Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. Maybe I just take it for granted. Yes, my grown children live with chronic conditions. No, I do not know what tomorrow may bring. As a mother, I will forever remember the days of yesterday, when technology and medicine was far behind what it is today. Life was a blink away from a door that scared me so. Instead, I slammed it shut so I would never know.
From the day my children were diagnosed, I remember saying to them, “Be thankful for what you have, it could always be much worse.” My boys were only three and six, back then. Before I knew it, they grew from toddlers into teens, morphing into young men. A dozen words that could have been a fortune cookie message ended up leaving a billboard imprint on their lives.
I was reminded of that time in my life last weekend while visiting the zoo. It was a warm and sunny day here in St. Louis. After such a long and frigid winter, it felt almost balmy. Like beach weather without the sand near ocean land. The gift shop should have been selling plastic pails with shovels to match the sunny day.
At the gorilla exhibit, I saw a magnificent Silverback weighing nearly 600 pounds. He was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Around the corner and under a tunnel of sorts, was a large Plexiglas window to view their outdoor living quarters. Children and adults alike could watch the ‘family’ who lived there climb wooden ladders, swing on ropes, dig in the dirt, or simply sit under the shade of the trees.
Directly behind the window sat a large gorilla with his head tucked under a blanket, peeking out as if to tease all who peered at him. Crowds gathered while children pushed forward to get a better look. In the very back was a young mother who pushed her son ahead, as well. I was off to the side, watching her. She was timid and shy, I could tell. Her son was a handsome young boy of about six or seven, I guessed. He wore jeans with a red cardinal baseball hoodie tied loosely around his waist. Atop his head was a snatch of sandy blonde hair. I saw them later and remember how it glowed in the light of the sun.
Like all mothers everywhere, she loved her son as much or more than any other one. She bent down to tell him so. She tried to push him several times to view the world on the other side of the plastic glass. The crowd would not let her through. Finally, an older man tried to help by making a path of sorts, enabling her to nudge her son to the front of the window. Seeing the big gorilla playing under his striped blanket delighted the child, making him smile with glee.
The young mother was happy then, standing next to her son’s wheelchair, where she brushed his sandy colored hair with the palm of her hand.
Yes, I’m lucky and my boys are too. Be thankful for what you have. There is a lesson here.