Dorian Hargrove says his mother is “short in stature, tall in confidence.”
My mom walks funny. It’s not a physical problem. It’s a mindset. There’s pride in her steps. She walks strongly. She walks as if she is the first line of defense in case of ambush. She walks like a general, short in stature but tall in confidence. Her chin always tilted upward. Her arms and legs work in soldier-like fashion.
My mom speaks funny. She mispronounces names and places. For years she referred to actor/director Clint Eastwood as “Clit.” She shrugs it off and laughs it off with her infectious chuckle. We laugh with her. We tease her when letters disappear from the end of words like when she says “schoo.” We laugh when she mispronounces names. She laughs with us. A man once went up to her and asked what country she was from; he couldn’t quite place the accent. She told him Los Angeles.
My mom doesn’t care what other people think of her. She will walk into any situation, that goose-step march, to protect her family. She’s marched into a group of emergency-room doctors while her son lay in a coma. She’s marched to the front door of a family whose son had picked on my sister. She’s held her ground waiting for her husband’s mini-stroke to pass. She is our defender, ready and willing to fight.
My mom once told me that her greatest accomplishment in life was her children. There are four of us. There have been ups and there have been a lot of downs. Through it all she put herself last. She doesn’t complain about aches or pains. She moves through any pain with that same stride. We find out in passing that she has high-blood pressure, bouts of dizziness, vertigo, and bad hips. We complain about jobs, about being tired, because life for us is hard. We complain, and she listens.
She’s sacrificed her happiness for us. Whether that happiness meant the money that she has given to bail us out of some jam, or in my case, much greater sacrifices.
When I was 13, my dad and mom sold their home in San Clemente. They were splitting up again, this time for good. My dad was taking a job in Florida. My mom was going to use the money she made from the sale of our house and put a down payment on a small shack near the beach. I threatened to hurt myself if I didn’t follow my dad. She canceled her plans and moved to the humid swamplands of Florida to make sure I was safe. I remember landing in the airport in Orlando, the blanket of humidity smothering my mom, and I remember the moment we set foot on the jet bridge. I was nervous and scared for the decision I made. I looked over at her. Her chin tilted upward. She continued her march through the thick air.
And through it all she never pushed any of us to become anything we weren’t. She supported everything we did. She is happy with who we are, regardless of whether or not we are happy with ourselves.
Now, in her 70s, she takes care of my dad who is saddled with dementia. She has seen him turn to ice as small blood clots get stuck in his arteries. She has had to clean and feed him. She has done all this despite the difficult years. She does this for us and for him.
On a few occasions she has called crying. She yelled at my dad when he wasn’t listening. She swiped at him with his T-shirt as she was trying to change his clothes. She tells me she feels horrible. I tell her she is the most caring and loving person I know.
I call every day, or try to at least. I make sure to ask how she is doing. She’s always fine. She’s convinced me that she’ll always be fine. That’s the sacrifice she’s made.
She has put herself last in line for my family, or, first in case of an ambush.