| This is the 16th story of Our Life Logs |
“I may be having a hard day. I have had harder ones before. And I know that I probably will have even harder ones in the future. But that’s the human experience. That’s life.”
I grew up in a small city in Ohio with a pretty standard childhood. Even though my parents got divorced when I was in kindergarten, they ended on such good terms that there was not too much struggle for me. Or maybe it was just I was too young to understand at that time. After their divorce, I spent most of my time growing up with my mother. I am her only child, and she is my rock.
One of the worst things that can happen to you in life is probably to get an unexpected call saying that someone you deeply care about is in the hospital with a medical emergency. When that person turns out to be your mother and there is no one else to care for you or her, it changes your life in an instance.
I was junior in high school when my mother suffered a massive heart attack, except they didn’t know it was a heart attack at first. All they knew was something was wrong, but they didn’t know what exactly was wrong. No one knew what was happening, and I couldn’t get any information from anybody. It was devastating. That feeling of helplessness was further exaggerated by the fact that I was a teenager and not my mother’s power of attorney yet. It was my aunt who was her power of attorney then, but they were unable to get ahold of her for singing on many of the medical decisions. Having to stand there knowing my mother was suffering and yet there was nothing I could do was awful.
It was like a nightmare. To think for a second that she could be gone forever was scary.
Luckily, it didn’t take her life, but the recovery phase was still hard on both of us. My mother was out of commission for a while, so everything fell on me. All the little things a parent would normally do for a high school student, I took them over. It may not seem that hard as I look back on it now, mostly just cleaning and cooking and other household chores. However, for a maturing boy going through the emotional turmoil brought forth by the possibility of losing his mother, the only support he’d got, coupled with the additional work, it was a stressful time. I wasn’t sleeping well at night, which led to me sleeping in class and almost failing one of the subjects. But I knew I had to be strong. I kept telling myself–this is how it is going to be for now, so face it and do your best. That faith pulled me through that difficult period of my life.
Eventually, my mother got better, time went on and I graduated high school. Greatly influenced by my Ceramics teacher in high school who had always believed in me and been supportive of everything I did, I headed to Ohio University to study Ceramics. My goal was to get a teaching certificate and teach Ceramics after graduation. Yet destiny took me somewhere else.
As I was finishing my first year of college, the Great Recession hit. My mother’s finances had been stretched by all her medical bills and with the added pressure of the larger financial collapse, they snapped. She filed bankruptcy. We lost our house.
I wanted to move closer to support her, at least emotionally, so I transferred to University of Cincinnati, which was close to home. As part of that transfer, I gave up my original dream of being a Ceramics teacher and switched major to English Literature and Cultural Studies. It was not an un-struggled decision, but Ohio University was a prestigious school for Ceramics and I didn’t want to study that anywhere else. I figured if I was not going to do the way I wanted to do it, I might as well try something completely different, so I changed to English, with teaching still being my passion.
I worked multiple jobs to get myself through college. As I was graduating, my mother had another heart attack and another surgery. The second time wasn’t easy either, as they could never be called easy. But it was easier than the first, because this time we knew what was going on and I had been her power of attorney to provide approvals where required. It was still a heartbreaking experience, but we survived. She has since made a full recovery and hasn’t had another episode.
Even though it might sound like a sacrifice to change school and move away from my initial goal, there was no regret. I’m glad that I stayed close, and I will continue to do so as long as my mother’s condition demands.
I know life has not been easy. Looking back into the past I realize that nearly losing my mother forced me to grow up. It also taught me to never give up. You may not be able to see it now, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. If you keep preserving in those dark times, eventually you will get through.
This is the story of Michael Womack.
Michael is a 2013 University of Cincinnati graduate. He lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is currently an assistant teacher teaching pre-school kids. He loves kids and is greatly loved by his students.
This story first touched our hearts on October 29, 2017.