At first glance the only part you can see of her is the large belly-extended by years of homemade food and lack of exercise. Her body no longer obeys her demands-and its inability to function properly shows. Though only fifty-two the lines and indentations around and in her eyes, mouth, and forehead reveal years her body has yet to see-and maybe won't. The iris's are a blue-gray-a shade not suited to her fiery yet well versed personality. The once vibrant red hair has faded with time to a dull brown with grays scattered within. Her hands are callused and roughened-despite her now eighteen years of retirement-from the strain of hard labor and demanding work. The hands are not temperature sensitive-her hardened skin acts as a barrier from both the hot metal of pans and skillets as well as the frigid caress of snow and frozen metal. I can't help but admire her scars and calluses as she too admires the still soft and supple skin of my own hands; she yearns for my baby soft skin as I yearn for her cracked palms. Her gait is slow and pained-she'll need surgery soon-so that even she admits she grows weaker and with every step her back and my heart clench. Her wardrobe is a collection of sweatpants, over-sized t-shirts, and pajamas (other articles of clothing are too difficult to get on). Sometimes I barrow them-they are comfortable.
She's a Leo-and her fifty-third birthday will be coming up shortly. We make fun of our astrological signs-even while we know the accuracy in them. My mother the lion-her daughter the scales. She was always a strong woman in both mind and body-and I have not met another worth the admiration she receives from me. Her thoughts are strong ones and I've learned to weigh her comments whether I disagree with them or not-her thoughts are not always admirable. The lioness sometimes forgets to balance her meats so that her cub must do it herself-even if the mother is not always aware of this. She carries an air-though she tries not to-of arrogance that no pride filled man could live up to. She always has some kind of advice which usually ends up being correct-and though I don't doubt her accuracy I try to see the better side of it all, though I often times fail. Sometimes my scales aren't balanced either. She doesn't let her body's dysfunctions completely disable her, although it often seems that way. Her doctor is often wrong and consistently underestimates her. They told her she wouldn't walk-they wasted their breath. The two-hundred rack that broke her was strong-but her will was stronger and her will gave her body strength. Her will could only lend her strength for so long though-and so her body is greatly slowing. It must be hard for your mind to have the strength of an ox but the body of a cripple. Mortality is catching up with her.
Like I admire the strength and lethal beauty of a lion-I admire the will of my mother. I have always valued her opinions over all others-even when I believe those opinions to be wrong. How long could I have lived with a broken body? It's a hard question to answer since I know that I am the only reason she lives; we both know she'll only last for so much longer and it's a terrifying prospect. And why do I always cry when I wright? Perhaps it's because she's the only reason I do. Without her suffering I would have nothing to tell. Her pain gives me something to understand-it's a piece of her she shares only with me. It humbles me so that my problems are never to big and never to challenging. And though I fear the day I'll lose her-I hope that death will bring her the mercy that pain medication, doctor appointments, and even I can't offer her.
If I have learned anything from her it's that there is nothing you can't overcome-even if for the shortest moment in time. I've learned to see the good in others that sometimes she is blind to-or maybe isn't willing to see. I've learned that no amount of charity is too small or no time given to others too short-if for the short moment it was in your heart then it was worth the world. And ironically I've learned tolerance-though sometimes she has none. She has taught me to embody the things she has not-since without them you will only suffer. I've learned that one small act of kindness can make the whole day better-though we don't usually spend the time to offer it. I know that even in my love for her and my hate-I would never be who I am if not for her. And it's as I've said before-I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't learned it the hard way. I don't know where I would be is she hadn't learned it the hard way first.