After spoiling my plans and letting my mom, Ellen, in on her surprise Mother’s Day post, I realized I had no idea how to live up to the promise of writing one. How could I find words that explain what it means to have been raised by someone whose being is connected with mine down to the very structure of our bones? But in her typical style, my mother came through with advice as I pondered this, giving me the insight I needed to get my thoughts in order. When she was in college, she told me, if she found herself struggling to begin writing on a tough topic, she would open her essay by addressing that struggle.
It is the concept of struggling that resonated with me in this case. I’m not one to sugarcoat things, and so there is no denying that as a disabled mother-daughter pair, our lives are challenging both individually and together. We are often the literal embodiment of the blind leading the blind, or rather, the mobility impaired leading the mobility impaired. Most of the time, this works out just fine for us, but double the disability leads to everything from a dramatic comedy to a regular old comedy of errors as we help each other.
And so I think back to a comment my mother once heard being made about us when I was a baby – a comment implying that these slightly unconventional lives we lead were not worth living. A woman who was behind my mom while she was holding me at an event said “Look what that woman did to her baby. She must feel so awful.” Though I wasn’t old enough to process this comment, the story sticks with me – not because this horrible woman was right, but because every day, my mother’s life is one that would put this woman in her place a thousand times over.
I know my mom has grappled mightily with guilt because our disability is genetic and she passed it on to me. I know my mom wishes our situations could be different. But to the woman who tried to hurt my mom so many years ago without knowing a thing about her, I want you to know that not a day in my life have I held my disability against my mother. It might not make life easy for either of us, but the fact that we share something as physically and emotionally personal as our disability has made me feel lucky in ways that transcend full explanation. She is my best friend, the kind who understands me when I’m at a loss for words because she, too, has been where I have been. She has been where I have been on levels that cannot even be seen by the unaided human eye, right down to the double helices of our DNA. I wouldn’t trade one bit of our experiences for the bond we have always had between us.
I treasure this bond because it is so deeply real. In fact, it’s occurred to me in recent months that I have moved beyond views of my mom as a hero or a role model, because those are concepts that just don’t cover how I feel. My mom is genuine, and honest, and flawed, and beautiful, and intelligent, and dedicated, and weak, and strong all at once. She is human, and she has shown me every day not how to defy circumstances, but how to make things work with every part of our reality. And to me, there is no better way to be a mother.
So, Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! For every part of who you are, know that I love you more than anybody can.