My mother was the best… I could handle anything

Posted 4/24/24

A bright, shining light Mother’s Day is coming up, which conjures up thoughts of my mom. My earliest memories of my mother are traumatically linked to the birth of my brother and when I lost …

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My mother was the best… I could handle anything


A bright, shining light Mother’s Day is coming up, which conjures up thoughts of my mom. My earliest memories of my mother are traumatically linked to the birth of my brother and when I lost her undivided attention.

Having unknowingly been exposed to someone with German measles when pregnant, his in utero growth was forever altered. Like many Rubella babies of the time, he was deaf, blind, severely developmentally delayed, had a serious heart defect, and a cleft palate which made giving him vital nutrition an almost impossible task. He was not the sweet, irresistible infant most mothers brought home from the hospital. In fact, the doctors recommended she NOT bring him home, but to send him to an institution to live out his life. My mother thought this was incredulous. and she vowed to bring him home and give him the best life she could.

 Feeding him took a great deal of extra effort. Using an eye dropper, valuable formula would be dribbled into his screaming, gaping mouth which choked down the liquid in mini-gulps, gasping for air between swallows. Because the area between his mouth and his nose was an open cavern, drops of formula would sometimes ooze over into his nose, causing gagging and choking. It was a frustrating situation for all involved, including myself, who had lost my attentive, loving, care-free mother for reasons that were not understandable at the time.

(This is a cautionary tale for anyone who does not want to vaccinate their children against Rubella. While their illness might be slight, their unknowing effect on the life of unborn children with whom they come in contact could be catastrophic.) It was in this morbid atmosphere that I sat in the living room watching Captain Kangaroo and eating a box of cookies while both my brother and my mom wailed in frustration. Just as the Captain started to chat with Mr. Green Jeans, my mom’s crying ceased. A brilliant, bright light shone from her bedroom, glaringly spilling over into the kitchen. The light was an annoyance to me because it interfered with my tv show, but I welcomed the fact that the crying had ceased.

Many years later, when I was much older, my mom joyously confessed to me that she had been visited by Jesus on that day. While she sat in the rocking chair trying to feed my brother, with both of them wailing, Jesus, in all of His Glorious Light, enveloped the two of them with his loving embrace. Both of them stopped crying, albeit only for a few seconds for my brother, who was not at all impressed with this visitation. While no actual words were spoken, the message was clear, and it had a profound effect on my mom, who, from then on, saw joy in my brother’s life.

By the time I was five years old, our life was domineered by doctor appointments, hospitalizations and multiple surgeries. Although all of the attention was on my brother when with the doctors, my mother lavished attention on me during the travels, where I proudly pushed my brother in the stroller. Riding in the car to and fro, (in the front seat with no car seat required at the time,) we would sing songs and say nursery rhymes. My mother praised my great singing voice and would often let me be the soloist, (thereby not requiring her to sing constantly.) My brother had stopped his incessant crying, which facilitated a better environment for my warbling. At home, my mom required my assistance in folding the clean clothes on the couch, where I gently folded each item and put it in the appropriate person’s pile. My brother’s diapers was always the highest pile, sometimes getting so high it would fall over.

 Mom also required my assistance in cooking supper, where I would be put to work picking the ends off fresh green beans or shedding the corn husk so we could have corn on the cob. After she swept the floor, it was my job to use a little brush to get the pile into the dust pan. What fun!

Mom would provide plenty of praise for all of my efforts. I do not remember my dad being involved. He worked long hours and was rarely there, choosing to bury himself in his work rather than face the many issues of having a severely handicapped child. When he DID come home, my mother would hurry me and my brother off for bedtime is she could spend quality time with him. My mom was a member of “Y Wives” and once a week we would go the YMCA off Broad Street so she could attend a support group. I LOVED going there because the playroom had an over abundance of toys which I did not have at home. Using cardboard blocks, I would build a house up around me. Dragging the toy stove into the space, I would prepare pretend meals, which I was so good at doing at home. My brother would go to the nursery where he would happily swing in the automatic swing, enjoying the rocking movement. It was a nice activity which I looked forward to as a child.

When I started school at Oakland Beach, my mother became involved as president of the PTA and the newsletter editor. I was favored by the principal, who often asked me to run errands by delivering notes to the teachers in the school. Many of the students, at the time, were “rough” on other kids, bullying and calling them names, but I was the opposite. When kids would observably switch to the other side of the corridor and actually hold their noses if one of the “smelly kids” was walking by, I would walk right up to the kids, smile and say hi. Smelly or not, everyone deserved respect, which is something I learned from being the sister of a child with a multiple of disabilities. My mother was also a Girl Scout leader from Brownies on up to Junior Girl Scouts. In addition to weekly meetings, for which she prepared many wonderful activities, she arranged regular camping trips to Camp Hoffman where we would learn to prepare a meal using aluminum foil over the campfire, and how to identify edible plants. We would have sing-alongs around the fire, and curl up in comfy sleeping bags at night.

 My mother was the best! I was raised with love and confidence, and learned to love others, ALL others. Her influence was there as I grew up and married. When our son was born with the same blindness my brother had, (which, coincidentally was not related to the German measles, but a familial trait,) it was no big deal. Ha! I could handle that easily! I could handle ANYTHING easily, which is why we went on to adopt four other children with disabilities and continued to do foster care for HIV infants and toddlers. My life has been amazing, and I owe it all to my mother.


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