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Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Gift of Life

I just got off the phone with my Mom. Earlier today she left a message that I've decided to save; it's one typical of her in which she rambles off whatever illness she happens to be suffering, the illnesses or recoveries of our various relatives (good news today for my Uncle), and then some random stuff. At the end of the message, she said, "Thanks for calling...oh, wait, you didn't call me, I called you...."

I laughed out loud when I heard that, and decided that even though I'm so often annoyed by her rambling messages, this one needs to be saved. After all, my annoyance has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with my own lack of virtue; and she really is unintentionally funny, which is the very BEST kind of humor. If I can record this message permanently, I will. Mom is a gift.

Tonight, though, she revealed to me what a gift my brother and I were to she and our Dad, and remain to her.

Mom was raised to "know" that her only option in life was to get married and have children. That was her goal, and it was truly what she desired. She also considered becoming a Nun and explored that, but was told she was too "worldly". (This shocks me....Mom is THE most UN-worldly person you could meet.)

However, if I were to disagree with the reality that she was not called to religious life, I would have to disagree with my own existance. Can't do that.

But to make her upbringing very clear, her natural mother was killed before her eyes when she was only five years old, and so she was raised by a loving step-mother who told them all the same thing; they were destined to be wives and mothers. Two of my aunts were talked out of taking careers in favor of having children. (Clearly, Grandma was NOT a radical feminist.)

So it was that Mom saw her entire value in life in becoming a Mother. She got married and desperately wanted children, not just to please herself and please God, but to please her own Mother.


Mom initially couldn't get pregnant. My Dad had Spina Biffeda, and he and his parents were told early on that, because of this genetic condition, he would not be able to produce children. I'm not sure if Mom knew this when they were married, especially considering how much she wanted children of their own.

Mom was also told at some point that she would not be able to conceive. They went to the doctor and Dad was tested, and found that his count was low, but perhaps it was possible. A month after that, my brother was conceived.

While Mom was pregnant with him (this would have been in 1971) random people approached her, seeing that she had only one hand, a hand obviously deformed from birth. They berated her in her pregnancy, saying that she and people like her should never have children, for she and we were destined to be on welfare for life. In these conversations, they made it clear that she also was not worthy of life.

This same thing happened in 1973 after Roe v. Wade was passed. There was Mom, one little boy in her cart, me on the way in her swollen belly....and there she was accosted with the same accusation; that she shouldn't have children, she should abort...for she was destined because of her disability to raise us on welfare.

Mom responded that she and Dad were perfectly healthy, my brother and I were perfectly healthy (I still unborn), both she and Dad were gainfully employed, homeowners, etc...and there was no reason to believe we would be a burden on society.

During this part of the conversation, I remained quiet, for once not saying what I think, and what I know to be true, for our shared history speaks.

It was Mom who voiced what we both were thinking; for it is the place of the Mother to do so. She said, quietly, "Even though that's what happened."

There was a moment of silence as we remembered how we'd gone from being a happy family of four, to a divorced family of three...on welfare. And how Mom ultimately raised us on welfare and due to something totally different in her own life, has not been able to get off of disability.

But tonight I thanked her for giving my brother and I life, for not letting those people interfere, to influence her.

She told me that I was conceived on Dad's birthday, and that the Doctor had actually gotten the date wrong. In April of the year of my birth, he commented that I was too small; I wasn't ready. Mom knew the day God had touched her, infusing my soul, and told him the date, knowing with the certainly only a mother can know through the intimacy of God's love. The doctor agreed, and that April, he and Mom came to the conclusion that my life not only began on the evening of Dad's birthday, but that my presence in this world would be announced somewhere near Father's Day.

And so it was....I missed it by only a couple days.

No wonder I was a "Daddy's Girl".

I wish every child, every adult, could know the story of their beginnings. I thought I knew it before, but until tonight, I did not. Dad passed away in 1995, and I don't think he would have told me this story; what I learned tonight can only come from the heart of a mother, even if it is felt and recognized in the pride of a father. Both my brother and I were miracles to our parents...we were both great gifts.

No, not every child is welcomed by the parents to whom they are conceived and born...but does that make their lives any less special? It was suggested that both my brother and I be slaughtered in the womb based on the imperfections of our parents. What is chilling is that those same accusations and suggestions are made today...and are followed.

I feel guilty that I have life and others do not. I feel guilty that I have not appreciated my parents as much as I should have...and that I can't, now knowing what I know, go up to my Dad on his Birthday and embrace him, thanking him for my life. If I was a father, or a mother, I couldn't consider a greater gift than the conception of a child on my own birthday.

So often I wonder at the value of my presence in this world, but now, after this conversation with Mom, I am grateful for the chance to thank her, truly, for not only allowing my birth, but welcoming it. For giving me life and seeing it through, and in spite of the fact that she did ultimately raise us on welfare, she saw us out of it as well.

We weren't on welfare because of hers and Dad's imperfections, but because of circumstances of our lives. And neither of them ever allowed us to lose our dignity, for they encouraged us to move beyond those circumstances, to not let them define us. and so it is that we both completed college, I am in graduate school, we both are homeowners...and we've ultimately not proven the prophecy given to Mom to have any weight at all.

Thank God for life...and thank your parents. I wish I could thank my Dad...but now, I have a little more insight into why he was so proud of my brother and I: we were miracles of the ordinary kind, and something more to be desired, in his eyes, than any other treasure in heaven and earth.

God rest his soul and deliver him from purgatory into His eternal embrace.

Thank you, Dad. I love you.


Kevin - "pax tecum" said...

Thanks for sharing and I am glad you are here...

Charles Woodrow said...

Adoro, I'm glad you're here, too.

Your mom's story makes me wonder about my grandmother (mom's side). She was born with one and a half arms; the umbilical cord wrapped around her right arm, so it grew to only just beneath the elbow. It was amazing what she could do with that little half arm, though. People were always shocked to see her sweep the floor, play cards, peel potatoes, etc. It never occurred to me that people may have said stupid things to her when she was pregnant. I'll not have the chance to ask her in this lifetime because she died a few years ago. I miss her.

Thanks for sharing this story. I'll pray for your dad's soul and your mom during evening prayer tonight.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Prayers here...