The year I turned seven I overheard my mother discussing a child abuse case she was working on with my father; the little boy wouldn’t make it from the injuries he sustained. She said he wouldn’t let go of her hand when she went to see him. I regretted sneaking away from nap time. Until that point my biggest realization in life was that the tooth fairy wasn’t real. My terrible horrible parents had been lying to me all these years. They just gave me gifts under false pretense, how dare they. I cried when I realized my parents had duped me.
That weekend my mother cried also.
The summer came and we went to our family lake house. My father’s sister asked my mom why she did this work. “There are horrible things in this world but it doesn’t mean we all have to surround ourselves with it; we don’t all need a Christ complex.” I didn’t know what that meant.
My mother gave up her pro-bono court work when I was 11; my father lost his job and his family’s inheritance in a “bad investment.”
My grandparents disowned my family the day the story broke. My mom said kids would ask us what my dad did, but that it’s ok because children are just curious. We never got invited back to the family lake house. My mother got a job working at a call center and I moaned because I only got one CD for Christmas that year.
She got a new job my freshman year of high school, at some company called Planned Parenthood. It was so embarrassing when she’d take me to school too early on Friday mornings and I’d have to wait outside. After dropping me off she would put on her bullet proof vest, and pick up the doctor who performed the weekly abortions. Again, other kids asked questions; abortion became a household topic and I learned that most parents have candy dishes at their office, yet my mom’s office had dishes filled with brightly colored condoms. I was mortified.
She made me volunteer at Planned Parenthood when I received my driver’s license. One Friday when the volunteer staff was low, I was cleaning out the storage room and couldn’t find my mother on break. Turns out she was filling in for the clinic “hand-holder” that hadn’t shown up. When I asked her later on how she could do that her response was that everyone deserves compassion in the throes of life.
It’s the end of an era now though. That Planned Parenthood closed due to restrictive state regulations, and she got a new job in a different corporate setting. Now, here I am, sitting with her, holding her hand in the hospital with Mother’s Day approaching and I can’t help but think of all the hands she’s held.