Monday, April 6, 2015
Holding Out For a Hero
80s reference? Footloose? Anyone?
The title is in total jest. I just really like Footlose. This is actually one of the easiest prompts for me because the answer, when asked this question, is always the same - my parents. First off, they've raised a family of intelligent, good looking, creative, loving, generally awesome children, so there's that. But more to the point, they didn't do so easily. They went through a lot, and sacrificed so much, to make sure that we had the upbringing they felt we needed and deserved. What's more, they made it seem like "no big deal", which I think is close to miraculous.
Growing up, I lived in everything from the house my parents live in now - recently renovated and upgraded - to a house on a dirt road in Georgia where daily activities included visiting the "cow in the school bus" and hanging out on the neighbors' tractor, to a home with the numerous foster children that my parents took in as group home parents (I was 10 months old, so I don't remember this, but I know it couldn't have been easy). As a kid, the fact that my mom was in law school every night until 11 PM after raising us during the day (and/or working outside the home once we were in school) was just part of her normal routine. The fact that we had leftover pizza for breakfast on Saturday mornings was a treat. We didn't think about the fact that it meant my dad spent his weekend nights delivering pizzas, after driving the school bus in the morning and then teaching at that same school all day. Didn't everyone's parents work a combination of five jobs to make sure their kids could have what they needed? My parents never made it seem like a sacrifice, and therefore, never asked this question as children.
I once heard my parents say that when they closed on the house they now live in, they emptied their pockets and found they had $12 to their name, combined. It was what we had to live on until they got paid in two weeks. As kids, we didn't really get this - hell when you're a kid, having $12 in your pockets isn't too shabby! When I closed on my own house at the age of 23, I realize what a horror that must have been for them. I know people who pay close to $12 for a fancy Starbucks moccha-latte-something-or-other these days. But they did it to get us into a better school system than where we'd been. The house required pots and pans in at least one room to catch the rain water when it fell through the holes in the roof, and one time the bathroom floor collapsed and our toilet fell into our downstairs tenants bedroom at about 2 AM. Oddly, this didn't seem like a big deal, because our parents (and luckily the tenants) never made it one. They never once complained, at least not in front of us kids.
My parents spent our entire child hood and teen years shuttling us to sports and activities that I now realize must been a ridiculous financial strain, not to mention the fact that they had to sometimes cut out of work early to do so. But they weren't going to tell their kids that they couldn't do the activities others were doing. They didn't want us to feel poor or different or left out.
As I've grown older, I've certainly grown come to appreciate even more what our parents sacrificed, including not letting us feel that sacrifice. Through all these, they were our mental, emotional, and moral support. They continue to be. They have worked through illness and injury to make sure they can still help us if we need. They have supported me - mentally, emotionally, and at times physically - through divorce, breakups, and a plethora of life disappointments. They could have warned me and said "I told you so" when I made the same mistake again over and over (and over and over). When I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, they were by my side, literally. They have never once faltered in their support or love even during my worst episodes. Instead, they've educated themselves about it, learned what they can to help further. They understand, as best as anyone without the condition itself can, what I need, and they do everything they can to provide it. They are at times my lifeline. I feel with conviction that I wouldn't be where I am today without them. They are, always have been, and always will be my heroes.