Mother’s Day is fast approaching, which coincides with Inspiration Week at Fierce Romance. What a nice coincidence since my mom inspired me. I’m the youngest of four, and my mom gave birth to me when she was almost 40 – fairly common today, but not so much 40-odd years ago. But the fact that my mom was an “older mom” is not what made her inspirational. A few years after I was born, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Since this disease primarily affects older people (in their 70’s and 80’s), my mom’s diagnosis was “early onset” Parkinson’s disease. The actor, Michael J. Fox, has the same diagnosis.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease, which affects motor skills and even speech, and it’s progressive. So getting the diagnosis at 42 is a lot different than at 72. The disease is characterized by trembling hands and a shuffling gait. At times, my mom’s hands would shake so much, she couldn’t feed herself. Her ability to walk and keep her balance deteriorated so severely that when she did leave the house, she had to use a wheelchair. She took medication, but it didn’t work very well and there is no cure for the disease. That was my number one wish as a child – not a new bike, or a new dress for the prom – but that someone, somewhere would find a cure for Parkinson’s disease and give me a mom. I'm still waiting.
My mom was an inspiration to me, not because she ran marathons or went to the moon or became president, but because she showed incredible grace and dignity while this disease stripped away her ability to live a “normal” life. My dad was an inspiration to me too because at 42, he was left with an invalid wife and four kids ranging in ages from 2 – 10. He hung in there and gave it his best shot, and at age 60, he took an early retirement so he could stay home and take care of my mom. Ironically, my dad passed away before my mom. She followed him two years later. She didn’t die from Parkinson’s disease, because that disease in and of itself is not fatal, but she did die of pneumonia after catching a simple cold.
So every Mother’s Day I think about my mom, and my crises and issues of the moment seem petty and insignificant. I try to teach my kids, who never met their grandmother, to appreciate their good health as well and sometimes wonderful opportunities to do so arise. A few years ago, my husband participated in the Silver Strand half marathon, which runs between Coronado and Imperial Beach in San Diego. The race benefits the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and there are many athletes in the race who are in wheelchairs, are amputees or burn victims. My boys were wide-eyed watching the amputee runners with their special running prosthetics. It was so inspirational to see those runners crossing the finish line (in some cases well ahead of the able-bodied runners) and such a good lesson for my boys.
I’m going to leave you with the most inspirational commercial I’ve ever seen. At the very end of the commercial, you’ll see Oscar Pistorius, a South African man who’s a double amputee…and an athlete. I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier...
And Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there who are daily inspirations for your kids.