Jeff

After living at my parents’ for about a year, and working at the Fingerhut factory and other factories in Saint Cloud, and then ‘upgrading’ to an office job as a staffer at Becklund Home Health Care, I met Jeff. It was a serendipitous meeting, like many significant connections often are. A personal care assistant (PCA) named Dave came into my office one day, saying that he worked with a man named Jeff who needed some hours filled. He said that he was ‘private pay,’ which meant a higher wage. When I found out that it was $15 per hour, I could not pass it up. Sometimes the timing is right because I was burning out on being in the office and I longed to work directly with people again, which was my passion. It did not take much convincing to arrange a meeting with Jeff – a weekend shift at the end of June, 2000. I was 21 years old and Imani was 2 years old.
My parents had company from Arizona the day I started with Jeff, and the house was buzzing with energy. With my hair slicked back with gel, my nose and many ear piercings, and jean shorts and a T-shirt, I made my exit and got into my mud-brown Lincoln Continental Mark 5, which was like a tank, or a boat without sails on the freeway. This was a new chance for me and I felt deeply honored to be asked to serve Jeff.
When I parked in Jeff’s guest spot at his townhome neighborhood, and put the car in park, the shifter fell into my lap. Luckily it was already in park. Not wanting to delay my new assignment and being dedicated to utmost professionalism, I ignored my broken car and walked confidently to Jeff’s front door, ready to work. As I made my way across Jeff’s front yard, his mother, who went by ‘Mimi,’ said, “Oh, Jeff, is she ever cute!” She would remind me of that for years to come. When I rang the doorbell, Mimi opened it immediately, dressed in a red, flowing dress. “You must be Bridget,” she smiled warmly, ushering me toward Jeff, who was lying in his hospital bed in the living room. “Hi, Jeff,” I said, “What would you like me to do first?” I asked him. Both Mimi and Jeff were so charming, and their home looked rich. It was enchanting and relaxing to be there, especially with all the chaos in my life. I told them that their back yard on the neighborhood pond looked like the French Riviera, and they were tickled.
And because of Jeff and his promise of a stable job, I once again moved into my own apartment with my daughter and re-enrolled in college.

I Will Miss Those Days

I remember the days when I had Imani sleep on my chest so she wouldn’t forget to breathe, which happens with babies born very premature (14 weeks early). I remember the days when I felt my heart strings tugged when I watched her ride off on the school bus, and the joy I felt seeing her emerge from the bus when she arrived back home. And now are the days when she is galavanting around her college campus, becoming grown, finding herself, and making her way in the world. And later will be the days that I will miss those days.

Reflections on my daughter going to college

I’m both ready and not for my daughter to leave for college. I know she’s going to the best place, a truly wonderful place, where she will be able to spread her wings and fly. And I will be able to work on my empty-nester bucket list, that has been in the works since I became a mom at 18, and enjoy some of my own newfound freedom. I’m excited because I know that she will be able to chase her dreams, meet so many people from around the world, and expand her world. I hope that she will find her sense of home and community. All of my motherly worries are wrapped up with joyful anticipation into a giant knot of mixed emotions in my stomach. This moment is what I have prepared her for all these years: a successful launch into adulthood. It’s a time that has always been very abstract, that never felt like it would really happen. But now that it’s here, I attempt to process it. Although I know that this won’t really begin to happen until I watch her walk away from me – with more permanence than waving goodbye on the school bus to kindergarten, the first venture to camp, or those early play dates. She will be back, but it won’t be the same. In my heart, I know that she will carry my love with her, and it will be a light to help her find her way in her life and lead her back to me. She will always be my sweet, funny, curious, precocious little girl who taught me about love and life. That is why it is both so hard and beautiful to let go in such a big way.

Single Mothers Redefined

I met with Imani’s high school counselor today for some business related to her college applications. She said that she would not have known about a lot of her activities if I hadn’t told her because she is so humble. I told her that she doesn’t like to talk about herself. I do that for her, a little too well maybe. Then she said that I’ve been a remarkable role model for my daughter, accomplishing so many things as an independent woman. It kind of took me by surprise because I’m used to feeling like people think I’m inferior as a single mother. But she put a whole different spin on it. We should treat all single mothers this way. She didn’t try to tell me that she knows what it’s like, and make it about her. She just focused on our story, and honored us in a very dignified way.

My Daughter Is Going To College!

A couple reflections on today: instead of ‘disability services,’ if you have a disability you go to an office called ‘access services.’ This is a big deal!! The language is changing and becoming more inclusive, and less stigmatized. Pretty soon I hope we get rid of the term ‘special education.’ Because my daughter has partial paralysis due to cerebral palsy, and has trouble getting around (uses a crutch, walker, or wheelchair), we asked about how much time we should allow between classes. The staff was very helpful and said the time we allotted should be fine and that we can talk to the professors to let them know that a little extra time may be needed. The fact that she is going to college is monumental. When she was born, not only did I have the right to ask to keep her alive, but I was listened to, as a young, poor, single mother, with a child with a Mexican father. Then she had great care, and has had access to the best of education. The community has been truly great. And for this, we have many people to thank — for all of the work that has been done to accept disability, value people with disabilities enough to not only save them, but treat them with dignity and respect, forge inclusive medical care, community supports, and education, and so much more. The fact that my kid is going to college is a testament to decades of work by advocates. We are benefiting because of the work that you have done, and we are deeply appreciative and honored. Moments like these, where we recognize that our collective accomplishments really do make a difference, are fuel for the fire to keep the movement alive and growing. Let’s keep fighting for equality for people with disabilities. By now, most of us know someone with a disability. Maybe we are parents, siblings, friends, or neighbors. Let’s not leave anybody out, and let’s continue to level the playing field for everyone to achieve their dreams!!