My mother stumbled a lot. She had many bloody and bruised knees, but did not hurt herself seriously. Why she fell frequently puzzled even her physician. I remember walking with her after leaving the bus station to our downtown shopping district. I always walked to her left close to the curb just in case I had to grab her when she lost her balance. Mother compensated for loss of balance and it was amazing to see her go through these bizarre movements which prevented her fall. When I grabbed her arm she would look surprised because she had already corrected her stance. It was common for women to stand on the street corner waiting for their buses to pick them up. I remember as if it were yesterday a stranger remark, “Look at her falling about drunk and it’s only 11 a.m. It’s downright disgusting!”
I wanted to shout back! ’Mind your own business. You don’t have a clue about what’s happening to my mother.’ Why didn’t I speak up? Mother kept right on walking.
Whether or not she heard the comment I’m not certain. If these gossiping old ladies had known the truth of how courageous Mother was. No matter how difficult it became for her to walk back and forth to church or from the bus station she never gave up. The worse part was tearing her silk stocking. She remembered how hard it was to buy stockings during World War II.
My behavior as a teenager was despicable. I was more worried about one of my friends from high school seeing me beside my mother who walked like a drunk. Only our family and church members knew my mother had problems walking—they accepted it.
Why couldn’t I walk proudly beside her? I was ashamed of what my friends would think and didn’t have any self-confidence. I remember standing on the corner alone. I always fidgeted around waiting for the bus. I wondered if I was holding my purse at the right height. Or, worried about what clothes I was wearing. I was always worrying about myself until Mother became seriously ill. She thanked me for doing extra housework and making a few meals, they were such menial tasks I did for her. I made up my mind when she got well I would walk tall and proud by her side.
No longer was I going to take a back seat. I guess I was beginning to grow up and take responsibility for my own actions. Read more about a teenager’s life as she struggles to save her sick mother in A Marked Woman.