I was in grade 8 and I had, once again, forgotten a project that was due at home. I didn’t live within walking distance, so I had to call my mom to bring it to the school. A stay-at-home mom for most of my life, I had come to rely on Mom for moments just like this—a forgotten lunch, a doctor’s appointment, a sporting event—moments where I knew my mom would pull through and be there for me. Though I could sense a hint of frustration in her voice, Mom was willing to bring my project to the school for me. Again. She probably deserved as much credit for whatever academic success I had growing up as I did. The late marks she saved me from would have probably kept me back for years.
I woke up and I couldn’t move. I could the night before. I had probably spent the evening wrestling with my brother or getting up to some other sort of mischief as anyone new to the -teen suffix age range is apt to get up to. Yet this morning I couldn’t sit up. After my brain fought with my muscles for a few minutes it finally convinced my body to roll over onto the floor where my arms would be able to take over. My body hit the floor with a THUD, but my arms couldn’t outmatch my back. I wasn’t paralyzed—I could feel my feet and move my legs—but I’d be lying if I said the thought that at some point during my 7 hours of sleep my back had broken itself didn’t cross my worried mind. Before I could finish the thought, my mom had raced upstairs to see what the commotion was. After explaining that “Mom, I can’t MOVE,” she came around and lifted me back into my bed. My mom assured me that everything would be ok and she’d take care of me and she brought me breakfast and set up a TV for me to watch because we had no idea how long I’d be stuck in bed and then she brought me lunch and juice and then dinner and by the end of the day I still couldn’t get up on my own and I was still wearing my pyjamas from the night before. The next day was much the same, until the afternoon when leaning on my mom’s shoulder I was able to more or less fall down the stairs to watch TV on the big family room TV. My mom still brought me lunch and juice and dinner that day.
My mom and I finally made it to the chiropractor and were told my back muscles had spasmed from all the minor injuries attained playing competitive hockey; my mom was suddenly on the hook for taking me to the chiropractor a few times a week then once a week then once a month until my treatment was complete.
We were in love. She had moved to Manitoba for school, but we spoke on the phone every night for hours catching each other up on what had transpired in the 21 hours since the last time we spoke. We didn’t think we could make it work—days before her late-August flight we had discussed it and concluded that breaking up was the appropriate thing to do (mind you, it was raining that day, indicating that perhaps we were simply falling victim to pre-mature pathetic fallacy)—but after several months of trying to forget each other we couldn’t and decided, on MSN, that our love was true. That didn’t fix the distance problem. No, that was solved by a birthday present from my parents: a plane ticket to Winnipeg for the weekend before reading week. Mom, who hates driving in traffic, braved the crowded 401 and then the busy airport so I could get to my flight. Then she drove home, presumably so she could get back in time to pick up my siblings from school and make dinner for the family and finish whatever chores this anxiety-ridden excursion was distracting her from. A year later my girlfriend and I broke up, and my mom comforted me.
When friends try to make plans with me, I recommend they email me the details. If it’s not written down, I won’t remember. I get this from my dad. Growing up, our home was riddled with notes taped to the TV, coffee pot, fridge, or car dashboard where it would be seen and remembered. I keep to-do lists, write appointments in my calendar, and leave notes for myself because I have a terrible memory. Tuesday at 12pm isn’t written down anywhere. We don’t need to write it down. It was burned in our minds when the hospital called last Friday to schedule the surgery.
I’ll have just finished enjoying an Americano from Starbucks with someone from my business networking group. I won’t get to be at the hospital. There will be nothing for me to do. All I can do is wait the allotted 6 hours until the operation is complete.
I likely won’t get to see her until the next day. I doubt she’ll have much energy, so I’ll help her readjust her pillows when her back feels strained, let her lean on me if she needs to get up for anything, get her juice from the bar fridge sitting on top of the counter. I won’t be able to be there all day every day, but I will be there every chance I have. The next week she will hopefully come home, and for at least a couple of months it will be the responsibility of those she has cared for all these years to look after her.
I am scared. I am hopeful. The doctors seem very optimistic. I want so badly for this to work. After a year of fighting, I just want to see my mom get better.
I love you, Mom, and we’re all in this with you.