Today is Mother’s Day. While I am not a mother, I do have one. Due to (positive) extenuating circumstances, I don’t get a chance to see her, but hopefully soon.
Some decades ago, she gave birth to me. While I imagine that wasn’t the most pleasant experience, it may not have been the worst experience I put her through. I don’t know what it is like to have children and I never will. I don’t know what it’s like to witness the adorable first-steps and first-words. I also don’t know what it’s like to see the struggles that a child goes through; from the first time they try to ride a bicycle to the first heart-break and then everything between and after that.
I’m stubborn. I’ve been that way since ever and probably will continue to be forever. When I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I remember being angry at the neurologist for all the things he told me I would never be able to do. I remember thinking to myself that I would prove him wrong. I remember keeping that plan to myself. I was scared and I was angry but I knew I would not let someone tell me how my life was going to be.
It literally wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I actually realized that I was not the only person who was affected at that time. I don’t know what it was like for my parents on the day that the neurologist provided the diagnosis. Nevermind the first seizure, but also the day of the diagnosis. The neurologist clearly outlined all the things my life would never have. That I would never get to experience. The basic things in the world that I would never get to know or enjoy. While I sat there wearing a concert t-shirt, skirt with fishnet tights and unlaced combat boots, all I was hearing was someone trying to tell me how to live my life (and as a teenager, that wasn’t being received well). What I imagine my parents were experiencing was a little different. This next part is a bit of conjecture, because I don’t really know, but what I imagine.
I’m the oldest child by a couple of years. They would have been anticipating my high school graduation after helping me pick a prom dress. A few high school heartbreaks and the drama of “I’ll never love anyone ever again!!!!”. Eventually I’d get over it. They might have been imagining my university graduation, would I have chosen a local university or moved away? Maybe they would have been imaging picking out a wedding dress and walking me down an aisle. They saw me travelling. Working. Would I go into academics? Would I work in law enforcement? Accounting? I’m sure they saw me continuing in athletics and music. Maybe one day I would make a career based on the electric guitar they bought for me.
Then *boom*: Epilepsy.
I fought with my mum a lot when I was a teenager. Despite all of the nastiness that any teenager could muster (and to my everlasting shame, I was pretty good at it), she was still there for me. She was there for me knowing I would not have an easy future. Even though I screamed at her and slammed doors, she still stood up for me when I was being discriminated against. Even when I was reported for skipping class, she wouldn’t allow for anyone to treat me differently because of my epilepsy. No matter what I did, she still had my back and heaven help anyone who tried to discriminate against me.
I never thought about what my condition meant to my mother. I never thought about what it meant on the day she first saw the seizures or when she first heard the diagnosis. In 1999, did she grieve for the loss of the future that she had so many hopes for, for the positive and happy life that her daughter would have? All of the things that neurologist said I would never have. The prom dress. The wedding dress. The graduations. Learning to wear makeup. Crying about ex-boyfriends (and the mascara I learned to apply running down my face). Athletics. My first apartment. My first job. Those were all things that my parents were told would not happen.
Those things happened. The graduations, the wedding, the crying, the apartment, the jobs. Now, the racing, the public speaking, the art, working. Additionally, my mum he has shown me that there is never a reason for discrimination and that it is not only unacceptable, she has been an example in speaking up against it. She has shown me love when I was a jerk, whether as a teenager or now (because I can still be a jerk). She gave birth to me not having any idea what I would be like and I certainly have not made it easy. But her strength and love have gotten me through a lot and taught me about how to be both kind and fierce.
I love you mum. Happy Mother’s Day. You are still the strongest, most beautiful and inspiring woman to me, the way I have thought of you since I was little.
Also: To all the mums of children with epilepsy, whether we recognize it right away or if it takes a couple decades, thank you. Sometimes your love is what holds us together when all the other pieces feel broken.
Wow, this was some reflections. Very beautiful done. Rita Parkes