My mom and I are sheltering in place at our respective homes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate how strong and resilient she is.

By Karla Walsh
April 27, 2020
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I still remember my exact location on the interstate when I picked up the call. My Dad, who never reaches out to chat “just because,” was on the line. “Are you driving?" he asked. "If so, can you pull over?”

My palms started to sweat. I drove in silence to the next exit, subconsciously slowing down along the way, in some attempt to delay the inevitable. I wanted to postpone, ever so slightly, the bad news I knew awaited me once I found a place to park.

“Okay,” I managed to get out.

“Your Mom had a seizure last night. We don’t know why or what it means, but she’s awake and okay and getting tests. Please come as soon as you can,” Dad told me.

The author with her mother.
| Credit: Courtesy of Karla Walsh

On the four-hour drive to the hospital where these tests were taking place, I had a lot of time to reflect on the winding, detour-filled road my Mom and I have (metaphorically) driven together. While I kept my eyes on the road, my mind wandered back to a vivid movie montage, of sorts…

By reading each and every day, she taught me the power of language and the words I now write every day as a freelance journalist. On family road trips, she’d often say, “Are you enjoying the scenery?” to remind me and my two sisters to take a moment to soak up the beauty and the gifts around us. She’s the one who lifted my chin up when I was bullied in junior high school. She lined up the treatment I needed—the treatment that helped save my life—when I nearly starved myself to death while battling anorexia. She’s the one I call in tears after breakups and in joyful giggles when I receive good news. She’s the person who most often makes me laugh until I cry with her silly one-liners. She’s always there with a hug when I most need it, which is always accompanied by what has become her affectionate tagline: “Here’s one of these.” (“These” being Mom’s warm hug, and her preferred method of saying “I love you.”)

The tests determined that Mom had a golf ball-sized non-cancerous tumor between the left and right lobes of her brain. The next several weeks were a blur, as the doctors added her to the surgery schedule then tackled a six-hour operation to remove the growth. She then entered physical and speech therapy and rehab to relearn all of her skills like the math she used to teach to junior high students and the lists she used to make to help her save time at the grocery store (I will forever make those same lists).

By the time COVID-19 arrived in America, Mom was back to her gardening, cross-stitching, daily Sudoku puzzle-rocking, coffee cake-baking self. But her immune system has taken quite a hit this year, and since we live several hours apart and in separate houses, it’s safest for us to follow orders to stay home and celebrate from afar. 

The author enjoying a stroll with her mom as a child.
| Credit: Courtesy of Karla Walsh

But celebrate we will—virtually, until it’s safe to revel in Mother’s Day part two in real life. Part one will still be a joyful occasion, complete with a glass of Riesling (Mom’s fave), mini cheese boards, and a virtual game night. (There’s a 100 percent chance of at least one laugh-’til-we-cry moment.)

Mother’s Day part two will most certainly include one of those big hugs.

Both of our lives have had some speed bumps and detours, just like many moms and daughters. Being apart on the first Mother’s Day post-surgery isn’t quite what we had planned. But if my mom has taught me anything in our 33 years together, it’s that as much as we plan and prepare, we can’t always control where life’s navigation system will take us. The challenges along the road make you appreciate the little things and the scenery along the way so much more, though. And will inspire you to hug much harder.

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