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For Mom ...

On Life

Ruminations and provocations.

For Mom ...

Stephen H. Provost

For Mother's Day, I'm posting this photo of my mom, shown here with my dad on one of their many trips - trips she made despite being paralyzed on one side by polio when she was a young teenager.

She never again rode the horses she loved, but there were so many other things she was never supposed to do again.

Yet she did.

When I knew her, her right arm - she was born right-handed - hung all but useless at her side. The only muscles that worked were, oddly enough, in her fingers, which could still grasp things. Her right leg was similarly immobile. She had to swing it out to the side, balancing on her left leg, each time she took a step. Sometimes, my dad helped her up off the couch or steady her as she walked, but most of the time, she did these things herself. Just as she changed my diapers herself, walked up three flights of stairs at UCLA on her way to a bachelor's degree and got a job as a supervisor at Douglas Aircraft on her own.

Her determination to not only survive and emerge from an iron lung - when doctors said she might not - but also walk again after being told it was impossible remains an inspiration to me. But it wasn't the polio that defined her. It was her patience, love, support and willingness to listen without judgement that made her who she was - at least who she was to me. She was Mom.

I knew she'd gotten weaker from a series of strokes in her early '60s, but I never expected the call I got from my father that day at work. It was wintertime, just past the new year, and I hadn't seen either of them since Christmas. Through tears, he told me how she'd gone to lie down for a nap and hadn't awakened. I'd never heard him cry like that. To this day, he speaks of the wonderful life he's had, with his only regret that she left too him soon.

They'd had 39 years together, but it would always have been too soon. I know it was for me.

Mom's been gone more than two decades now, but her example and guidance remain my beacon. I wouldn't be here today without her, perhaps in more ways than one. I only wish she had lived to see me begin to achieve my dreams.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.