34 Life at the Center: Mighty Mom & Enthusiasm  – Vol. 34, May 2016

When I was three years old, we were in a terrible car accident. Only I was left unscathed, so at least there was someone to tell the police who we were and where my daddy was working. The driver was fatally hit, my aunt was severely injured, my little brother had flown out the front windshield and was fortunately scooped up out of harm’s way by the guy who had hit our car. My mom was left in a coma with all the bones of her foot crushed. This story is about my mom. My mighty little mom.

Once she woke up, the doctor’s told my mom that she would never walk again. Hmph! They had previously told her that because of her tipped uterus she would never be able to get pregnant…and I was born nine months later!  Mom is not one to be cowed by adversity. It almost seems as though telling her she cannot do something is a pretty good way to assure that she will! 

One of the results of the accident for her was a personality change. After having a very driven type A personality, she emerged from her coma delighted to be alive and with a revised set of values. Whereas she had brought me up with a tightly structured regimen of when I would eat, be bathed and be put to bed, all that seemed a bit silly to her now.

With my great aunt and grandmother taking care of little Todd and me while mom was in the hospital, we had different foods and bedtimes and everything…but my changed mom came home just delighted to see us. 

And here she was in hip-high then a knee-high leg casts taking care of us alone, once the relatives left. I still remember her bumping down the stairs next to my little brother, who was sliding down backwards on his belly – there was no way that she could carry him up and down in her condition. Having fun became a huge priority for her.  We have pictures of her in a wheelchair when we went to Santa’s Village that year.

Soon she was on crutches, swinging that heavy plaster cast along.  And eventually – I have no idea how in the days before physical therapy – she was walking on her own, albeit with a significant limp, now that her foot bones had been fused together and she had lost all lateral movement in her ankle, leaving her with a simple hinge joint.

She has absolutely never let that foot deter her. My mom has been one of the most physically active adults I know, with Energizer Bunny batteries. She would help us with homework and spend family time until we went to bed, then would do her vigorous housecleaning until about midnight. To this day, she still scrubs her floors on hands and knees and does her own yard work. I’ve already told you how she flew to Hawaii a couple years ago with 24 hours notice to help me pack up our entire house before Cliff demolished it for our rebuild.

As you can imagine, swimming is very good for her. But that evidently was not adventurous enough. In her forties she took up hiking as a hobby. In fact, she became a Sierra club guide and took other people hiking on two-week treks through the mountains!

If that weren’t enough, she wanted to learn to ski with my brother Dan (12-years-younger than I), so she commissioned a specially fitted ski boot for her bad foot. She and Dan would point straight down the fall line of the slope and see how many runs they could fit in before lunchtime. Fast forward a decade or so, and she was snow sledding with us and the grandkids.  At one point, she was standing at the bottom of the hill taking photos, when a snow saucer full of kids came racing down the hill and clipped her at the ankles. As we watched in helpless horror, Mom was tossed up in the air horizontally.  Like a cat with 99 lives, she somehow landed without injury and came up laughing.

Once we went river rafting in stage 4 rapids and my little mom got bounced out of the raft, only to be quickly rescued by my brother Todd. No problem, she was up for the next trip down the river. Then there was the time her less-than-perfect balance landed her in the water between the a cruise boat and the dock – a very dangerous predicament. She managed to scramble out, and never hesitated to get back on a boat again. Having already faced death, she quite obviously has no fear of dying…another of her personality changes. 

It wasn’t until she hit 75 that my brothers convinced Mom to stay off ladders and let someone else clean out her rain gutters. She never told them that she patched the outside walls of her two-story house right up to the roofline before it was repainted a few years back. And you know, she still went up skiing with her friends this last winter at age 82. 

I wonder what would have happened if the doctors had told her she couldn’t fly….?!?

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