That's What Sons are for
By Donna Lowich
Lying in bed in the rehab center, my mind wandered back home. I missed being there so much! After two spinal cord surgeries, I remained in the hospital for six weeks. This was followed by a five-month stint at the rehab center where I found myself on this long and lonely day.
In my mind's eye, I thought of each of the rooms of my house, and I pictured myself being back in each one of them, surrounded by my family-- my husband, Walter, and, of course, four-year-old Jeffrey.
The thought of being home was enough to bring tears to my eyes. But missing my family made my depression that much worse.
As I remember it, this particular morning was a Saturday, before I was able to go home for weekend visits. It was going to be a long, boring day because there would be no physical therapy until Monday. I was looking forward to a visit with Walter and Jeffrey, but unsure if they would make it in for their usual visit. They had both been sick during the previous week.
Soon, I heard footsteps, the rhythmic taps on the linoleum floor that let me imagine the long, strong strides as Walter made his way down the hallway.
"Gee, I hope it is Walt," I remember thinking.
Then the dead giveaway -- the quick tap-tap-tap of small, sneakered feet running, and as they got closer to the door, a whispered, "C'mon, Dad, hurry up!"
Then, as if by magic, Jeffrey appeared in the doorway. He was out of breath and very excited. He hesitated but only for a moment. We looked at one another, each soaking up the vision of the other.
"Mommy!" Jeff ran over and threw his arms around my shoulders and laid his head on my chest.
This was truly not only the highlight of my day, but of my entire week! Every day during the week, I worked hard at my therapy trying to get back what I had lost.
This visit, and others like it, is what made the rest of the week worth getting through.
By this time, Walter had entered the room and had come over to my bed. Jeffrey could hardly contain himself. He was jumping up and down. "Mommy! Guess what? I have a surprise for you!"
"You DO? What could it be?" I made a funny face to show I was thinking hard. I had no idea what his surprise was.
He was ecstatic that he had not given me any clues. He reached for my hand and gently put his little hand around mine. He looked down, cleared his throat and began to sing.
It wasn't just any song. It was a song that was very popular at the time: "That's What Friends Are For."
He had memorized all of the words and the melody. He was serenading me!
When he had finished the song, he looked at me with tears in his large Hershey-chocolate-colored eyes but with such a big smile that I had to smile too. But my tears had already spilled out onto my face and were racing downwards on my cheeks in a mad dash towards my chin.
He was so proud of himself and I was proud of him too. He had remembered all the words and had sung the song perfectly! The words were perfect for me, and somehow he knew that.
How could he have known the deep funk I had been in less than an hour ago? Jeff's singing pumped more energy and resolve into me than he could ever even know.
I took inventory of myself. Being depressed and crying was not going to change anything. Quite the contrary, it would only serve to work against me and all that I had worked for up until now. Definitely not the road to travel, I decided.
Jeffrey had worked his magic once again.
I found such comfort in the words that Jeffrey sang to me that day!
Before they left, Jeffrey turned to me with words wise beyond his young age:" Keep smiling, Mommy."
Fast forward twenty-four years. Many things have changed: Jeffrey is all grown up now.
He has always been there to cheer me on, to cheer me up. Even now, all these years later, I look at the wonderful man standing in front of me, and as the song suggests, I close my eyes and I remember. That's all it takes to make my world right again.
Recently, Jeff was married. At his wedding reception, he walked over to me, and put his hands around mine, much as he had done all those years ago at the rehab center. He helped me get up from the wheelchair and held me as we swayed to the strains of "That's What Friends Are For."
Because that is what sons are for.
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Editor's note: Donna Lowich is an Information Specialist in the Foundation's Paralysis Resource Center. Donna was spinal cord injured over twenty years ago and has since dedicated her life to helping others living with paralysis.
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