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My Rock, My Inspiration, My Mother!

This is a story of inspiration. I am writing this because it will help me purge the sadness I have inside me today. My heart is heavy because my Mother was supposed to be here today, we were supposed to celebrate her Birthday today. Instead, I was left waking to a bitter cold January day that left me not wanting to face the day. My Mother passed away October 2, 2015 and on that day, a part of me died too. Her absence is palpable, so very real to me. So many days I catch myself saying ” I should call Mom and tell her…..” So many days I drive by her subdivision and think I should turn in and visit her. It was such a common thing for me to call her, just to talk. I remember how she could tell something was wrong just by the tone of my voice. She and I were cut from the same cloth as my sister and Father were cut from the same cloth. I think that is why my parents could understand one of us and be confounded by the other, we are truly mirrors of them. If my Mother liked you, she would do anything to help you. She was generous with her time, with her money, with her love. On the other hand, if you wronged her, there was no force on this planet that could change her mind. To her life was cut and dry, she knew what she liked and knew what she didn’t. She was an unreal judge of character; often correct where I had given someone the benefit of the doubt. This didn’t make her better or worse than anyone else, just uniquely her. For all her strengths and weaknesses, she was just Mom to me and my sister Diane.

The Angel And The Demon

When my Mother was sober, she was the most kind person I know. She was truly a heartfelt and loving person. When she drank, she was an entity that was hard to reconcile with the kind person. It was like polar opposites, she would cut you to the quick. Those years were hard to deal with because the polarity was confusing. People often ask me why I don’t get too excited for things like holidays. Well, in families like mine, you couldn’t really count on anything being concrete. Our lives were in constant flux depending on the amount of alcohol ingested. I just adjusted by never having expectations of anyone except myself. Where I felt I couldn’t count on other people, I became internally self reliant. I believed I could do anything, not fearing any consequence. I lived life with little fear or regard for my safety of well being. My fear was in my home, not outside of it. I learned that I needed to take care of myself, to expect anything, and to be beyond prepared for anything. The angel version of my Mother was the most intensely proud Mother who would not stand for people attacking her family or her children. The demon side of my Mother was the person who would attack her family and her children. That is the crushing fallout of alcoholism. Which person would you see that day, the angel or the demon? Too often in my youth, I saw the demon.

Cancer, St. Patricks Day, and Sobriety

Some 20 years ago, I literally thought my Mother would drink herself to death. She would wake up and drink til she passed out on the couch. She would wake up and drink again. This cycle repeated itself often for years, too many to think about. It was easier to recall the days she was sober back then. Well, my Mother got a scare that she might have cancer. She made a pact with God that if he made sure she didn’t have cancer, she would stop drinking. This is a woman who had been to in patient rehab 3 times and a fourth when we sent her to Canada to live with my Aunt Carol. So I had little belief that it would work. My Mother is the daughter of two very stubborn Irish parents. My Grandparents both were born in Northern Ireland and came from abject poverty, so they understood sacrifice. My Mother also understood it as she was born not even a decade of the 1929 stock market crash. She lost her father at a young age and quit school to support the family, working two jobs. Like most Irish people, she was tough as nails. So on that fateful St. Patrick’s day, in an irony to top all irony, she stopped drinking cold turkey. What self respecting Irish person stops drinking on St. Paddy’s Day? Hell, I would have said “Let’s start this tomorrow!” That is how she was, strong as steel.

Why Does This Happen To Me?

It seemed that after my Mother got sober, there was a series of cataclysmic events that would shake the foundations of my Mothers life. Not long after her sobriety, my Father and Mother were remarried. The sad part was that they did so after my Father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He passed away in October of 1998. This is when things started to go south. I bought my Mom and English Bulldog to keep her company. We named him Mac(short for McDougall, my fathers middle name). Well, in December, just before Christmas, half of my Mothers house burnt down due to an electrical fire. Then when she moved back in in July, they didn’t connect the AC. She left for work and the house got very hot. She came home and Mac was having a seizure due to the house being so hot. He had surgery and out of 5 bulldogs who went into the vet that day, he was the only one to live. The next issue was a horrific car accident where a van ran a red light and hit my Mom in her Dodge Neon head on. She had 18 rib fractures, 2 pelvic fractures, and a compression fracture of her spine. Well, due to her being unable to drive or move well, she took Mac to the groomer. She told them to let him air dry. They put him in a drying crate and killed him due to overheating. My Mother was crushed. The lady who owns that business was so callous, I wanted to punch her right in the face. So we got her a new dog named Maggie and things were looking up.

Well, they held up for a while until a few years down the line. As fallout from her accident, she had to have spinal fusion. After spinal fusion, her hip went bad. She literally walked the ball off of it before she got hip replacement. That was also from the accident. Then a year later Maggie was diagnosed with cancer and my Mom had to put her down. She was devastated. Well, my Mom worked for me at our gym and two members were dog breeders. They bred French Bulldogs and Shorty Bulls. They loved my Mom and gave her a $2000 pup we named Cullen (Irish warrior). Well things went from bright to bad not long after. My Mom fell at home rupturing her spleen and almost bleeding to death. She was saved with emergency surgery. During that surgery, they noticed a spot on her lung. We waited hoping for the best. Our worst fears were realized when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Due to poor lung quality from years of smoking, chemo was the only viable option. She fought like a champ and was holding it at bay for 2 plus years when she fell one morning, shattering her hip and femur. At that point, she had surgery and was stuck in long term care. No more chemo due to her condition. She then contracted C-Diff, a nasty GI infection that kept recurring. She spent most of 6 months in long term care in quarantine so as not to infect other residents. She was finally released in June where she lived out her last days.

No Sadness, Just Reality

I don’t tell anyone these things to champion my Mother. She was human and frail just like everyone else. She had weakness of character like anyone else. She did things wrong like anyone else. Where she differed from most is that she never felt sorry for herself. In a quiet moment, she once asked “What did I do to deserve this?” That was the most I ever heard her say about it and we shared everything. My sister said I was the “Golden Child”, that I could do no wrong. I don’t think that was it. My Mom knew I was like her, that I will persevere through thick and thin, fighting the good fight, fighting until my last heart beat. That is how life should be lived. Like a warrior who fights on no matter how dire the circumstances. Why not fight? Why give in? I watched my Mother go through all these tragedies and do so with grace. I watched her stare death down until her body gave in. Her mind and her spirit fought on until the body had nothing left to give. That is how you live life. You live it fully and courageously. You live it by giving to others, by being kind. You live life by grinding through every single roadblock, no matter how insurmountable. That is why I tell you about my Mother. If a 5′ tall 95 lb woman can solider on through all this tragedy, why can’t we all. God Bless you Mom. I miss you and I love you always.