Tag Archives: mother

This is a Simple Story About Love

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All a mother wants, above and beyond anything else in life, is for her child to be happy. It’s a subliminal inclination fueled by emotion, like the echo of a throb…a primal instinct driven by that first, curious flutter in the womb.

And it never goes away.

My grandmother is no different from any other mother in this respect, even though her youngest was born with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Unable to breathe, my Aunt Micki was rushed to a nurse instead of Grandmother’s open arms while doctors worked to change Micki’s color from a pallid shade of blue to something that looked a little more like life.

Micki survived only to suffer her first seizure when she was nine months old. It was the earliest of many signs that something about her seemed different. Abnormal. Uncommon. Not right.

As months turned into years, “different” transitioned to “retarded,” a term loaded with so much meaning that it overflowed, creating a non-navigable chasm between Micki and other kids her age. Words can be transformative in both good ways and bad, and “retarded” became a life-size label that would shade just about everything she did, starting with the length of the bus she boarded for school.

Both Grandmother and Micki learned to move under a cloak of filtered light that could only throw shadows on the stolen glances and downcast eyes of the world at large. Yet in those everyday moments where growth can’t really be measured, the bond between mother and daughter grew.

Given enough time, life will teach you that the only thing you can count on is change. Yet Micki’s role never has. She is and always will be my grandmother’s constant companion. Not her retarded companion, just a loving daughter and friend.

When my mom left home for college, Micki stayed. When my uncle took the same path seven years later, Micki stayed. When my grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-one, Micki stayed.

We don’t use the word “retarded” anymore, or at least, we don’t admit it when we do. From my grandmother’s perspective, that word has always misrepresented her youngest child. If you ask, she’ll say Micki came into the world just the way she was supposed to be.

Today, at almost ninety-three, the time-honored light in Grandmother’s eyes is fading. She’s more feeble now than even a few years ago, and bones that used to bend under the weight of life now break. Yet she pauses and lingers longer than most because her remaining purpose sits beside her, quietly holding her hand. Theirs is silent proof that under the right conditions, the narrative of a love story can last forever.

My grandmother will tell you that she’s here today because of youngest child. Not her abnormal, uncommon, retarded child, but her sweet, loving, beautiful daughter.

She’s not a surgeon, or a star, or even that girl from high school you wish you still knew. Yet if you ask Micki if she’s happy, she’ll nod her head and reply, “Yes. Yes I am.”

You don’t have to ask Grandmother the same question. The answer is obvious in the way she looks at her daughter, without bias or pity or doubt. To a mother, a child is simply a child and love is just love. Micki is her life’s greatest gift. We should all be so lucky.

On October 5, 2010, President Obama signed legislation requiring the federal government to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in many areas of government. This measure, known as Rosa’s Law, strips the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education, and labor policy. According to the World Health Organization, about 15 percent of the world’s population — or 785 million people — has a significant physical or mental disability. 

For anyone accustomed to my attempts at more humorous, light-hearted posts, I’ll be back next week to talk about either what I found in my neighbor’s trash, or the time I spent in my version of prison, or both. These topics aren’t remotely related, but probably should be.

To The Gentle Giant From A Mom Who Sometimes Gets It Wrong

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I have an unsuspecting guest blogger today.  It’s my eleven year-old son, Taylor, or as I like to call him, the Gentle Giant.  Gentle because he was born with a heart much more complex and intricate than most, and giant because, well, he’s really, really tall.

Taylor has always been sensitive to the ways of the world…more synchronized to the tune of his own feelings and the vibrations and chords of those around him than anyone I know.  Even though our parts come from the same place, they’re constructed in an entirely different way.  What seems like a glancing blow to me hits him directly; a sucker punch to the gut with a sting that lingers and burns.

At first and for a long time, I wanted to change my son.  Make him tougher, more resilient, and in my mind’s eye, strong.  No caring parent wants a child to hurt.

When he was a little boy, all I could see through my one-dimensional, cracked crystal ball were children teasing him.  I imagined him crying while I tried to clean up the tiny slivers of his psyche, unable to reconnect them in a way that would cause less pain.  With a vascular organ as transparent as his, I was afraid he’d bleed in ways that would require emotional surgery, a method of repair I was too ill-equipped to attempt.

Over the years, some of my fears have come to light.  He’s mourned things I don’t understand, and lamented situations that wouldn’t cause me a second thought.  And yes, he’s had his feelings bruised by others who are built of vital pieces that are shaped a little differently than his.  I’m embarrassed to admit that one of those “others” unintentionally includes me.

But he’s also surprised me in ways I could have never predicted.   As a kid on the cusp of tweendom, he now feels compelled to hide his free-flowing tears, but he’s always the first to crack a joke.  Because his feelings run like fissures through the ground, he’ll defend anyone being bullied, unconditionally and without a second thought.  I’ve seen him jump to an unknown child’s defense and am amazed by his courage.  Even for the right reasons, I didn’t have the self-confidence at his age to make waves or challenge the status quo.

It took me awhile to understand that the element of my son’s personality I wanted to alter is the exact one that makes him so beautifully unique.  I imagine that the children who cry easily become the teenagers who feel deeply and the adults who have the potential to heal the world.

With the best of intentions we often damage our children.  In our haste to mold them into the people we wish we were, we sometimes hurt rather than help.  Although I’m ashamed to admit it, I see now that by trying to make my son stronger, I actually injured parts I intended to support.  He had strengths all along that I failed to recognize, and it was never Taylor who needed to change.  It was me.

There is absolutely no genetic precedent in either my husband’s or my family for a child who is predicted to grow to be about 6’5”.  The only way to explain his size is that it takes a large body to hold such a huge heart.  His height is a defense mechanism in a way, a physical vessel to guard against any emotions that penetrate the protective cover, and cradle something too valuable to lose.

I’m not always proud of myself, but I am unconditionally and forever proud of my son.

Tree by Taylor Chadwick

Still. Still as a rock.

High above all others.

Lonely, alone.

Freezing as the temperature drops.

Reaching out for something to hold onto.

But nothing is there.

The arms stretch out further, and that means there is still something to hold onto.

Something to fight for.

Something to believe in.

Something to live for.

The sun is melting all the snow.

Warming it.

There is always hope.

 

Image from Flickr