We are in San Diego staying right up the street from my uncle’s condo - the place where my parents stayed (and where I recovered) during the summer of 1992. Again, this is another place I think of as “home.”
I spent my childhood summers here - swimming in the ocean, jumping the waves and spending hours on the beach playing with my cousins. This is much of what I have watched my own children do, as my siblings are here with their children.
It’s strange to be in San Diego and to think about my weeks in the hospital at UCSD. It was such a hard time physically, in addition to the emotional turmoil that followed. I spent the worst days and weeks of my life here. And yet, I love it. I haven’t figured out how that works. Obviously it is beautiful and the weather is fantastic; but how did I get over the hardships I faced? I am not quite sure.
This weekend I am having dinner with Dr. Garfin and his wife. Usually his daughter, who is my age, joins us -but she is out of town and I will miss seeing her. Perhaps I will have more insight into my emotional healing once we connect.
This evening I gave a talk at White Mountain Country Club in Arizona (yes, there are mountains in Arizona - and they are a cool and beautiful break from the hot Phoenix sun). Once again I was reminded why I do what I do. I am on vacation, and no one likes to “work” on vacation. But my “job” is not really working. It is an honor and a privilege to not only invite others into the deep corners of my life, but to share with them afterwards their own private stories.
Tonight’s talk was a little different, because I did not have access to my PowerPoint presentation or notes - so I just spoke from the heart, without pictures or bullet points. I did, however, share with the group a few videos (newscasts from 1992/3) that chronicled my injury and recovery. While my two boys have seen photographs, this was the first time they had seen the videos, and I was unprepared for the impact it would have on them.
I have one child who is very sensitive and one who is a free spirit. The sensitive child asked me before bed tonight, “Mom, why did you tell them to just do it? Didn’t it hurt a lot?” He was referring to my reaction when the surgeon in South Bend told me that I needed to have surgery if I wanted any chance to walk again. These were heavy questions for an 8-year-old right before bedtime, but I always try to be honest with my children.
It also reminded me that, as parents, our impact on our children is vast. They listen to more than what we say to them; they hear our actions and digest our behaviors. My children learned more about their mom tonight then perhaps they wanted to know, but I hope they also learned and witnessed some of the valuable intangibles that we can not tell them with words: the importance of sharing our gifts with others, the importance of outreach and the importance of touching someone’s life.
I love living in Annapolis. I love the life that we have built; I love our friends and our children’s school; I love the laid-back, family friendly life-style; I love our involvement with the Naval Academy; I love being near the Chesapeake Bay and all that has to offer; and I love watching my children grow-up in an environment unlike my childhood. My family is happy; and that really is what drives all we do.
But that does not take anything away from where I grew up and my own experiences as a child. My family and I landed in Phoenix on Friday and it was 118-degrees outside. Yes, summertime in Phoenix - the summers of my youth. For the past two days I have watched my children swim and slide down the slide into the pool I swam in as a child. They have collapsed inside from heat and exhaustion, only to recharge and head back outside. They have played in the front yard with their cousins, unaware of the heat - yet stopping to ask for water. I have watched all of this fun with fond memories of my own childhood and with silent comfort and enjoyment that they love what I loved as a child.
My children’s life is much different than mine as a child, but I am thankful that they get to embrace, experience and enjoy both. Yes, there is no place like home. Lucky for me, I have many places I can call home. And I enjoy them all.
This afternoon I hosted a retreat and planning meeting at my house for a new group (well, two years young) that was founded to support Notre Dame alumnae in the DC area. Just at the Letterwinners club boasts a motto of Athletes helping Athletes, ND Women Connect could run the motto: Women helping Women.
We all need help. We all need support. No one person can live to their potential without the support, care and love of family, friends, coworkers and even strangers. Even for an independent person like myself (and I maintain that I am fiercely independent), I know I could not do the things I do on my own. This is both humbling and empowering. Humbling because I am not all-knowing and all-powerful; and empowering because I do not have to pretend to be all-knowing and all-powerful.
Women often do each other disservice by trying to appear to “have it all together.” I certainly am guilty of this at times. I would love for everyone to think that I can manage all I do with ease. This is far from the truth; and to acknowledge this, I believe, gives other women hope that they too can live to their potential. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. Acknowledging my weaknesses is one of the strengths on which I am working.
Last night my younger son was climbing the bleachers at his brother’s baseball game. He was entertaining himself and being a silly six-year-old when he fell. The rusty metal bleachers took a chunk of skin off his shin. As soon as I saw it I knew we’d be heading to the ER. I tried to stop the bleeding and I tried to believe that he didn’t need stitches, but a mother knows better - even when she doesn’t want to be right.
Two hours later I was sitting on the exam table holding my son as the doctor injected the anesthesia into his wound. It was horrible. He was screaming and I was holding him tight - and all I could think of was my own mom.
Edward had seven stitches; his leg was cut and it will heal perfectly with no long term effects or lasting complications. My mom watched me endure much more, for much longer with much less certainty. I was sick to my stomach looking at Edward’s leg; how did my mom possibly endure looking at my bruised and bleeding back as my rods broke through? I know he will be okay and was able to promise him so. How did my mom assure and comfort me when she couldn’t promise anything?
I have no idea what my parents went through when I was in the hospital and afterwards. Comforting my son last night confirmed this - I can not imagine. And I don’t know how she did it.