When I graduated from civil engineering at the University of Toronto, my life seemed to be on the up and up. I moved out of my mom’s house in west end of Toronto and flew out to Calgary where I had landed a job that paid much more than I had ever been paid before that point in my life.
It was there that I met my wife. Young, beautiful and equally as ambitious as I was, it wasn’t hard to fall in love with her. Today we have two teenage boys, both of whom are in high school.
Over the years I steadfastly climbed the corporate ladder. I wanted to provide for my family and I wanted to be a mirror for the boys. As I was busy doing this, I neglected to keep up with my mother and hadn’t noticed her slow health decline. We visit her when we can but in hindsight, perhaps not often enough.
After several phone calls with her, I’ve found out that she has become more or less housebound, and I can only image what that does to one’s morale. Her COPD has gotten significantly worse and she now breathes with the help of an oxygen tank. Mobility is an issue; she has bad knees and the heavy oxygen tank that she has to haul around everywhere with her doesn’t help.
It was January when I flew to Toronto to visit her, without my wife and kids. I knew this wouldn’t be the usual family visit. I was going to help my mother handle her day-to-day activities and perhaps see what I can put in place to help her on a go-forward basis. The truth is, it’s been quite some time and I didn’t know what kind of help she would need at all.
I entered my mom’s home and greeted her with a hug. She is ecstatic that I am home. I smell something baking in the oven. From the front door, I can see into the laundry room, past the door left slightly opened; her clothes are neatly folded on the folding table. She ushered me into the kitchen and opened the fridge to offer me a drink. I can see that it is clean and adequately stocked with food.
At her request, I removed the pie from the oven and served us both a piece. As we sit and chat, I take notice of Mom’s tired eyes and expression. I didn’t realize how much time had passed and feelings of guilt that I hadn’t brought the family to visit her more often slowly crept into me.
“So Mom, how have you been doing?” The truth was, given the state of her health I was quite surprised her home is as well kept as it is, and that she seems to be in good spirits.
“Do you remember the lady who lives a few doors down from us, who always brought over her homemade food when she made too much?” I sure did. She made delicious desserts and but the curry she often brought over was horrid. I told Mom this, and she chuckled. “Her husband passed of colon cancer a few years ago. She comes by often to take care of me. She made this pie we’re eating now!” Mom says this with a mix of sadness and gratitude.
“Well that explains why it’s delicious,” I commented.
“She’s been a housewife all her life and after her husband’s passing, it seems that she found new purpose in caring for me.” Mom goes on to tell me that the neighbour still brings over food and makes sure that she eats nutritiously. She also takes Mom on walks around the neighbourhood on mornings that she feels up for it. She helps mom do the laundry every Thursday on her way home from the grocery store and takes mom to her doctor’s appointments.
I was ever so glad to hear Mom had someone who has been looking out for her. I paid the neighbour a visit to thank her before I left to go back to my family. I couldn’t find the words to express my gratitude and choked up when I tried. I left her my contact and asked her to reach out to me if there was ever a need for either my mother or herself.
In all my life as a father, I’ve encouraged my boys to think big and do things that matter. I have always advocated that whatever cause you want to apply yourself to, to do so at a level that makes a sizeable impact.
The irony is that this lady has just shown me that a sizeable impact can be made, by making a difference in just one person’s life. And that always matters.
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