May 15, 2006

Thanks Mom (and Dad too)

So I went to visit my mother in the hospital yesterday. My mother, as many of you know, suffers from several chronic aliments (rhuemotoid arthritis, severe asthma and a colon ailment) that keep her hospitalized for short periods of time. Roughly every other month she goes into a hospital and is home within a week. It's exhausting for both her and my father as well as my sister (who lives nearby).

While in the hospital, I found out that my cousin, Peter, was also in the room right next door to her. Peter, three years my junior, has been battling drug addiction for most likely several years (heroin mostly). He nearly died of an overdose complicated by pneumonia--thus his recovery in the next room from my mother. Please send prayers his way and for all those who battle addictions. While drugs are a massive problem in our society we do little to empathize with those caught in addiction's grasp. Many of us do not understand addiction. Addicts are powerless over the drug that controls their lives. They indeed DO want to cease using but are powerless to do so. In short, seclusion and therapy in a treatment center is about the only thing that can break the cycle along with repeated meetings in an addict's group (like AA or NA). The brain needs to be re-programmed in some way.

On the ride home I talked with my wife about my troubled cousin and the rest of my extended family, many members of whom battle similar issues with alcohol and drug use. Many have children out of wedlock and faith has taken a back burner at best to other competing needs. Peter's mother, my cousin Maureen, brought Peter's neice with her. She's a brilliant child for her age and I'm praying that she doesn't get caught in the mix of this horrible fixation on drugs, sex, and booze that has captured many of my cousins.

I began to think about my own life on the ride back as well. I wondered why I, nor my sister, didn't end up addicted to drugs or alcohol when seemingly many members of my family did so. What kept us out of trouble's way? The answer to that question lies with my mother and father. Strong Catholics are they at 78 years old and they raised us to be the same. What's more is that they got me involved in many activities from a young age--perhaps too many--and even today I take on a lot of tasks and activities. But that's what kept me off the streets and also kept me within the watchful eyes of my mother and father who always played some role in the activities that I was partaking in. Whether it was driving me to a baseball game, camping with the Boy Scouts, or helping with the Altar Boys bake sale, they were always there for me. They also made sure that I went to Catholic school for 7th and 8th grade because they feared the public middle school. When I think back on it, I remember hating the kids at the Catholic school so much--but I know now it was probably the best place for me. Many of my friends who, shall we say, strayed from the fold, began to do so in Middle School. Cutting class, smoking, drinking, drugs, and getting pregnant can all tell the story of many an adolescence gone bad.

Yet my parents would have none of it for me. They made sure I went to college, they encouraged me to study hard, and they gave me a faith that continues to enrich my life--so much so that it is the base for my career.

So on this mother's day and merely a week after my father's 78th birthday--I thank them for being such good parents. It's probably a big reason why I long to be a parent myself. I had two great models who gave all they had for me.

What more could a child ever ask for?

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