By Kara Richardson Whitely
When we pulled up to my mom’s house in Vermont for a visit, we instantly knew something was wrong. The lights weren’t on. Since I had been driving for the last few hours on our way from New Jersey, I had put my phone down on the console and didn’t look at it.
After I parked, I took a look at my phone to see four missed calls from my mother. She had been in a car crash. We drove immediately to the local emergency room where my stepfather, who was in a passenger seat, was being evaluated for a broken sternum.
My mother was fine other than being shaken and bruises that covered her shins from her knees to her ankles. She was overwhelmed that in just one moment her vehicle was destroyed. Thankfully the other driver was OK. It will all be settled in time. But phew. What an emotional visit.
As it turned out we were in the right place at the right time. My husband and I could help and be there for them when they needed it. We drove them to their appointments, and sorted out medical needs and outfitted the house for my step-dad to recover.
It felt good to help but at the end of that first evening I sat with a warm cup of tea in my hands with the awakening of how fragile we all are and how everything could change in an instant.
I have to admit, as a child, I had been resentful of my mom. I think those emotions encouraged my eating. As a working single mom, she couldn’t be on the sidelines for my soccer games. We didn’t have the fancy things other kids in our affluent suburb had. She tried to find love after getting divorced from my dad and I was often alone. I turned to food to cushion the feelings instead of working them out myself.
But now, as an adult, I realize that’s up to me to solve. I was the one who adopted the habit of emotional eating. It will be my life’s work to break those behaviors and thought patterns. To not eat every time someone in my family leaves. I had to become a mother to understand how hard it is to care for another human being (or in both of our cases — three kids) and to care for yourself. To take time to fill your own cup is something laden with guilt but it is so important.
But none of that would have mattered if the car crash had gone another way.
In this moment, realizing that I could have lost her, it was time to focus on her and how much love and support that she has given me over the years. To cherish my own body — which she gave me — and to take care of it as best I can. To be present and grateful for every moment I have with her and on this earth.
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