I’ve written extensively in this blog about my father, a man for whom there are not words: he was tough as nails, moral almost to a fault and funny to boot. I’ve sung the praises of my grandmother, who amazes me daily with her strength and optimism.
I don’t, I don’t think, give my mother the credit she deserves… if indeed anyone ever could. Maybe I’m afraid to try to put into words what an inspiration she’s been and how much joy and hope she’s brought into my life… fearing that I’ll come up short.
Were it just the case that she was an amazing woman, who worked her way out of poverty to build a beautiful home and life for her son, that would be almost amazing enough in itself.
But for almost three decades she has struggled with Bipolar Disorder. This is hard to write, and certainly I never would without her permission. And it’s easy to see how far we’ve come as a society when we’re talking about medical advances in cancer research or battling diseases like leukemia, but our understanding and treatment of mental illness is, I promise you, far, far behind.
The doctors and medications that have failed her, at times spectacularly, would bring me to tears to describe. So I won’t.
Her perseverance through those disappointments, those medical attempts to provide her the healthy and fulfilling life so many of us take for granted, is stunning to the point where it almost defies belief.
Anyone who knows anyone who has struggled with mental illness knows that the word ‘struggle’ here is not at all an exaggeration. She has battled it every day with a courage I cannot imagine.
The oldest of 8 before losing a sister to leukemia, she has helped her sisters whenever she could, and has helped her mom, my grandmother, more than anyone could have imagined she might be able to when their family of 9 was living in a second-story walk-up, using a dresser drawer for a crib for the youngest daughter.
On some days, I’ll either call or stop by the house and I’ll be telling or listening to a story, sharing a memory or a laugh, or talking about my crazy dream of building you a magazine… and I’ll just stop. A wave of realization washes over me about what this woman has been through, overcome, and what she continues to battle every day.
I don’t say it as often as perhaps I should, but not a day goes by when I don’t think: “That’s my mom, damn straight… and thank God she is.”