life completely differently. I had to learn to live life with my brain, eyes, ears, nose and most importantly my voice. You taught me that “it’s not what I say, but how I say it” that’s key to successful communicating. You continue to remind me of that daily, as I struggle with my frustrations of not being able to do anything for myself. Being physically dependent on others is hell. You often bear the brunt of my irritations but you always kiss me goodbye and tell me that you love me before you go – no matter what. And I know you will be back – soon. You are possibly the most forgiving person on this planet. And for that, I admire you.
Thank you for loving and supporting my dad. Thank you for loving and caring for my son. And most importantly thank you for loving me – unconditionally – no matter what.
You are beautiful inside, and out! And I love you, more than you can imagine.
Happy Mother’s Day.