Growing up, to honestly and accurately describe my relationship with my mother the words “conflicting” and “frustrating” must accompany those such as “loving” and “supportive.” Mom supported my two brothers and I in ways often overlooked. For instance, she packed us nutritious, fulfilling lunches on a daily basis. Another example, Mom made sure we had transportation wherever we needed to go. Given my cerebral palsy’s (CP) mildness the transportation task only required Mom’s time, not any handicapped accessible vehicles. Anyhow these supportive acts indicate the love Mom held and still holds for us.
Personally the aforementioned love also became the trigger activating the previously noted conflict and frustration. Specifically conflict and frustration revolving around my CP. Mom always seemed to remain concern about one issue or another, concerns I usually deemed frivolous and overprotective. Perhaps I should illustrate.
Transitioning from upper elementary school to junior high school typically serves as my go-to example. Entering junior high Mom expressed worries my stronger able-bodied peers would knock me over on the stairs between classes. I felt as long as I had a railing I could safely ascend and descend the staircases. Mom’s anxieties outweighed my optimism though and I ended up riding the elevator to navigate between the junior high’s two floors.
Admittedly the reason I frequently cite to the above deals with the fact six years later as a high school senior I proved Mom’s fears overcautious. During the six years covering seventh grade through 12th grade a lot occurred. Most noteworthy I underwent a major back surgery to straighten my spine, which started curving due to a condition called Scheuermann’s Disease. An unexpected consequence to the surgery, my right leg became temporarily paralyzed. The recovery process lasted around two years. A not so fun fact, I never actually recovered 100%.
Now the recovery which did happen entailed placing additional accommodations on my IEP (individualized education plan). While I slowly regained my strength, these new accommodations started to disappear. At some point in the process I decided to also eliminate other accommodations set in motion prior to my surgery. By my senior year in high school I no longer used the elevator at school, electing instead to take the stairs alongside my peers.
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Guess what? Not once moving floor to floor did I fall or get trampled on. If I safely used the stairs at school with a weaker right leg, what other past protective actions implemented at my mother’s request could I have done without?
One I can confidently answer. My high school class graduated at Palace Theatre. The class procession began on the second floor. Graduates moved down the stairs into the lobby before entering the theatre. Since the banister coinciding with the theatre’s steps remained mostly decorative, Mom firmly suggested I wait in the lobby and slide into my place once my fellow graduates arrived there.
Interestingly enough three months ago I once again found myself at Palace Theatre, this time joining friends to see Blue Man Group. Separated from my amigos and uncertain about our seat location, I climbed up the steps to seek direction. An usher informed me I needed to go back down to the first floor. I descended the stairs without incident albeit a little awkwardly. The experience made me realize Mom knew her stuff when advising eight years earlier I avoid descending the stairs at my high school graduation.
However, positioned into context whose right and wrong becomes trivial. My recent trip to Palace Theatre re-emphasized this lesson I learned originally when reflecting back on my adolescent years to write my teenage memoir Off Balanced (available on the Kindle and Nook). Writing Off Balanced allowed a simple truth to emerge. Mom acted the way she did because she cared. Essentially all the best moms share the caring trait, whether they drive Dodge handicap vans or standard Dodge Caravans like my mother did.