I woke up this morning a little before 5 a.m. (thanks, Baby Adam!) with a lump in my throat. I don’t mean a metaphorical lump, but an actual sore throat lump. With my first dry and painful swallow of the day I thought to myself, “it’s okay, today is supposed to hurt.”
Today marks twenty years since my mother passed away. She died on Thanksgiving weekend, after an eleven year battle with MS. I have almost no clear memories of her before her illness, just a few isolated scenes, like one of her using a hammer and nail to open a hairy coconut on our linoleum kitchen floor. In another scene I remember holding her hand and walking across a big parking lot towards a toy store. By the time I turned six, she no longer walked. Shortly thereafter she stopped talking too.
Oftentimes I think about the fact that now there are treatments available that help people with MS. When my mother was diagnosed, there was nothing, and as a child, I desperately wanted to cure her. I used to think of us as two parts of an insect that had been kicked onto its backside– she the helpless body rendered motionless by the blow, and I those tiny, wildly kicking legs, trying, though they stood no fighting chance, to help the other half.
Twenty years after my mother’s death, I’m facing down my own autoimmune disease. I assume there’s a genetic link between my mother’s MS and my type 1, but that’s not something I want to explore, certainly not now. Right now I’m grateful that my home is quiet, all the boys and pets are asleep, and I can take a few minutes to think about my mother. But even if I didn’t have this peaceful moment at the keyboard, my body made sure to mark the anniversary of her death. I’ve been feeling it all day in my throat, with each and every swallow.