by Tameko L. Barnette
Her name is Nina. Sheís five feet three inches tall, average weight for her height, and fifty-eight years young. Sheís been married three times. Although, her third marriage seems to be the one with the staying power that the other two marriages didnít possess. She has two daughters. My older sister and I were born sixteen years apart. Nina is one of the strongest women Iíve ever known. Both emotionally and physically, she embodies the true meaning of being a strong, proud, and beautiful Black woman. However, when her body seems to turn against her it comes full force. I never understood how deep our connection as mother and daughter was until she hit one of those plateaus recently.
Iíve always admired my mother because of her resilience and physical strength. She has a small body but within her tiny frame lies a spirit with an enormous amount of power and motivation. During my childhood, I would sit back watch how Nina juggled five or six different tasks at once performing each of those tasks to perfection. Although, Ninaís work outside of the home as well as inside the home would take up sixteen to eighteen hours of the day and night, it stood in my young mind as amazing and quick.
Nina would rarely let me see the slightest hint of discomfort or fatigue that took its toll on her body. I can only recall seeing my mother cry once in my twenty-eight years of living. Iíve never seen her crack under the pressure of her daily routines and all the difficulties that came along with them. Maybe she purposely tried to cover up the pain and anguish that her body was experiencing for my benefit? I donít think Iíll ever know the answer to that perplexing question. However, there comes a time in everyoneís life when denial has no place in the sight of truth.
Ninaís truth is that her physical well-being is equally as important as her emotional and mental well-being. Ninaís denial is that she can do it all without any help from anyone.
During the Spring of 1998, Nina fell victim to walking pneumonia. I thought that was her first time dealing with that particular condition. Later, I found out it was her fourth time.
I was working at a local bank at the time I received a disturbing phone call from my motherís primary physicianís nurse. Apparently, Nina drove herself to the doctorís office in excruciating abdominal and chest pain while also dealing with shortness of breath and dizzy spells. The nurse urged me to come to the doctorís office immediately and take my mother to our local hospitalís emergency room. Iíve always hated driving on the interstate in my hometown, but on that particular day I did eighty-five miles per hour from my workplace to the doctorís office via the interstate. The doctor and nurse were amazed at how fast I got there after the end of our phone conversation.
During the hospital visit and the rest of the week while I took care of my mother, I reflected on our past experiences when I was a child. Thoughts of how she would stop everything to take care of me in the same way I had done that particular day brought tears to my eyes.
During the month of January 2000, Nina acquired for the fifth time walking pneumonia. Her doctor was honest the first time around when he told her that after the first bout with pneumonia she would remain an open target to the condition. However, I was prepared this time around. I knew exactly what to do to take care of my mother. In retrospect, it seems a bit funny how a parent and child can suddenly switch roles when the situation calls for it.
My mother is stubborn. (Itís a personality trait that I definitely inherited from her.) So, I had to make sure that she would follow the doctorís orders and get plenty of rest. For my mother, it meant doing absolutely, positively nothing. I could only imagine how hard it was for Nina to swallow that enormous pill called doing nothing. But I was fully-equipped and prepared to make her swallow that pill even if I had to shove it down her throat.
I used four of the six personal days that my place of business allotted to each of the employees for the year 2000 to make sure she would swallow that pill. She was amazed. She was appreciative. And yes, she was upset. Why? Because she couldnít do it all herself. And she had always believed that she could do it all by herself. I cleaned the house, packed my fatherís lunches for work, washed the clothes, cooked the meals, washed the dishes, and ran all the errands outside of the home that my mother had usually done herself. I gave her the medication at the appropriate times of day. I fed her when she could actually eat something without getting sick to the stomach. I put blankets on her body while she slept and let the medicine do its job within her body. I stood at the door and watched my mother sleep the same way she had done for me when I was a child.
I had always cherished the relationship I had with my mother, but it wasnít until recently that I understood how truly strong our bond as mother and daughter had become.
During the time of taking care of my mother, I never once thought of my own physical well-being, the errands I had to run for myself, or any of my usual cares and worries about my own personal life. The only thing that mattered to me was witnessing and taking part in the progress of my motherís health. Finally, it occurred to me. This is what my mother went through for me every single day of my life. This is what all mothers go through on a daily basis for their children. Although, Iím not a mother there is a maternal instinct that turns on within me when my mother needs my care and attention.
All in all, my relationship with my mother has grown stronger over the years. Especially during the more difficult times weíve experienced together recently. I will always be dedicated to the love and care of Nina when she needs me. Not only out of family obligation, Iím going to be there for her to let Nina know that her love, support, and care for me hasnít gone unnoticed. Her strength of character, determination, and expectations of excellence have been seared into my spirit. Nina is an extraordinary woman, mother, wife, and friend. And Iím proud and honored to be her daughter.