Those of you that know me can pinpoint that reference immediately. No better way to start off a blog than with a shout out to Tupac…
This blog honors the most amazing person any one could ever know: my mama. She recently turned 70 and every single one of those 25,567 days (I’m so meticulous that I accounted for leap years, FYI) has been a blessing to those who are fortunate enough to have her around.
Let me first start by saying how lucky you are to have a daughter like me. You have two other daughters and a son who are all decent people; part witty, part smart, part loyal…among other things. Sure, they’re good people and they’ve given you 7 awesome grandkids. I could see how you could love them so much. But c’mon. We’ve always known who your favorite is. I started this blog because I didn’t want to hide the truth anymore and I wanted to inspire others to live their truths too. So, I encourage you to live your truth Ma. You’ll feel so much better when you just yell it to the world: “FANNY’S MY FAVORITE KID AND SHE’S THE MOST AMAZING CHILD ANYONE COULD EVER ASK FOR!”
WOW, right?! See how much better you feel?
Now, I’m not saying any part of that statement is false. But do you know who the greatest mom in the world is? Yep. YOU. You Mama. Anybody who’s ever had the pleasure of meeting you and getting to know you (or one of us) knows that’s the truth too. You never have a bad word to say about anyone and you’re the most genuine and loving person in the world. And yes, I do know that for a fact even though I haven’t met everyone in the world. I don’t care who makes what argument that their mom is the best: they’re wrong. Sure, other moms could be loving, caring, and selfless too. But not like you. You just are on a different level. Thanks Ma. I love you.
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty and what separates our relationship from everyone else’s…
Since my siblings are much older than me we were going through completely different stages in our lives. But I didn’t need much special attention when I was growing up because I was generally healthy. Aside from drawing the lucky ‘mild CF’ card, you had a lot to do with that: you always made sure I was eating high protein, high fat diets, making sure I took all my meds and treatments, making sure the house was impeccably clean so I wasn’t exposed to anything that could exacerbate my condition and making sure we were at each and every doctor’s appointment on time. One of my earliest memories was me and you jumping on the city bus (because you didn’t have your license yet and we only had one car anyway) to go to the doctor. On and off the city bus with a sick kid, going to the doctor’s office, not speaking English very well (and not reading it) and really unaware of what her condition meant for her in the long run all the while making sure the other 4 people in our home were taken care of too. But that was my life and you made it yours too. I was never alone. You were always there to take care of me.
While I was growing up, my siblings were dealing with life changes as adults (graduations, marriages, houses, kids, divorces, health concerns and everything in between). When I was just 10 you became super-YiaYia [grandma, for you non-Greeks]. You’re a superhero to us (I got it! For your next gift you’re getting you a SUPERHERO CAPE! YESSSS!). Your home continues to be ground zero and we’re all ‘home’ when we’re there. Everyone’s welcome, friends, coworkers…everyone. You would always have what seemed like 500 people in the house each and every day with kids screaming all over the place. And you loved it. You would make sure each and every one of us was fed, taken care of, clean, on time to wherever we had to go (work, school, football, basketball, soccer, piano, swimming, etc, etc…) and still made time to make each and every one of us feel special and irreplaceable to you. You never, not once, stopped amidst the chaos and said “phew, I need some time to myself” . You didn’t like going on vacations (and still don’t) because you’re concerned about the rest of your family you’re leaving behind and if they’ll need anything. I know you were working before I was born and after I was born you had a chance to return but you chose not to. And I thank my lucky stars that you didn’t each and every day. You’re not just a housewife, or stay-at-home mom. I hate when people say that. I wanna donkey kick them in the throat when I hear “oh, your mom didn’t work so you didn’t have the strong female example of being independent” or “she doesn’t work, so what does she do all day?”. You are the hardest working PERSON I have ever met in my whole life. Period. While building houses for 50+ years, Baba [my dad] would and still always say “All I need is your mom, she’s the best assistant I could have to help me do this job.” You didn’t just figuratively build a home for your family; you literally helped build our homes. I don’t care if someone has 5 jobs outside of the home and a family – you’re still the hardest working person I’ve ever met and will ever meet and it’s all in the name of your family. And I’d venture to say everyone who knows you would say the same.
Ma, you know how quickly things happened. I went from all of a sudden being happy, healthy and independent in Chicago to needing someone with me full time in a matter of a few months. And who stepped up? Of course, you. Sure, some people could help for a day, or two but you dropped everything at home and moved into our condo. After I delivered your grandson (by the way, you and Baba were our very first visitors in the hospital even though you had a 5 hour drive!) I deteriorated very quickly and by the time he was 4 months old I didn’t even have enough energy to pick him up on my own out of his crib.
You moved in with us for 13 months. You slept on a fold out futon in the nursery for over a year and I’m so sorry we did that to you. I know the rest of our family was going through stuff back home; my sister’s twins were just 2 years old and she needed your help at that point in her life. And Baba…well, you know. He needs you more than anyone so it was extremely difficult for you to leave him for so long and I knew it. And you never, not once, said “ok, I’ll stay for 3 months”, or “I’ll leave for a few weeks to take care of others and come back.” NOT ONCE. You were terrified but you learned the roads of scary-Chicago to go back and forth from the hospital by yourself while sleeping in my hospital room too. And go shopping everywhere we needed you to go. You ran all of our errands and tended to every concern we had, all 3 of us. We didn’t need for anything when you were around. I didn’t know what was going to happen; when/if I was getting a transplant or when/if I’d die. But you were hell-bent on staying with me until I was better. And you are a BIG reason why I got better. You waited for me to be 3 months out from transplant to make sure I was strong enough to be on my own before you went back home. And thanks to you, I was.
Ma, I’ll never forget all those times we spent just sitting on my couch, crying, me saying I had to prepare things for my baby to grow up without his mother; I was dying. You refused to believe it and told me to shut up and not talk like that. But I know you were more terrified than I was. I can’t imagine watching your baby literally waste away, dying. But look…we got through it. Together. You helped me get through everything. You gathered my whole family and spent the Christmas holidays in my hospital room, 5 hours away from home. You get squeamish when you see blood but when I had my GI surgeries and the wounds had to heal from the inside out with no stitches, YOU were the one who cleaned them and re-dressed them every day. You can’t even see blood or graphic things on TV without gagging and turning away but not once did you say you couldn’t do it. After having lived with us for 13 months for my transplant, you returned less than one year later and lived with us for another 7 months for my GI issues, without hesitation. THAT’S why we all love you.
So, Ma, even though we got you a few small gifts, there’s nothing in this world that could ever repay you for what you’ve done for us. My small family just wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for you. We all have choices, all day every day. And day in and day out, all you ever choose is what’s best for your family. And for that, there’s no way we can say ‘thank you’ and ‘we love you’ enough. Thanks Ma. For everything you do, for prioritizing us. If I end up being half the mother you are, then my son is one hell of a lucky boy (he already is because you’re his Yiayia). Happy birthday, here’s to a year of health, love and happiness. I wish you’d listen to me and relax a bit now, but I know you won’t. Na ta ekatostisis. xoxo
Your favorite child.
Now, everyone who is still reading, do me a favor….picture the following scenarios:
- Having to strategically place your adult child’s oxygen tubing over the shower door and out of the way so you can bathe her while she’s sitting down in the tub. And while you’re washing her hair, cleaning up clumps of hair that are falling out. Then drying what’s left because she doesn’t have enough energy to lift a blow dryer.
- Watching your adult child cry and struggle to pick her own baby up because she doesn’t have enough strength to do it.
- Trying to be discreet cooking entire meals every day for your son-in-law and grandson because you don’t want your daughter (who can’t eat) to see and feel bad.
- Sleeping (if you could even call it that) in a hospital room beside your adult child every night, hoping there’s a magic cure coming, then leaving by 6 am to drive back to their home so that your son-in-law can go to work and you stay home with your grandson. That same day, packing up the baby and taking him shopping and running errands in a giant city that intimidates the hell out of you only to make it back to the hospital so your dying daughter can see her baby for a bit.
- Or how about this whopper: standing outside of your child’s hospital room, leaning against the wall, while she’s having a procedure done, listening to her screaming, crying and begging for you, knowing full well, there’s not a damn thing you can do for her (read that one again and then close your eyes and feel it).
Not once did she complain. Not once did she lose hope. Not once did she say “I can’t do that.”
Our entire family needs her all the time. I really don’t know how she does it. But she goes where she feels she’s needed the most. She takes care of EVERYONE. She doesn’t leave one child’s dire situation because another one needs her help with something trivial. She doesn’t favor one person over another. My days go from regular to dire pretty quickly and unannounced. She’s the only one who arranges to make the 5 hour drive to our home to take care of us (whether it’s my dad or one of my siblings that drives her). 4 kids and 8 grandkids later, she’s still the one we rely on when we need help. Because there is no one in the world who is as selfless, loving and dedicated to her entire family than my mama. She is the head of our family, the clichéd glue that holds us together, the proverbial rock we can all rely on, which is why in times of extreme uncertainty and fear, I am at peace and I can sit back and ….breathe.