Growing up, I lived in Scotland. My father was an offshore oil rig-man, a welder on a rig in the North Sea. He worked in brutal conditions.
My father left America when my mother was pregnant with my sister. I look back and realize how brave my mother had been to be raising two young children while being close to giving birth to a third and with a husband in another country, working a highly dangerous job in the North Sea.
The truth is...my mother confronted a lot with us children...alone. Dad worked and played, but mom was always around and she found time to do more than many of our mother's friends, even when she worked full-time as a teacher. She was extraordinary. Doctors told her she'd never be able to carry a baby to term and she did...three times. I'm glad she didn't listen to those who would have placed restrictions on her capabilities.
We weren't a military family, but we knew a life of living with a parent who worked under extremely dangerous conditions and we understood what it meant to be an unconventional family. My father appeared to terrify people, including most neighbors, and my mother was significantly disabled...not a combination that made for a typical American family on the block. But, these differences made me, my brother and my sister extremely strong children, and I believe, wise adults. We see the world a bit differently than most people.
In 1975, my mom was around 27 years old when she gave birth to my sister. As soon as my baby sister hit five weeks old, we three kids and our mother flew to Scotland to live there so my father could see us all when his barge brought him to shore from the oil rig. I saw him about once every three months. Sometimes we traveled to Amsterdam to meet his barge...those were experiences I'll never forget.
|My father holding my baby sister during his coming to see us at|
our house in Scotland. Here, we are all visiting Briar Castle.
We lived in Edinburgh and I attended a Scottish school.
I have to say, I loved Scotland more than I can express.
In addition, my mother was a semi-hemi-pelagic from living in a body that had been ravaged by Polio at five years of old. Semi-hemi meaning...half of each hemisphere (top part of body and lower part of body, each a different hemisphere) is paralyzed. A para-pelagic will have half-their body paralyzed. My mother had half of of each half of her body paralyzed. Whew! That is how she was medically charted as a semi-hemi-pelagic. Actually, she was a double-semi-hemi-pelagic to be accurate.
|Here is my mom, propped against a tree for a photo.|
Polio left my mother with a paralyzed left arm that was smaller than her right arm and that affected left arm basically dangled by her side with minimal ability to bend at the elbow. She couldn't even move her fingers. Her thumb was left in a hooked position and she'd often use it pretty much in the same manner as a wall hook.
|A shot of mom with my baby sister, a handful, but you can see|
my mom is again propped against an object and can't use her left
arm/hand except in a staged fashion. My sister is about two years old here.
She was big, but still appeared to have features as a little baby while
she was actually a toddler.
My mom would expertly prop things in her "bad" hand or loop a bag handle onto the frozen thumb of her bad hand and make it seem as if the hand and arm were "normal." She'd get good use out of it, even though the left arm and hand were not of normal use to her.
|My cousin Laura and my mother - |
mom is using her right hand to camouflage
her left hand. This picture was taken
within a couple of years before she passed.
Sometimes people would know her for years before they'd realize she manipulated her left arm by the creative usage of her right arm. Nothing was in her left hand without her right hand having to place an object in the left and remove it from the left hand. In this manner and in others, my mother's sense of independence and usefulness never ceased to amaze me.
|My mother by my side for the birth of my 2nd|
child, once I was living in America, again.
She helped me through a very difficult challenge.
Her right leg was paralyzed and made into a bionic leg with rods running the length of her thigh bone and with her foot/ankle fused and pinned into place so that she could apply pressure to the leg. She used her hip to swing the leg around and could walk with tremendous delicate balancing skill.
Many, many, many times throughout my childhood, my mother would fall. Getting up with a paralyzed leg and a useless arm that remained out of the shoulder socket was quite a feat, even for anyone trying to help her get up. I knew how to help my mother, but she could not be pulled on by the arms like a usual person. It took skill to help her off the ground.
|My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and|
me...a treasured photograph.
As I grew up, I watched her go from being able to balance herself, often with bad falls that would leave horrendous bruising.
Then, I watched her be forced to use a cane.
Then, the day came when she had to wear a leg brace attached to a special shoe...shoes that would be another thing she'd lose choice over because a person can't afford to buy a closet full of shoes, each one attached to a costly brace.
And I finally saw her relegated to an electric wheelchair for most of her outings and for doing things around the house.
Then came the wheelchair ramp that my mother's brother built for her at the house and the vehicles with the wheelchair lifts, all of the major heavy equipment for the disabled became a part of our family before my mother hit her 40's.
Still...my mother continued to live a full life that most able-bodied people could not compete with. She was amazing, there's no other definition for her other than amazing.
|My mom with the students she always loved; she was a teacher with|
her Master's Degree in Education, teaching for HISD
(Houston Independent School District).
Therefore, we were all devastated to know my mom overcame so much in life, from age five, only to have breast cancer invade her body and take her from us within a two year ferocious fight. She was still young, only 57 years young when she changed addresses to her final residence in Heaven, but her entire life she'd confronted major hurdles beyond the comprehension of most people.
Is life fair? No. And this is also part of the reason I understand that life is also not about equality. For each of us, we do the best with what we have to offer and my mom brought that concept home to our family in a massive way.
For the record, I do not have the halo-over-the-head syndrome about my mother, as some people do once their loved one passes away. I know that my mom and I had a REAL relationship, in every sense of the word "real." Did I have problems with my mom? Regular problems? Weird problems? Dysfunctional problems? Heck yes!
What family have you EVER known that is "functional?" And if you do, beware. If they appear to be far from dysfunction, then I beg you to consider, as my mom always said, that there are worse things unseen than facts that are obvious.
My mom and I were quite a pair. Did we sometimes feel as if we could wring each other's necks? Absolutely! But, I think that was one of the beautiful parts to our relationship...she was the person in my life who I could battle, who I could confide in, who I could talk to about anything, who I knew would listen and sometimes give me advice that made me want to scream, but I LOVED her capacity to get through to me. And I could do the same for her. It was a two-way street once I became an adult and old enough to be honored to be HER friend. Thank goodness she gave me the opportunity to be considered one of her friends! I've never laughed with anyone as much as I laughed with my mother. That's a beautiful legacy that she left for me to honor.
We would always race to each other's side, but she always seemed to be faster at it than me. We were interested in each other's world; we were true friends. I miss my friend. I miss my mom. But, I have to be thankful that I've had the best of both, mother and friend, in her. She blessed me.
Amazing, she was amazing.