(This is a Bloggers Unite cross-post)
When I was nine my parents split up. My dad, the aforementioned English teacher, left and, with him, so did our family’s sole source of income.
My mom has suffered from chronic depression and anxiety her entire life, has a grade 8 education, was emancipated by fifteen, spent a brief time as a street kid (imagine that in the 50’s), and worked as a data punch processor until she met and married my dad. By the late 70’s when they split up those data punch skills were archaic and useless.
We spent about a year living on welfare.
After Dad left she never spent another night in the hospital due to her depression, perhaps in part as a result of him not being there, but I think mostly because she just told herself that she couldn't. For me.
She managed to pay the bills and the mortgage until she got a job as a graveyard supervisor at a group home for the mentally challenged. She built that job into a career by turning our house into a miniature group home. By the time I was 12, she was caring full time for two developmental challenged paranoid/schizophrenic women. That was her career, seemingly forged out of thin air, and the means by which she kept us in hot dogs and hamburgers.
We never lost the house, I was always fed, always clothed, always loved, and mostly aware of how amazing all of that was. It was, at times, challenging being a teenage boy in that house, but it was also a priceless and unique experience.
To this day, I have a hard time calculating the scale of the sacrifices she made; how much focus and effort a life of service to those two women must have taken; how hard it must have been to not give up or give in to the depression that was and still is a giant cloud over her head; how much she overcame to keep our modified family together.
Thinking about it always leaves me dumbfounded and a little fucked up for a while, but in a good way.
So when I say that she is the most courageous person I know, please understand how serious I am. She is my hero.
Mom turned seventy early this year and has, over the last year or so, been slipping (mostly) gently into the early stages of Alzheimer’s. We’ve had some bad stretches already, but adjustments to her medications have helped her come back twice now, and we’re currently holding.
I know that, realistically, it won’t last forever, but I’m thankful for the time we have, and for her continued courage.
There’s no bullshit around the house. She’s aware of what’s happening and it scares the shit out of her some days, but we talk about it when it does.
We laugh whenever possible. We remember together, and the repeated stories never seem old. She tells me that she’s proud of me and I tell her I’m more proud of her. We say ‘I love you’ all the time, more than we used to, and that’s never a bad thing.
So far it’s a pretty gentle experience and we’re thankful for that too. We know that it won’t last forever, but while it does… well, while it does we’ll be in the moment and appreciate it.
Every moment. Every story. Every hug. Every ‘I love you’. Every. Fucking. One.
Hell, she’s my hero and this is just life. You deal, right?
It’s what heroes do. My Mom taught me that…
September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day.
Maybe your folks are fine, maybe not. Either way, be thankful for the time you have. It’s precious and too short.