67: On Solid Ground

67: On Solid Ground

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

On Solid Ground

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

~Albert Einstein

I scrunched my face at Mom. How could she not think this was the best idea ever? I wanted to marry Kermit the Frog more than anything in the whole wide world!

As a child I dreamed big and believed in the impossible, even when nobody else did. I made plans to adopt a baby elephant as a pet. Mom shook her head.

“But Mo-om!” I’d moaned.

As always, she gave me the look. “Be realistic,” she said.

Soon after this, I decided to sell my little brother to raise money for a new bicycle. Mom’s stare spoke volumes as she droned her mantra.

One summer I started digging a hole for a swimming pool in our yard. “Put that shovel down this instant!” she shouted through an open window. “Be realistic!”

And so things went until, at the age of ten, I was diagnosed with diabetes. My perception of myself and the world around me changed. Life wasn’t all Muppets and childish schemes. But after a while, my tendency for embracing grandiose dreams did come back to life.

By sixteen, I’d matured just enough to reach for more attainable goals. I wanted to learn how to drive and get my license. My health situation made Mom nervous, but by then I’d learned to find ways around her. Dad was the perfect ally, although when I asked him to help me buy my first car, the clunker he found in a used car lot wasn’t the dream vehicle I’d imagined. It only lasted long enough to get me back and forth to work that summer.

The spring before I graduated high school, I lost the battle to go to university in another country, as far away from Mom as possible. I wanted to prove my independence.

Even Dad wouldn’t stand by me on this one. “Too expensive,” he’d said, which I understood but didn’t want to accept.

Of course Mom had chimed in with her mantra, again. If only I had a nickel for all the times she said it. I hated her for stating the obvious.

As I neared the completion of my bachelor’s degree, I considered the idea of teaching abroad, and made what at the time felt like the mistake of talking about it with Mom. Before the words came out of her mouth, I heard the drone of her mantra in my head. Of course, then she said it.

I had the rest of my life mapped out. I’d get a full-time job as a teacher, get married and have children—a boy and a girl. And maybe a dog. But with failing kidneys and a new husband unwilling to deal with my health issues, it looked as though my plan was falling apart, one detail at a time. Of course, I talked about it all with Mom.

My marriage ended quickly, as did my teaching career, due to my medical issues. Instead, I had to move to another city for a chance to receive a kidney-pancreas transplant. Mom declared that she was going with me.

My first thought was, “Oh, God. No!” But I did want her help. I certainly didn’t want to go through scary, unknown territory alone. I just didn’t want to admit it to her out loud.

As we sat in our little apartment one day, the discussion turned to the last dream I held onto—having children. Mom touched my arm, her voice oddly quiet. “You know, Susan. You’re going to have to be…” She hesitated and gave me that look.

Together we chimed, “Realistic!”

I tried hard to make a face at her, but laughed instead. She had a point, but there was no way I was going to tell her that.

I’d be sugarcoating it to say our time together was without conflict, but we did make it work. We even shared lovely moments and a great deal of laughter, especially after I received a gift from a friend during my stay in hospital when I first went on dialysis—a golden-haired puppet with blue eyes and a twinkle of attitude. A mini me! I gave her my middle name, Elizabeth.

Mom didn’t like my Elizabeth puppet right from the start, which of course made it all the more tantalizing for me to bring her to life. And that I did. I gave her a medic alert bracelet and attached a dialysis catheter to her stomach. I bought us matching jean jumpers, shirts and sneakers, in part to have fun with Mom, but also because the teacher in me wasn’t ready to quit. Elizabeth and I became a traveling team of entertainers. Together we gave presentations on diabetes, dialysis and transplants to a variety of audiences.

But the most entertaining audience of all was Mom. She would actually engage in serious, sometimes heated “discussions,” not with me, but with Elizabeth—the puppet! It was hilarious to watch Mom become infuriated, stare into Elizabeth’s eyes and oh-so-seriously tell the puppet to “Be realistic!” The irony of it all brought me immeasurable delight. No doubt the memory of it always will.

It might have taken me decades, but I finally figured out that resistance to Mom’s mantra was futile. It’s difficult to admit, but Mom really did have a point.

Because of her tenacity, encouragement and love, these days my reality shines bright. I’ve discovered a heartfelt passion for writing. I am married to the love of my life—an incredible, funny and considerate man named Henry who has stood by me and supports me in all I do. Mom loves him too, and because I do not have my own offspring, I am free to love all children, which I do. Henry and I even have two dogs.

And thanks to Mom—and the years spent trying to prove her mantra to “be realistic” wrong—my feet are planted securely on solid ground with my head still well within reach of the stars.

~Susan Blakeney

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