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Coming of Age

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All my life I’ve heard, “People don’t grow up overnight.” That nothing in the world can cause someone to become of age within eight, nine, ten hours. That, no matter how much someone may attempt to change their mindset, no one will beat Time and Experience when it came to being an adult.

I can disprove that.

On September 27th, 2013, at 1:02 am, Life called upon me to make a crucial decision. My brother and I rushed my mother to the hospital after she told me of bizarre symptoms, had her admitted, and anxiously waited for results. Zain sat near the back of the room, unmoving; I was pacing up and down the hall, agitated. I had figured – back at the house – that she may have had a small stroke; it would explain the tingling, weakness, and numbness of one side of her body, and the random tear that streamed down her left cheek.

I was correct.

“A minor TIA,” the doctor had explained, “And, because we couldn’t find anything in your medical history or now that would cause a blood clot, it was probably due to stress.”

The pill was a hard one to swallow, seeing my powerful, I-and-the-queen-of-my-castle mother laying, asleep, on a hospital bed with IV tubed feeding into her and a heart rate monitor clinging to her chest, just waiting to notify the nursing staff when something went direly wrong. I had been awake for nearly thirty hours, still pacing, when I got the call from my father, who was doing his best to go about a day’s work, scraping every last penny to pay the bills.

“I kids need to go to school,” – Right. I still had two little brothers with Retinitis Pigmatosa.

There – right there is when I grew up.

Summoning all that was left of my barely-awake brain, I survived the five-minute drive home and scrambled the children out of bed, unceremoniously tossed them into their clothes, and hollered the obligatory “love you” and “be safe.” Then, in three minutes, I packed what I needed for a week’s stay at the hospital in a book bag, tossed it into Zain’s awaiting car and was off to the hospital again.

I made it just in time to accompany her first day of testing.

My job was simple: be Mom’s shadow, and run our chaotic household. Everywhere Mother went, I trailed behind, chatting away on my cell phone about this-appointment and that-appointment, getting her in with this-doctor and that-doctor, scheduling home care, managing the boys’ school and homework, and making sure my Grandmother, who had beaten advanced breast cancer not more than five months ago, got her medications on time, every time. Then I would burst through our green front door and prepare what little I could for lunch and dinner, then bolt out of the garage door when Mom was being sent in for another test. (I am the medical mind in my family, hence my shadowing of Mom.)

Even now, three weeks after the incident, I cook, I clean, I vacuum, I do the laundry, and I manage the appointments, the doctors’ calls, the physical and occupational therapists. Keeping up with school – my own and my little brothers’ – has limited me to little more than four hours of sleep some nights; others usually yield little less than three. My days are spent running around high school, my nights darting between homework and housework; and on weekends I flutter around our family residence, prepping the house for another week of book bags, books, dishes, the dreaded dinner feast, teenagers talking with forks hovering in front of mouths, and mom laughing away at the end of the oval table, next to dad.

But, unlike most actors in movies, I don’t get an applause.

I get a “Job well done.”



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