It was a raw, windy March day and I was leading four classmates to my house to hash out the remaining details of our English project. When I opened the door, however, I received a surprise. I had not anticipated my mother still being home and neither had my group members. Their faces turned blank, as if they were trying to hide their confusion and surprise. The previously relaxed atmosphere had become very formal and quiet. I had seen this before.
My group members had only observed my mom for a few seconds, but it was long enough to ignite their curiosity. I casually explained that the woman in the wheelchair they had just seen was my mother and that she has M.S. — multiple sclerosis — a disease that effects the nervous system. This is a fact I have relayed dozens of times throughout my life, and I thought nothing of it as I took my group member's heavy winter jackets and hung them up.
But one of the girls immediately looked at me and said, "Oh, I'm sorry."
I was actually speechless. Sorry? Sorry for what? No one has ever said those words to me before regarding my mother, and I did not know how to respond. You say "I'm sorry" when someone's uncle passes away or when their pet dies; only "bad" situations are deserving of the "I'm sorry" response and I have never viewed my mother's disease as needing to receive it.
I shrugged off the reply in a polite way, and we got working. But the moment my group members left I was alone with my thoughts, alone with the "I'm sorry" phrase.
Our family's life is completely different than others due to my mom's disease, but I have known no other way of living. My mother has had M.S. since she was in college, so I was born into a world with motorized scooters and walkers and extra precautions. This is my normal. And while other people may pity my mother and our family, I see no reason to be down. I could spend all my time harping on the drawbacks and my "missed opportunities," but why? I admire my mother and I am thankful for everything she has taught me.
This seemingly insignificant March day actually made quite a difference for me. I finally realized that you need to appreciate not just what you have had, but what you do not have. I admire my mother’s strength and optimism. Because of my mother I learned independence and responsibility while most kids were still watching Saturday morning cartoons. I balanced a checkbook by fifth grade, thought more consciously about keeping our house clean than most kids ever will, and was always willing to lend a hand. These lessons have stuck with me.
My mother’s illness has inspired by passion for science. I hope to study biology and medicine so that I can make life easier for people like my mother. Without her illness, I would never have discovered my dream of becoming a scientist.
So why be sorry for me? I would not trade my life for the world.