Maternity can be graced upon any woman; reaching the distinction of motherhood requires the internal strength of a lioness whose brood has been threatened in any number of unimaginable ways.
It was a balmy Sunday morning, pre-swelter and post-breakfast, when I found myself keeled over the less than reliable plastic toilet bowl of our family RV. The delectable spread of scrambled eggs and orange juice from just hours ago had colluded unfavorably in my digestive tract, creating a projectile rainbow of unfortunate circumstances that would reverberate throughout my entire family. My strong, proud, steadfast father pushed his body beyond its intended limits, continuing his strenuous task as a now-in-his-fifties ironworker so the family could maintain health insurance. Concurrently, my mother began her unchosen career as medical caretaker to her eleven-year old son. Yes, yours truly.
Thus, began the laborious task of rising before the dawn, spinning tires upon soulless pavement, and traversing the relentless Bay Area traffic to arrive at my latest medical appointment inside the imposing walls of the transplant clinic. After a flurry of seemingly identical travels to and from what became our second home, we made a side trip to an off-ramp diner we knew would serve as a plentiful and well-deserved midday treat. Once our bellies were full and the remnants of tableware were cleared, my mother gave me a look of dire seriousness. Not sympathetic or sorrowful, but focused, determined to educate me on the perils that lay ahead.
She looked one last time, gently smiled, and gave me a warm, motherly hug. The power of that simple act has echoed through my entire life.
Even though I was just a doe-eyed child, she respected me enough not to talk down or simplify her speech in order for me to understand. I didn’t possess the maturity at the time to define the value of this far too heavy life moment, but I can tell you that fear regressed quickly in the wake of my newfound knowledge.
Medullary Cystic Kidney Disease, although merely a genetic ailment, can silently alter the DNA of a family’s entire existence. While my father continued toiling away at his profession, and my little sister sometimes had to stay with kind friends or helpful neighbors, my mother faced uncertainty as she embarked on the rigorous testing to become my altruistic kidney donor, and save my fledgling young life. Courage and mettle are required to survive the ordeal of the donor evaluation process. My mother, often alone during these procedures, had to endure a marathon of blood tests, urine collection, CAT scan, MRI, gynecological exam, cancer screening, and psychological evaluation, all the while wondering if all of this was for naught. I had a mostly vacant understanding of what my Mom was undergoing at the time, but I knew if I continuously donned a mask of faux strength, it would be easier for everyone involved.
One late evening, as insomnia sat at the edge of my bed, a verbal crack emerged. “Whymewhymewhymewhymewhymewhymewhyme?” As tears and anger faded, I eventually nodded off to sleep. As my mother handed me my lunchbox for school the next morning, she leaned inward, catching my glance and speaking softly. “Don’t ever feel sorry for yourself, ok?” She looked one last time, gently smiled, and gave me a warm, motherly hug. The power of that simple act has echoed through my entire life.
Fate finally took notice of our plight, and in the early hours of a spring tinged day, our bond as mother and son exponentially grew to proportions not everyone has the honor to experience. My life, my future, my very existence was saved by my mother’s blessed kidney. My mother and I had grand success in our individual recoveries, although my father would tell me years later that she suffered far more than she allowed the rest of us to witness.
We as individuals are particularly molded by the experiences we survive. If fortune shines upon our journey, we’re guided by those with the wisdom and fortitude to deftly navigate the challenges set forth by random chance. Thirty-five well worn years have passed since the perilous rigors of our shared Death-defying adventure. Every orbit around our yellow gas giant is a gifted reminder of what an awe-inspiring member of humanity my mother truly is to me. I have been, and always shall be, proud and grateful to be my mother’s son.
“Stacy’s kinda weird. Silly and funny and awkward and weird. And, like, really sleepy. We don’t go on many adventures cuz of that. When I woke up I was really scared and confused because there were four other kidneys in here just like me, but, um, well…not like me at all. Two were born ready, but Stacy said they gotz sick. So his Mom’s kidney is over there and his sisters’ is right near me. I talk to them, but they never talk back. It’s kinda lonely. Stacy makes me sad sometimes because he doesn’t feel like he deserves any of us. And sometimes, on the good days, we have lots and lots of fun together.
I think I’m done now. Did I mention he’s kinda weird?” –Filbert the Kidney
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