An Open Letter to My Mom (Mother’s Day – updated 2015) and “A Child’s Angel”

Recently I was able to get all my medical records. 90% of them anyway, from the two main hospitals at which I was seen. No, a truck didn’t show up with pallets and pallets full of records, dumping them on my front lawn! Almost. But not quite. It’s a good 300+ pages of written reports. Also, CD’s filled with x-rays and ct’s and mri’s. Interesting stuff. I see everything I went through, all the surgeries I ever had, all the complications from those surgeries, all the ER visits, all the SB clinic visits. Knee injuries, broken wrists, stomach aches. It’s all there.

And a lot crosses my mind reading those things. Mainly two things. A. How the hell am I still alive??? I’ve almost died like 4 times from complications of SB…..how the hell am I still here??? And B. My mom. My mom was a constant through it all. She’s everywhere in those records. “We talked to his mom who came with him today about” so and so procedure. “His mom feels strongly” this or that about whatever decision. “Mom thinks he is ready for” whatever surgery. She’s just everywhere. My mom. Mami.

As I read my records, almost 35+ years worth, it didn’t take very long to see what an important role my mom played. I didn’t have to get too far, didn’t have to read too much, to see just how much my mom loved her middle son and how much she fought for me in life. I saw pretty quickly that I would be nowhere and nobody if it weren’t for some of the things my mom did and said back in the day. Here’s just one example taken from those reports:

12-2-80

“His mother is aware that in September 1981 he will be ready for kindergarten. Mom visited Valverde Elementary, a pubic school, where it was recommended to her that he instead attend Boettcher School for the Disabled. After visiting Boettcher, his mother feels it was not an appropriate school for him and that he needs to go to school with his peers and be treated as a non-disabled child. She feels he would not be able to fulfill his potential if forced to attend Boettcher. We agree that it would be unfortunate if he were to develop a self-image that would not be consistent with what appears to be his intellectual ability. Mom asked if there were tests he can take to prove his capabilities to DPS. Therefore we will be administering intellectual and language testing this January which will hopefully help in mainstreaming him.”

That made this author tear up. Mom fighting the system, so that DPS didn’t just stick me where they thought I needed to be, where I wouldn’t be able to thrive and where nothing would be expected of me. And she did that in 1980. Back when there were no IEP’s, no diagnosis of learning disabilities I may or may not have had, no accommodations of any sort, no nothing. Mom kicking ass and taking names, advocating for her son in a way that was all too rare in 1980. Dad was around, doing the equally important job of making the money that paid for medical procedures and PT and hospital visits. But it was mom yelling at whoever she needed to yell at, talking to whatever doctor she needed to talk to, just doing whatever she had to do so that I could live as normal a life as possible, all while teaching me to ask for what I needed and to advocate for myself. “You talk to the doctor, you’re the patient, not me. Y dile que te duele mucho. Nomas asi hacen algo. Tell him it hurts a lot. That’s the only way they’ll do something about it.”

That was my mom. Still is. Kickin’ ass and taking names.

So……..how do I thank a person for doing all that? For being there for me literally from the second I was born with that thing she couldn’t even pronounce, let alone begin to understand. Myelo what??? Spina who?? Hydro, say it again??…..With a huge bubble on my back filled with fluid and spinal nerves, doctors telling my mom and dad that I won’t live more than a year (and here I go, pushin’ 40.) She never wavered. From the second I was born, advocating for my best interest, while teaching me to advocate for myself.

How do you thank someone for the times she stayed with you in the hospital, sometimes weeks or months at a time day and night, in high school when it seemed like every other month was another shunt surgery? AND for two shunt surgeries in summer 2013 for which she was also there?!  Along with my loving wife, who had never experienced anything like emergency shunt surgeries, my mom was there for these shunt revisions; surgeries I hadn’t needed in 17 years.  Always being strong for me, when I was done being strong after my right lung collapsed from the 3rd or 4th complication from a surgery I just had. (“Strong” in that she never cried in front of me, but years later she admitted that she’d leave the room, completely lose it, only to come back in with more strength to give. ❤ ) How do you thank someone who is always there to cheer you on, support you, love you no matter what…through SB and non SB related things like marriage….and a divorce, which by the way, is still the most difficult and painful thing I’ve ever gone through; harder than any surgery, hospital stay, or complication from SB. And she continued to be there, to see me relearn myself, rebuild myself, restart my life, even have a new marriage. How do you thank her for that, and the countless other things I have no space to write about. How do you do that? You don’t. There aren’t any words to convey how grateful I am for my mom. All I can say is……happy Mother’s Day mom. Thank you for being my mom.

Your son,
Bleeding Ink

A Child’s Angel

Once upon a time there was a child ready to be born. So one day he asked God:

“They tell me you are sending me to Earth tomorrow but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?”

“Among the many angels, I chose one for you. She will be waiting for you and will take care of you.”

“But tell me, here in Heaven, I don’t do anything else but sing and smile, that’s enough for me to be happy.”

“Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you every day. And you will feel your angel’s love and be happy.”

“And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me, if I don’t know the language that men talk?”

“Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak.”

“And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?”

“Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray.”

“I’ve heard that on earth there are bad men. Who will protect me?”

“Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life.”

“But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore.”

“Your angel will always talk to you about me and will teach you the way for you to come back to me, even though I will always be next to you.”

At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from earth could already be heard, and the child in a hurry asked softly

“Oh God, if I am about to leave now, please tell me my angel’s name.”

“Your angel’s name is of no importance, you will call your angel, ‘Mommy’ “

~author unknown

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Dear Mom.”

 

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What I Did Wrong

What I Did Wrong
~Greg Behrendt co-author of “It’s Called a Break-up Because It’s Broken”

It’s easy to blow off a job you don’t have. It’s easy to not call friends you don’t have, blow off a workout you don’t have, or a hobby you don’t have. It’s easy to defer a dream you don’t have. But it’s hard not having a life. When the smoke began to clear and I sobered up, I realized that the focus of my life had been her and the lack of her. You have to know this about me. I love being in love. I love butterflies and the love of the first kiss. I love notes and e-mails and phone messages. I love the smells, the sounds, and the tastes. But at a different point in my life, I also liked being sad and fucked up, drinking excessively, listening to depressing indie rock, and sleeping through the day. I was either The Guy Who’s In Love or The Guy Who’s Been Crushed by Love. Both of these images gave me an identity. But when the dust of my uber-breakup began to settle, The Guy Without Any Plans and that had to change. This is when I had the most amazing thought: “I get to start over.” I know it doesn’t sound amazing, let alone revolutionary, but that is exactly what it was. It’s weird how you can hear certain words through out your life and they bounce right off you. But when the reality of that situation hits you, when all you want is another chance, when you hate how you’ve been living and suddenly an option appears, those very words can be a life preserver. And in the blink of an eye, the world seemed full of possibilities. How it happened I don’t know. But ever since, I’d begun taking care of myself by getting out of bed, showering regularly, and leaving the house, I became increasingly open to new ideas because I began to truly feel and recognize that the way I’d been living wasn’t doing it for me. Gosh, it only took me eight months to figure out that the first step was getting out of bed every day.

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9/11…….10 years later…………

10 years.
I can’t believe its been that long since that fateful day. One decade has come and gone. I was 25 years old. Wow. 10 whole years. That’s a long time for anything. My wife and I had been married for not quite 2 years at that point. We had been in our home for not even 6 months. We signed the papers and closed on the house the previous April. That home…..my home ……the home we thought would only be a “starter” home. We’d be in it 3 years….maybe 4 at the most. After looking all over the city and the surrounding suburbs, we settled on a place 2 blocks from my parents. Yep. Two blocks. What can I tell you, I found certain comfort in that. And my wife fell in love with the house the moment she looked out the window and saw the view of snow capped downtown.

We spent the first year remodeling it….taking down the ugly wood paneling in the living room…then the ugly wall paper that was under that……washing the walls from the 50+ years of smokers that probably lived there…..repainting. Replacing doors, windows cabinets and faucets. We put in a lot of work for this thing we thought was only gonna be a starter home.

Little did we know where life would take us 10 years later.***

Moving on………..

The morning of September 10, I woke up from a pretty restless night. Slept like crap. Tossed and turned and spent all day pretty tired. I just couldn’t sleep. Promised myself I’d go to bed early that night. That didn’t happen. Not really anyway. Fell asleep about 11 or 11:30pm. The morning of September 11 came. It was about 6:30am. I thought, “hell no, I’m going back to sleep!” And so I did. Rolled right over and went back to sleep. No clue what was happening at that exact moment in NYC….DC……Pennsylvania. Just rolled over and went back to sleep. Woke up 2 hours later. 8:30am local time. Turned on the TV.

The nightmare began…….

I turned on the TV. Channel 4. On one half of the screen, they showed the Twin Towers covered in smoke. On the other half, news guy was saying things. Bad things. Things that didn’t quite register. A plane hit one tower?! Then another plane hit the other tower?! Wait what???

I changed the channel. Still local news. Channel 9. They not only talked about the towers, they said something about the Pentagon and a plane going down in Pennsylvania. What??? I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. Was this a movie?? A bad joke??? A publicity stunt for the next Tom Cruise flick?? I was confused and a little freaked out by it all. All I could do was keep watching, hoping someone would tell me they were just kidding. Hoping someone would have a rational explanation for all of this. I flipped to more channels, everywhere I looked, the twin towers engulfed in flames, the Pentagon with a hole in it’s side. (My wife and I would later see the repaired Pentagon when we were in DC for one of the National SBA conferences).

I got in touch with her at work and as she talked, it was finally beginning to soak in. Hijacked planes. Some dude named Osama. Some organization named Al Qaeda. I knew what I was watching then. We had been attacked. On our own shores. Just insane when the previous day, the biggest thing on the news was Anne Heche going completely crazy after breaking up with Ellen!!

I spent the rest of the day like millions of other people, glued to the TV. Watching them replay footage of one tower falling, then the next one. Watching footage of the second plane hitting the other tower. Seeing the smoke and ash and debris flying everywhere in NYC. The Statue of Liberty in the foreground, with a blackened NYC behind it. And damn, nobody cared about the censors at that point! People cussing up a storm describing what they saw. And then the things they showed on TV!! People jumping out of the burning buildings before they came crashing down….which by the way, they replayed over and over! And arms and legs within the debris after collapse. Yeah. No one cared about the censors.

I popped in a VHS tape and just started recording. Got about 3 hours of footage. (yes I’m old, I said VHS tape, don’t judge. It has since been converted to DVD ;^)

The thing that struck me the most that day….the thing I’ll never forget and will forever and ever be lodged in my brain, was a story one of the survivors was recapping. He had made it out just before the first tower collapsed. He talked about how he was running down the stairs carrying an older man. A co worker, but really a man he didn’t even know. A guy he saw was a little slower than everyone else. He carried the older man down I don’t know how many floors.

But on his way down, he talked about seeing something I’ll never forget. People with disabilities being left to suffer. People in wheelchairs. People who for some reason or another could not make it down the stairs. And they were being left there! Left to die. People shoving them out of the way, people trampling over them. No one caring that these people -these fellow human beings that God created just a little differently than you- couldn’t save themselves.

Then it became real. Then it became personal to me. No I don’t use a wheelchair to get around, but I am slow as hell because of my SB. And without leg braces at the time, forget it, woulda died in the tower that day. And my friends…..my friends who do use chairs to get around…who would’ve stopped for them???? I had been watching the TV for hours….mesmerized….overwhelmed…scared. But when I heard that….that’s when it became real and I just lost it and spent the rest of the day in tears, from that and every other horrible thing I witnessed on my TV that day.

Where were you that day?

***this blog entry was written September 11, 2011 on the 10 year anniversary of the attacks. But also. After 2 years of weekly marriage counseling, summer 2011 was also the end of my first marriage, with official divorce coming shortly after. I suppose I was filled with melancholy and memories, sadness and disbelief, still working through some stuff, as I wrote this entry. So I wrote of 9/11, but the end of my first marriage (I’ve since been happily remarried) helps explains those first two seemingly rambling and out of place paragraphs. After re reading it, I decided to keep those paragraphs in because in keeping with the spirit of “my bleeding ink”, and with the quote in my header, I felt I had to stay true to my real thoughts, even if they did seem strange and out of place to those who had no idea what I was going through at the time.

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