By Nancy Eckerson
Yesterday, I stopped by my daughter’s house for a visit. I try to get there at least weekly to see her and hopefully help my son-in-law.
I love Zoë dearly and try to talk to her at least two times a day, religiously. I call her most mornings and read her my four daily devotionals, urging her to expect a miracle and live in hope. During lunch, we spend half an hour on the phone with me telling tales about all that has happened since we last spoke.
It’s the best I can do while I am trying to make a living, trying to also be of help to my son, a single dad with five children, and honestly, trying to find the energy at 68 to do all I should be doing.
I ache knowing Zoë is lonely. It’s traumatic thinking of her as feeling isolated and sad. Some days she calls my phone incessantly. Her finger gets stuck on the send button, and she just clicks and clicks, sometimes reaching 99 calls in an hour. I’ve had to shut my phone down just to get any work done on those days, and that alone causes me great angst, losing all focus. I crumble with the utter futility of her situation.
Zoë has now amassed 12 years of increasing debilitation from diagnosed multiple sclerosis, which by the way, was preceded by 10 years of complaints and pains that were misdiagnosed constantly. She now lies in her bed most every hour of the day and night, with no use of her legs. Her left side is frozen, and her left hand is curled into a hook position rapidly approaching a permanent fist.
For about two years, Zoë was unable to speak. It was torturous for her to try to communicate with us. Even with the machine built to help, her hands would not cooperate to hit the right letters or words, and her messages were often jumbled. In the long run, it was her old sign language classes that proved her ally. I know our ineptness at signing back to her or understanding her was frustrating, but she persevered. Thankfully, the muscles have regrouped, and she is now able to speak more and more – a huge reason for hope.
I grieve what this disease has stolen from her, as I sink into a dark, fearful place that I don’t dare let her see. I go into hiding, even in plain sight. After all, I will be of no use to her or my son if I remain stuck in the “off” position. So, at home, I cry it out alone while searching for something to uplift me. Scripture, meditation and friends ease the pain, but I still find myself searching for a role model, too. Someone who sets the example of accepting the unacceptable and moving forward with courage and strength.
In a flash, it comes to me. Zoë, herself, is everything I seek. In her crippled and compromised state, she is incredible. Taking her “Rosie the Riveter” stance, her raspy whispers scream out at the top of her lungs “I’m strong … gonna beat this, Mom.”
Zoë is the epitome of power. She is strength, determination, hope, faith and love all rolled into one. If you open the dictionary to “feisty” you’ll see her photo (along with her amazing husband). Once again, I am determined to stand in support of her, taking up the gauntlet and joining her battle cry. I owe her that much. She’s the model daughter, and so I will be the best mom I can be.
Nancy Jo Eckerson, of Akron, has an adult daughter afflicted with multiple sclerosis.