What I Know of Her Son

 

She is a woman who I have been wanting to meet for years. Ever since I first heard my friend describe his mother, I knew that she was amazing just by examining his outlook, and that she had a degenerative nerve disease. When he spoke of his mother, he keeps the latter fact quiet and simple telling me of what she’d done and what she used to tell him. “She’s fine…well she’s not fine she has a nerve disease. But it really doesn’t affect her that much.” And so, when I finally bumped into her visiting her son while walking down the road at a Sunday pace, I was surprised as she was further along in her condition that he had made it out to sound. As close as we were I wish he would have told me honestly what her status was like and what her troubles were. But maybe he is as blind to her disability as he is to mine.

I always wanted to meet his mother. It amazes me whenever I meet the parents of any of my friends. I begin to understand where they got their values and which matters were the greatest influences on their life. This particular woman raised my friend incredibly well. For my own sake, when I am out and dependent on him it is as close as I can possibly imagine to possibly being fully independent. In such cases I am particularly interested in meeting the mother of the family, mothers teach their children to stretch their boundaries and to think beyond what is normal in order to incorporate people of all types. The influence of such a woman can mean that for the rest of their life, their child does not feel awkward whenever meeting someone strange. Mothers open up the world of acceptability to their children, making the entire universe more inclusive. I have met two of this woman’s sons and I can safely say that she did a wonderful job in raising her children to be as accommodating and as understanding as human beings can possibly be.

As soon as we were introduced, her eyes lit up with a flicker of recognition. She was holding on to her walker and instantly called me by name. From this I gathered that she somehow knew my name and that it was familiar in their home. Watching her watch her son handle my bags and meet my needs for minor assistance, it suddenly dawned on me that this behavior that she was witnessing in the young man that she helped raise, nurse, feed and carry was new to her. She probably never saw anyone rely on him in such a dependent way as I do on a regular basis. The fact is, I depend on all of my friends, but particularly him, and I forget that this often looks strange to the outside world.

Then, almost instantly, I came to another realization, that because of her own disability, someday soon she will be dependent on him as well. For many individuals with a long term degenerative illness this impending dependency is the most fearful thing to overcome. The fact that someday you will be dependent on your children, and at that point in time it is how you raised them that will reflect on how they will take care of you. Again, it is the classical instance of an individual reaping what they sow. As parents teach their children to care for human life and value it in all its forms, the trickle down effect is that eventually they will be under the care of their children in one form or another. Those families who do not bother to teach their children such values and ethics will no doubt feel it when the older generation inevitably starts losing its own independence.

For me the most humbling realization was that suddenly I knew something about her children, particularly her sons, that she knew nothing of, that she would someday be reliant upon. In this small way, I know how her sons look out for people in need, protecting and advocating for them. Both in the slightest and most dramatic ways. They are both unafraid to feed someone when a spoon becomes too difficult to hold onto. They can tie shoes without breaking the conversation and are experts at making sure that someone not only survives, but that they are happy, healthy and know that they are valued. If such a day comes for her when she can no longer perform the tasks of daily living without a great deal of assistance, she will also find that her boys are exactly as she raised them and I am already thankful for those effects.

Some days I wish I could tell her now that her children will take care of her when she is in need. I wish I could tell her that when her body rebels and she is no longer able to do what was once considered a natural reflex without a massive amount of frustration, she will have no need to worry. I wish I could tell her all the ways that I see my friend stepping up to the plate and preparing himself to take care of his parents when they grow older. I wish I could tell her all the stories of all the times he advocates for me, and that I am grateful to have such a fabulous friend.

And then I can’t help but wonder, if she and her husband raised their children to become such honorable and humane people, perhaps she knew what he is capable of all along.

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