Today is a very special day both for me and for Roll Models. Today is the day that one of the most important and influential people in my life was brought into the world (many, many years ago). Today is my mom’s birthday. I was having trouble trying to decide what to write about this amazing lady, who will always be the number one woman in my life, and I thought that my writer’s block was because I had already written so many articles about my magnificent mom. I have shared with you the sacrifices she has made for me, how she is always ready at the drop of a hat to travel the 600 miles to come take care of me, and the courage she has shown in letting me live my own, independent life. I actually thought that maybe I had run the well dry on this topic and would need to come up with some other way to celebrate her birthday. After I thought about my creative constipation for a while and why I could not think of a suitable way to honor my mother on her special day though, I realized that my mental block was not because I had too little to write about, but because I have too much. There are so many incredible things I could share with you about this wonderful woman that it is hard to pick out just one. It would be like picking the best Beatles song or your favorite Robert Frost poem. You cannot pick just one since they are all great and meaningful in their own way. To solve this little quandary, I decided to not pick just one thing to write about, and instead tell you about several of the countless ways that she has made my life so successful and fulfilling.
My mother went to Ball State University and graduated with a degree in both instrumental and choral music education. While this is her only official academic training, like all mothers out there, she also has a thorough understanding of all of the various techniques necessary for raising happy, healthy, well-behaved children. Things like being nurturing and soothing when her children are upset, being the warden when they misbehave, and all of the other skills that moms seem to possess almost like magic. However, unlike most other mothers, whose role as caregiver and such decreases over time as their kids grow into teenagers, due to my disability my mom had to continue her caregiver role until I graduated and moved off to college. Not only did she have to continue to take care of me for 18 years, she also had to learn a myriad of other skills in order to keep me safe and make my life as “normal” as possible. When I think about all of the different things she had to learn to do over the years, often with no prior training or notice, I often think of her as wearing many different hats, each of which represents another part she had to play in the story of my life. Most of these roles were not things she had ever wanted to be or had much knowledge of, but if there was a hat she needed to wear to make my life work, she put it on without saying a word. To celebrate her birthday, I have decided to share with you a few of the many hats in my mom’s closet.
One of the hats she wore the most, in fact she probably wore out a few, was her nurse’s cap. My mom has absolutely no medical training, nor did she ever plan on getting any, but as soon as I was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy she put this hat right on. My mom knows more about the respiratory system, physical therapy, and pain management than a lot of second year med students, and she learned it all on the fly, without any training, and without a safety net. Despite all of this, she absorbed it all and kept me safe and healthy my entire life. Another piece of headgear that she never would have dreamed of wearing is the trucker style hat of the wheelchair technician. My mother will be the first to admit that she is not mechanically inclined, and she has no interest in tools, axles, or motors. Even though she had little natural ability or previous interest though, as soon as my wheelchair broke down for the first time, she was happy to
put on that foam-billed cap and get her hands dirty. She is even more skilled than many actual wheelchair techs, because she often had to work with next to no tools (it never failed that my wheelchair would break down away from home), and instead just try to “MacGyver” a quick fix. One of the more fun hats she had in her arsenal is her nutritionist/dietitian/chef’s hat. When you have a physical disability that keeps you immobile and in a wheelchair, it is often very difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Most people who use power wheelchairs are either much too heavy or, as in my case, much too thin (this is a generalization not a rule). Throughout my life my mom has been painstakingly cooking anything and everything she can to try to entice me to eat more and fatten me up. Whether it was driving 30 minutes to get some fast food because that is what sounded good to me or spending hours in the kitchen after working all day to make my favorite meals, she was always quick to dress up like Chef Boyardee and put some pounds on me.
These are just a handful of the hundreds of different hats that my mom has worn over the years to make my life better. While I have taken over most of these jobs and wear these hats myself now that I am grown and living on my own, there is one role that I hope she never gives up. As great as she was as a nurse and as cool as she looked in her chef’s hat, it is the role she plays when she takes off all the headgear that is the most important to me. She is at her best when she is not wearing any hat, when she is being my mom. When she is being the person I want by my bed when I am sick and the person that texts me any day I do not post an article on my blog. When she is willing to, in an instant, learn any new skill or trade and wear any hat, if it means that my life will be better or easier, even if it is something she has no interest in. When she is being the woman who will always love me more than anyone else. That is when she is in her natural role, being my mother.
As I go about my life out here on my own, wearing many of the hats that my mom had to wear for so many years, I am so thankful for having the amazing mom that I do. I now know how hard it is sometimes to have to fulfill a role that you have no training in or desire
to learn at a moment’s notice, and I am thankful that my mother carried that burden for so long. I am also thankful that she not only wore all of these hats, but also taught me how to wear them as well, to prepare me for a life on my own. I am most thankful though that she will always be there playing her most important role, and one that I could never take over, of being my mom. I know that no matter how far away I move or how independent I become, that she will always be there for me, ready to do anything I need her to. She will always love me more than anyone else, and more than I could probably even fathom, and that is by far the most important part she plays in my life. To my mom, Happy ##th Birthday (I will not put the number for all to see). I hope you have an amazing, perfect day, and that dad is taking you someplace nice for dinner. Most of all, know that I love you. Even if I do not say it often, it is always true. You are, and always will be, the number one woman in my life, even if you do not get to wear any more terrific hats.