“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
– Maya Angelou
In the midst of any crisis as a child, your parents are your anchor. They bring you into the world, they raise you without a roadmap, especially if you are the first born such as I am. They navigate the responsibilities and somehow make it work.They kiss your boo boos and tell you everything will be alright, no matter the problem. When you are 21 and in love, you feel that you can conquer the world as long as you are together.
In the early 1950’s, roles were clearly defined with household and child raising duties usually delegated to the wife and the husband being the breadwinner. During the war years and into the 1950’s and 60’s, there was the consistent presence of grandparents, the extended family, and close friends to assist. That was the case in our household.
Born with cerebral palsy, from toddlerhood on, I was on a consistent track of physical therapy, orthopedic surgeries and laryngeal-vocal cord surgeries for years to come. This lifestyle would have upset the applecart in most families.
But, our family had reinforcements of two grandmother and my parents’ good friends to always be there for babysitting or whatever was needed.
I truly credit my parents who fostered the resilience I have honed over the years for the many, many challenges life threw at me.
How did my Mom take all this on in the 50’s along with the normal “wifely expectations?” I truly don’t know. She made sacrifices, that’s for sure. As a mother, she, along with my Dad, took on the challenge with grace.
My parents also made consistent efforts to round out childhood experiences for me and my siblings beyond my medical visits with music, swimming lessons, cottage living at the beach in the summer, attending motorcycle races to cheer on my Dad, and other family activities.
If my siblings felt deprived or resentful because of the attention to my medical demands, I don’t know, and I hope not. The circumstances of life surely are not any child’s fault and perhaps the measure of coping lies in how they turn out as adults. Regardless, no child passes through life totally unscathed from childhood experiences, that would be unrealistic.
My parents were immensely proud of my goal to attend college and graduate school, the first to do so in our family. When I ponder my many transitions dealing with three different educational institutional settings, the last in the wheat fields of Kansas and its cultural differences, it was quite an effort to complete all requirements and decide where I wanted to land for the rest of my life.
My Mom had the opportunity to come to the campus of Kansas State University and see me flourish as a community leader for students with disabilities. But alas, life as we knew it growing up came to an abrupt halt.
After my Dad was murdered on April 17, 1981, she pursued secretarial positions in hospitals and an administrative position to the CEO-President of Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford, CT for nearly 20 years.
Before his murder, my Dad was a grammar school basketball star, apprentice and then master carpenter, a skilled worker for Acoustical Ceiling Materials, entrepreneur owner of bar/restaurants, a New England Scrambles Motorcycle Racing Champion and owner/operator of a used car and auto body service.
A parent’s ability to process agonizing events and sufficiently recover to lead a new normal life depends upon the person and contributing factors, in particular resilience and a steady support system.
It goes without saying I have tremendous admiration, respect, and love for my mother and her ability to navigate our family’s prolonged judicial journey in order to make a new life. Now, as an octogenarian, my siblings and I want her to have the best life possible, especially with a recent lifestyle transition.
During the Pandemic
With the ever-present threat of the corona virus at everyone’s doorstep, how do we reconcile the events of one’s life that has had joys, but also difficulties that the average person could not imagine?
The vision of a self-quarantined elderly loved one is not how it was supposed to happen, not to this person, not to my mother. And yet, her spirits are good. She enjoys the benefits of her new residence and maintains a lifeline with others by phone and mail.
If my Dad were alive, no doubt he would be stir crazy and not happy with having to comply with such harsh restrictions. As a man’s man, he liked to chart his own course in all things.
If my parents were able to overcome the uncharted challenges balanced with customary life events, I can continue to try to be an example for others who are less fortunate. They both would want that.
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
– When Harry Met Sally
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