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Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Mother

The earliest memory I have of my mother is her doing a crossword
puzzle. The most recent memory I have is my mom working on a
crossword. When she was young, she had long, straight, brown
hair. Then she got a tight perm, which she hated, and she still
did her crossword puzzles. Now Mom has silver hair and glasses.
Her appearance has changed, but not her inner essence.

I can still see my mother sitting at the kitchen table, her feet
tucked under her, while she worked on a crossword. After the
kitchen was re-modeled, she'd sit at the breakfast table, with my
little white dog at her feet, doing those puzzles. Now she sits
in her recliner in the living room with a blanket covering her
lap. She's always got that folded over rectangle of newspaper and
a pencil at hand.

Mom works on the crossword from the Kent-Ravenna Record Courier
and the one in the Akron Beacon Journal. When I was in college, I
brought home the Daily Kent Stater for her. I once asked if there
was really any news in the Stater that wasn't in the other two
papers. She said, "No, I just like the crossword puzzle." Oddly
enough, she never worked on crossword books.

It doesn't surprise me that Mom is so good at crosswords. She was
an English major in college who went on to become a sixth grade
teacher. Her career was cut short, because she decided to have
children. I'm glad she had us, but I wish she could have kept her
job. Things were different back then.

My mother is a natural-born teacher. She has all the patience in
the world and can even put up with her stubborn grandchild when
he doesn't want to do Language Arts assignments. I imagine I gave
her grief at times, too.

I remember having to write an outline when I was in sixth grade
at Longcoy Elementary school. I hated outlines then, and I hate
them now. I'm sure torture chambers from the middle ages included
writing outlines. Mom kept me focused and got me through it.

That outline was on siberian huskies. The next year, she helped
me write a paper about the May 4th, 1970 shooting at Kent State
University. Eighth grade was my first meeting with Mr. William
Shakespeare. He and I would run into each other frequently from
them on. Luckily, Mom was always at my back.

She has the most incredible, perfect hand-writing. She writes in
small cursive letters. I loved her signature on my field trip
forms. It looked nothing like my sloppy scribbles. But I liked to
tease her when she forgot to dot her I's and cross her t's.

My mother is the strongest person I know. She's been through the
loss of her mother, her only brother having cancer, two of her
children with degenerative disabilities and the death of her
oldest son. She keeps on ticking.

There was the day in 2006 when I emailed Mom and asked for help
getting out of my abusive marriage. I was afraid my confession
would break her. She replied, "It's about time." And she did help
me escape.

Eight months later, I was in court fighting for my own child. The
judge made my mom serve as a second interpreter. She sat there
listening to all the gory details, including physical and sexual
abuse. At times, her hands shook. Then she got on the stand and
testified on my behalf. When the judge granted me sole custody,
Mom broken down in tears. She cried for love and joy and knowing
the best would happen, just as long as you believed.

Three years ago, I suddenly discovered that my mother, who seemed
bigger than life, is actually mortal and could be taken away from
me. The car accident left her in Trauma ICU for 10 days. She had
a bump the size of two golf balls on her head, bleeding in her
brain, three broken ribs, a bruised lung and fractured back.

Joseph recently told me, "If an old lady can get hit by a car and
survive, I can do anything."

I might debate the "old lady" part. To me, she's still that
beautiful woman with the long, brown hair... and the woman with
the dreaded, tight perm. But no matter how you describe her, she
is my mom, and she is a survivor. Do you know what she did after
the car accident? She came home, started healing and worked on a
new crossword puzzle.

Angela C. Orlando
May 10th, 2014

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