Chicken Soup for the Soul: Always At My Back

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Always at My Back

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

BY: Wendy Walker

What a child doesn’t receive he can seldom later give.
~P.D. James,
Time to Be in Earnest

My relationship with my father is complicated. It always has been. We are alike in many ways and this only adds to the complications. But there was one time when it was simple, when I was just a daughter and he a father, and it is this one time that I remember with great affection.

I was in college, probably my freshman year. I attended school only two hours away from my parents’ house, so I came home every break I got to see friends from high school, or to sleep and eat free groceries. Occasionally, I brought friends with me. It was a great place to escape the many pressures of college and growing up, and to be someone’s child again.

On one break, I came home early to catch up with my best friend from high school. My mother’s sister was visiting, so I camped out in the basement bedroom — which was just fine by me because it made for easy entry in the early morning hours. My friend’s mother took us to a movie and we made it an early night. The house was dark when I came home, but David Letterman was still on. I watched some TV and then went to bed myself.

A few hours later, I woke up with a horrible pain in my gut. I didn’t know this at the time, but it was similar to labor contractions — only it didn’t come and go in waves of torment. The torment was constant. I tried to get comfortable and fall back asleep, but that wasn’t happening. So, clutching the walls as I walked, I made my way up two flights of stairs to the bathroom medicine chest. I scoured the shelves for anything that might help — antacids, Tylenol, Motrin. My aunt, who was sleeping in the next room, heard the commotion and came out to see what was going on. She had been a drug counselor at one time in her life, and had keen hearing for roaming teenagers. By the time she found me, I was doubled over and getting dizzy. She rushed down the hall to my parents’ bedroom, and by the time they arrived, I had passed out on the floor.

I woke up in the nearest bed with all three of them around me. They immediately began questioning me. Where had I been? What had I done? What had I eaten? Did I take any drugs (that one from my aunt)? The answer was, simply, movie and popcorn. They checked for signs of appendicitis and gave me some Motrin. I can’t remember whether I fell asleep again or just waited out the night, but in the morning the pain was still there, full on.

My father was dressed for work, but he called in to say he would be late, then bundled me in the car and drove me to the emergency room at one of the local hospitals. It was the usual scene — crowded, chaotic and filled with the distinctive feeling that comes from being at the mercy of a headless bureaucratic machine. We checked in and sat in the chairs waiting for our turn. The one thing about my father that is easy to understand is that he has never been a patient man, and this is especially true when someone he loves is suffering. I was far too distracted by my own pain to notice it then, but his patience was depleting as the minutes, then hours ticked by.

We made it, finally, to an exam room and that’s where the waiting really began. Seeing that I needed observation, the first doctor came, then quickly left us in a line for admission to a regular room. Only the line was very long. Four hours passed. My father came and went from the room as I lay there in fetal position, breathing through the pain and freezing cold with only a hospital sheet and my father’s coat to cover me. Out of everything that day, the pain in my gut, the eventual needle sticks and IVs, it’s the cold in that room that I remember most vividly. Eventually, I began to shiver and my lips started to turn purple. I needed to be admitted, and soon.

Typically, my father’s lack of patience resulted in, let’s say, fervent advocacy. But not on this day. On this day, there was no arguing with nurses or yelling at desk clerks. Instead, my father asked someone if they were prepared to admit me that moment. When they couldn’t give him an answer, he simply grabbed the bag with my clothing, draped his coat around me, and carried me — out of the room, past the hospital staff that tried to stop him, through the security doors, the room with the chairs, out the front door and into his car.

With me dressed in a hospital gown and his overcoat, he drove to a second hospital, a second emergency room. He carried me again to the admitting desk and within an hour, I had been admitted to the hospital for observation. I stayed there for two days, at which point the pain was gone and written off as a stomach bug. But that’s not why I remember the story.

People who know me well know that I am no shrinking violet. Had I been capable of removing myself to a second hospital that day, there is no doubt that I would have done it and that my father would have encouraged me to do it myself, taking pride in having raised a strong, independent woman. But on that day, I was not a strong, independent woman. I was a child rendered helpless by pain. I was a daughter in need of protection. There was no one in the world I needed more than my father, and he was there.

It’s not often that people are put to a test. Indeed, it is precisely those rare times that make the headlines — heroic firefighters storming a building, pilots landing planes under extreme duress, bystanders pulling a stranger from the train tracks. I can’t imagine any comfort greater than knowing there is someone in your life who will never fail to have your back and do whatever is needed to protect you. I had that in my father.

I am a mother now, and I know what it feels like on the other side of that equation. I can feel it inside me, this likeness I have to my father. Some of it presents an ongoing struggle. Lack of patience probably tops that list. But I gladly take it all to have that one thing of his that I can bestow upon my own children. There are times when I can see it on their faces, this knowledge that I am strong, and that no matter what, I have their backs.

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Chicken Soup for the Soul – The Long Road Home

Chicken Soup for the Soul

The Long Road Home

As I arrive home from college for the first time, I realize many things have changed—in my family and in myself.

BY: Lia Gay

I find myself packing again.  Well, let’s be completely honest, this isn’t really packing it’s shoving three weeks’ worth of dirty clothes into a suitcase and having my roommate sit on it so I can get it to close.

This time is different; this isn’t the same nostalgic trip down memory lane as when I packed before college.  This is the “night before my first trip home frantic pack.”  So you get the idea—my plane leaves in two hours, and no, college didn’t teach me to procrastinate.  I was experienced in that art long before I stepped onto my college campus.

So now that I’m packed, I have a minute to examine my emotions about my first trip home.  I’m excited.  My best friend, Matt, picks me up, groggy, for our 4:00 a.m. drive.  My expectations are that I am going home to what I left: my parents, home-cooked meals, friends with whom I shared distinctive bonds and my long-distance boyfriend, whom I have been dying to see.  I am happy at college, but a trip home, to my family and friends, sounds like just the thing I need to prepare me for the pre-finals crunch.

I think I will catch up on the missed hours of sleep on the plane.  Instead, I look around and realize that most of the exhausted passengers are students just like me.  Below us, in the cargo bin, sits a year’s worth of dirty laundry at least.
I miss my connecting flight, so I am later than expected.  I step off the plane to find my mom frantic, thinking I had been “abducted” on the trip home.  I look at her puzzled.  I guess in a mother’s eyes there is no logical explanation for being late, such as the obvious flight trouble.  I assure her that I am fine and that I don’t need to fly as an “unaccompanied minor” on the way back.
A few hours later, I’m back at the airport, waiting for my boyfriend’s arrival home.  He steps off the plane with the same groggy but excited look I wore hours before.  We drive over to see my dad, who seems calmer than my mother had been.  I ask to see my room, expecting to find my shrine, my old pompoms, prom pictures, candid photos of friends and dolls scattered about.  To my surprise, everything is gone; there’s not even a trace I had ever lived in the room.  I’m starting to wonder if I really had been abducted on the way home.  It’s as if the second I became a “college” student, I had ceased to exist.

I start to wonder what else had changed since I’d been gone.  My parents are in an awkward transition, wondering how to treat me now.  They wrestle with whether to treat me—still their daughter—as one of them, an adult, or as the child they feel they sent away months earlier.

I run into two of my best friends from high school; we stare blankly at each other.  We ask the simple questions and give simple, abrupt answers.  It’s as if we have nothing to say to each other.  I wonder how things have changed so much in such a small amount of time.  We used to laugh and promise that no matter how far away we were, our love for each other would never change.  Their interests don’t interest me anymore, and I find myself unable to relate my life to theirs.

I had been so excited to come home, but now I just look at it all and wonder: Is it me?

Why hadn’t the world stood still here while I was gone?  My room isn’t the same, my friends and I don’t share the same bond, and my parents don’t know how to treat me—or who I am, for that matter.

I get back to school feeling half-fulfilled, but not disappointed.  I sit up in my bed in my dorm room, surrounded by my pictures, dolls and mementos.  As I wonder what has happened, I realize that I can’t expect the world to stand still and move forward at the same time.  I can’t change and expect that things at home will stay the same.  I have to find comfort in what has changed and what is new; keep the memories, but live in the present.
A few weeks later, I’m packing again, this time for winter break.  My mom meets me at the curb.  I have come home accepting the changes, not only in my surroundings, but most of all in me.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Forever Changed

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Forever Changed

Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms

BY: Michelle Sedas

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.
~Rajneesh
 

On March 9, 2004, the day my first child was born, I became forever changed. As I held my newborn baby, I recalled a moment, nearly two years before, when I was hospitalized for a second time in my life for depression. As I stood waiting to be discharged, I vowed to get better, to never return physically or mentally to that place. It was on this day that I made a promise to myself to do whatever it took to overcome this debilitating illness so that I could one day be a depression-free new mom.

As I built my new life, I went to counseling, twice a week at first, and less frequently over time. I worked on my counseling exercises at home. I read uplifting books, exercised, ate well, and began to interact again socially with others. I started a new, part-time, low-stress job where I felt I was making a difference. Months later, to my delight, I became pregnant. And for nine months, in preparation for first-time motherhood, I continued to improve upon my mental state of mind.

Then the day came when my baby, Diego, was born. It was like a scene in a movie. The doctor set him upon my chest, and I looked in awe at this tiny creature who moments before had been nicely snuggled within my warm womb. I soaked up his essence, the tiny fingers and toes, the soft, damp skin, and something inside of me clicked. My old self faded away, and a new person emerged: “Michelle the Mother.” At that moment, I knew in my heart that those turbulent, depressed years were in the past. I was now a mother, responsible for taking care of a helpless, innocent baby, and I wholeheartedly accepted this job. My focus was now on providing the most wonderful environment I could for this precious one that God had entrusted into my care. I knew then that I would love this baby with all of my heart and soul, and that I would continue to keep my mind healthy so I could be the best mother possible for him.

As the days passed, I sang him made-up songs. Cheerfully, I woke up in the middle of the night to feed him. I gently rocked him when he cried (which was often!). I had fallen completely in love with my angel. Many of my family and friends saw the change within me. My mom said my face looked different. I “glowed.” “Michelle the Mother” was a title that suited me well. But as much as motherhood had changed me, and as happy as I felt, I knew that I was predisposed to postpartum depression. I vigilantly kept a check on my state of mind, doing whatever I could to stay healthy, allowing me to remain a depression-free new mom.

Becoming a new mother has proven to be the most positive, life-altering experience of my existence. While there are times when those clouds of depression still threaten to overwhelm me, my love for my children propels me forward. My two angels have rekindled my inner light and left me forever changed.