Today would be my mom’s birthday. As kids growing up, it was obvious to us that there was something different about her. I tell people she had schizophrenia although strictly speaking I never heard that diagnosis said. In fact, I never heard any specific explanation for her unusual and at times frightening behavior. My dad was a very private person and felt things like that were best not talked about, even within the family. We were left to figure those things out for ourselves, and following Dad’s lead, we almost never spoke about it even with each other.
When my mom’s symptoms were more in check and we got to see who she really was, it was wonderful. She had a great smile and an impish sense of humor. She loved to sing and laugh and bake, to pick and freeze berries, to make donuts and to tease us for watching football on TV. “It’s just men who run and fall down,” she would say and shake her head with a smile. She had an uncanny knack for knowing each month just how much of each balance to pay to keep all the creditors happy, a skill that amazed my left-brained, logic-driven father who tried to take over the bill-paying several times and always gave it back to her.
Both Mom and Dad have since both passed on, my mom partially at least due to complications from the mental illness that undermined her credibility and resulted in a long delay before her cancer was taken seriously and treated by the medical doctors.
In large part because of my mom, I helped Tom and Nancy co-found HIKE for Mental Health six years ago. I say “because of my mom” not just because I want to help others overcome the pain and loss of joy in life that her mental illness and the stigma of mental illness caused her. I say it because she believed in me. She taught me the alphabet almost as soon as I could talk, and taught me to read and to love reading well before kindergarten started. She and my dad sacrificed for us kids and for our educations. She said many times, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” She believed it, and she made me believe it.
So tomorrow is my birthday. Yup, one day after my mom’s. Growing up, she always let me celebrate my birthday on the 20th and waited for the 21st to celebrate hers. Like I said, they always put us kids first.
So for my birthday, I would like to ask anyone who has felt a connection to this story and has the means to make a small donation to our #hikeOctober campaign.
If you can’t donate, maybe you can share the link so that others who might want to help can see it. There will be no hard sell and no follow-up requests. This is it. In a lot of ways I am like my dad and prefer to keep things quiet and private. But I have learned not to hesitate to ask for those who too-often can’t ask for themselves, so if you can help, I will be grateful for the birthday gift.
I #hikeOctober for my mom.
This article is part of our #hikeOctober campaign to shed light on the stigma of mental illness and to promote the benefits of hiking. 100% of the funds raised from this campaign will be dedicated to alleviating the suffering of mental illness and to wilderness trail conservancy. If you would like to learn more or add you voice to our I #hikeOctober… series, please contact us.
Very sweet, Leo.
Very well written, Leo. Thoroughly enjoyed your post.