My mom has dementia and I am lucky I was able to say the things that I needed to say to her before dementia took her reasoning from her and our relationship spiraled down to talks about how many cats I have and the job I have and whether I like what I do or not.
While I am sure I told her I was grateful for many things she did I am not sure she knows how her actions impacted who I am today.
My mom and I were very different in our approach to the world. While we both hated conflict I felt conflict was necessary to get through the negative experience and move on and she was a person who avoided the conflict and went around it wherever possible. But my mom was fierce.
When I was showing signs of reading troubles, my mom didn’t wait for my grades to start dropping and my confidence to drop. She started fighting for me to be tested for dyslexia. She was right. She got me the help I needed. The school system didn’t do the best job but she did her level best to fight for me, and my brothers, to get the help we needed to ensure we didn’t fall behind in school.
When I was a teenager my mom sat me down to read me a passage from a book she was reading on “how not to get raped.” While it was highly embarrassing to me at the time, I remember some key things, such as in a date rape situation stick your finger down your throat to throw up. Nothing puts off a would be attacker than being covered in vomit. She proceeded to read to me about the fact that rape is about violence and not sex and to stop a would be attacker is to flip the script. While I have been lucky to never have been sexually assaulted that day and that conversation has never left me and I hope I never have to use the lessons I learned that day.
My mom, while she avoided conflict like the plague, at times would walk right into the fire if she had to. One day when I was 16 and had a friend over in the back yard, she called the two of us in and proceeded to confront a man who came to visit and threatened to sexually assault her had it not been for the two of us being there. She let this guy have it with both barrels with two stunned teenage girls standing there with wide eyes. To this day I am not sure who was more stunned, the two of us or the would be assaulter. He left a few minutes later and we never saw him again.
My mom was full of fear her whole life but she never let fear beat her. She never wanted to be a secretary or a housewife, so she made sure she earned a degree. She earned her Master’s degree in Sociology with three kids under the age of 10 as a single mother. She was a GS14 in the federal government and helped write and edit labor law for 30 years. She saw the world and took Finnish language lessons until dementia took away her ability to get to class.
I am blessed to have her as my mom.
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