My mother is the one who has always been my greatest cheerleader, though; it seems like she’s been on me about writing forever. And now I'm nagging her to tell her story.
For many years, Mom suffered from agoraphobia—the irrational fear of being in public places. With five children spaced 14 years apart, she developed a lifestyle where she became increasingly comfortable at home, to the point where it became fearful for her to leave.
As a child, I can remember her leaving the house only a few times without my father. My father did most all the grocery shopping, and brought the kids shopping for clothes at the beginning of each school year, to dentist appointments, and to ballet classes.
Despite her inability to leave the house, my mother was devoted to her children. She would bravely venture out with my father for things that were important to us—teacher conferences, school award ceremonies, dance recitals. And as long as she could secure an aisle seat, I knew there would be a good chance she would be able to stay to see my performance.
Then, when I was in my 20’s, my mother had a special reason to break out of the prison she called home. With two babies less than 13 months apart, I needed her help. She realized she would need to be able to get to my house without having to rely on my father, and so she joined a support group for people with agoraphobia and other types of phobias. Together they would practice doing things that most of us would find mundane: walking through a mall, riding an elevator, driving over a bridge.
Her next step was to get a driver’s license and soon after, her own car. More accomplishments followed: she enrolled in a continuing education class at the local high school, then got a part-time job as a bookkeeper (her first job since she was a teenager!) She and my father divorced and she began working full-time to support herself. Secure with her independence, she bought a house and decided it was time to start her college education.
Over the course of several years, she took classes toward an associate’s degree in accounting, which she completed at the age of 58. And then, at age 66, she went on her first business trip—to midtown Manhattan of all places!
The thought of my mother, someone who was once afraid to leave the house, walking through Times Square is unbelievable. These days, we’re lucky if we can find her at all—she’s always going somewhere, she'll even fly cross-country by herself.
I always tell her she could be a real inspiration to others, particularly those people whose lives are ruled by their fears. She recovered not by the use of drugs, but by her own determination. It would be nice if others could hear her story and perhaps find the courage to change their lives as she did.
So the other night I started in on her; I told her she needs to write a book. I can edit it for her and I know how to get it out there to the people who need to read it. I mean, she has a daughter with her own publishing company! What more could she ask for?
“But I can’t write,” she said.
“That is such bullshit,” I told her. “You’re as good a writer as I am, probably better.”
“Oh, for Christsakes. I can’t even write a goddamn sympathy card without messing it up.”
I rolled my eyes and then she told me the sentiment she inscribed that day, which necessitated a trip back to Walgreens to purchase another card.
“I’m so sorry to hear that Jeffrey has gone to a better place.”HA! Okay, you got me on that one, Mom.
But I still think she has a great story that has the potential to change another person’s life. What do you think?