Growing up guilty? No need!
Sitting on my bed, I flipped through my Nancy Drew mystery again. I was trying to find where Nancy solves the riddle of the frozen fountain. That was my favorite part.
"Barb, come her for a moment. Please. I need your help," my mother called.
Angrily, I slammed my book on my bed. Nancy Drew would have to wait. "Hold on," I yelled.
I sat there trying to be patient. She needed me. I breathed deeply and walked slowly towards her room.
When I entered, she was sitting next to her closet. Smiling, she pointed to a shoebox which was on the top shelf. "Barb, would you please get that for me?"
It was beyond her reach. She sat in her wheelchair looking helpless. I still didn't care. I grabbed it off the shelf and threw it on the bed.
"There you go! Anything else?" I snapped like an impatient waitress whose tip was forgotten.
"No, thank you. That's all."
I stomped out of her room, the wooden floor creaking under my angry steps. I hoped the floor would break open and I would fall into the cold, dark basement. At least if that happened, she wouldn't bother me.
As I stuffed my school books into my backpack, I looked into my hand mirror once more. Rats! My hair was a mess. Apparently, it had developed a mind of its own. How dare it! I worked so hard to make it look perfect. I grabbed my hairspray and brush. Vigorously, I ran the brush through the strands. How does Farrah Fawcett do it? Why don't I look like her? Frantically, I pressed the pump several times. This was just the ammunition I needed. The hair was plastered against my head. Victory. I was almost ready to leave except for grabbing my lunch bag. Running to the refrigerator, I saw my mother sitting outside the bathroom door.
I knew what this meant, time to empty her urine bag. I lifted my mother's skirt as I reached for the empty cranberry juice bottle. Carefully, I eased the plastic cap off her bag. This was the trickiest part of the process since the mouth of the bottle was small. If I aimed incorrectly or took it off too soon, the urine would spray in my face or spill down my arm. Hating the smell, I drained it. Luckily, it didn't spill. We both were silent.
As I kissed my mother good-bye, I wept inside. I loved her intensely. Holding back the tears, I ran to my bus stop. She was so conscious of her demands and requests. She tried hard not to ask for anything. How could I be so insensitive? Wanting to be by myself, I chose an empty seat on the bus.
I stared out the window. I felt alone and confused. Why this damn responsibility? Even though I share it with my sister and father, I sometimes felt solely responsible. Why her? Why me?
Memories cluttered my mind. I thought of our shopping excursions at the local mall: squeezing into elevators, answering children's inquiries about "her chair on wheels," and sticking my tongue out at staring adults as we passed by. More important, I remembered how she spent money and time buying clothes for me. Her own needs always came after mine.
The bus stopped in the school driveway. I waited until the last person got off the bus.
Arriving five minutes early to class, I chose my favorite chair. It was in the front row and next to the door. From there, I could watch all the late students slither down the hall, trying to avoid the monitors. I knew my classmates would be envious of my view.
Settled, comfortable, I thought about my mother. I couldn't forget how rudely I had treated her. I had hurt her. I was ashamed.. Would she forgive me?
Darting up to Mr. Whitney, I blurted, "I need to make a telephone call." He looked puzzled.
"Please it's important."
"You've got two minutes."
Luckily, he was in a good mood. He usually told us to sit down or ignored us. I think he liked me.
I dashed down the hall, dodging people like O.J. Simpson in the T.V. commercial. Reaching for the phone, I inserted my dime. As I dialed, I realized I hadn't thought about what I was going to say. "I'm sorry?" "I didn't mean to be so rude?" Neither sounded right. The phone rang. Usually it would ring several times before she'd answer. Most callers would have hung up.
"Hi, uhh...Mom, this is Barb."
"Are you o.k.?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I just needed to call you."
"Did you forget your running gear?"
"No, I uhh...just called to say I'm sorry about what I did this morning."
"Honey, don't worry about it. I understand. You'd better get back to class."
"Have a good day."
"I will. Mom?"
"I love you."
"I love you too. Now go!"
She still loved me! My eyes ached from the tears I held back. I didn't want anyone to see me for a little while.
The bell rang. Now, every hall monitor would interrogate me about why I wasn't in class. If they approached me, I'd plead, "I was making a phone call. I have teacher permission."
No one knew the reason for my call. I liked it that way.
My mother only lived five more years. During that period, I began dimly to understand what a role-model of courage, independence, generosity and love my mother was.
At her funeral, my sister and I read a poem together which I had written. It touched on the essence of her role in our lives:
To Mom Ever since I was a child, You were there when I needed you... to love me when I was hurt. to share my dreams and laughter. Memories... that I cherished to hold dear. For you have not only been my best friend... but also the woman I want to be.
The best one can do is be human. The worst one can do is not care.
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|Title Annotation:||Multiple sclerosis victim's daughter looks back; includes related article|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1989|
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