Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff ::

Before and After: A Reflection Inspired by Lee Woodruff’s Those We Love Most

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff  ::

Sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been if my mom had never had a stroke.

She’s surely not the same as I remember her from “before”. My mom worked a lot, like I do – just a lot more. she wanted to be there for everything. There would be times that she would race a 10 hour day at work to try to catch one of our soccer or basketball games, and never make it inside. It probably happened to her the same way that it happens to me these days.

The hum of the car engine stops as I turn the key, and something about that sound – that action, makes me relax a little – something that I probably haven’t done all day. My body grasps desperately at that relaxed feeling, and tries to turn it into sleep. My head bobs from left to right, until it settles in front, with my chin on my chest. My body wins by knock out. “Mom!” somebody yells. Tension returns, and I out of the car and back to business. For her, the knock on her window from one of us whose game she had missed was the wake up call.

Of course she never meant to have a stroke. She worked a lot, presumably for us, and there are always consequences for stressing your mind and body above and beyond its limits. But she wanted certain things for us – prep schools, international travel things like that. Things like that cost money. To earn money you had to work. But was it all for us? I used to think so, but I see now, that some of that work was done for purely selfish reasons. I see it, because I do it.

I inherited a few things from my mom. My thighs, my second toe, and my ever moving mind. It just doesn’t stop. She would sit up nights, knowing she had a ten hour day of work and at least two hours of after school activities coming up, and empty her thoughts into a notebook. As she worked on ideas and plans, she would ignore her body’s cries for sleep and attention, and get high off the ideas that flowed from her mind, out of her pencil, and onto the paper. Then the obsession with implementing those ideas would creep in – each and every plan would have to come to fruition. She ended up with the largest pediatric practice in the area. The stroke was the price she paid for that success.

Maybe my life would have been different if she hadn’t had the stroke. I wouldn’t pause to collect every detail from the far corners of my brain when I start a conversation with her with, “remember when” so that I can be sure to jog her memory. I wouldn’t worry every time she mentions flying home to see family. I wouldn’t cringe at the idea of her eating certain foods.

In other ways, I know my life today, right now, would have been exactly the same. By now, she would have retired, and would be traveling and spending time with my kids. She’d be going to dance recitals, soccer games, steel pan concerts, and violin performances – a proud grandma. She’d be sneaking them forbidden snacks, and telling them stories of her youth, stories which, despite the stroke, she remembers with stunning clarity.

Although I wish she’d never had the stroke, I am still thankful. Thankful that when I feel my body giving out, I can look back on what stress did to my mom, and how her unwillingness to rest and let some things go led to her stroke, and slow down. Sometimes tragic events happen and we don’t see them coming, others we see moving towards us in slow motions, and we either can’t or won’t stop them. Life changing, earth shattering, mind altering, future rewriting tragedies that seem to come straight out of a nightmare that we haven’t even had yet. It’s events like those that make us remember the impact that our choices can have on those we love the most.

This post was inspired by the novel Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff. Every family has its secrets and deceptions, but they come to surface a tragic accident changes the family dynamic forever. Join From Left to Write on June 6 as we discuss Those We Love the Most. You can also enter to win a live video chat with Lee Woodruff. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.