Elusive Freedom.

I thought the only thing standing in my way was high school.  If I could make it to graduation, I’d be set. I was already 18, I just needed the diploma.  Then I could do whatever I wanted.  I wouldn’t need to answer to anyone because there would be nothing stopping me from making my own decisions.  I could move out, get a job, be independent.  I would never need anyone for anything ever again.

The final half day of school was a mix of emotions.  I knew I’d miss some friends, but the lure of my new life was enough to keep most of my feelings at bay.  My excitement won out for the most part and I could barely sit there and watch these teachers and school administrators tell me where to sit and stand and what to say.  It was their last day to do that, so I gave it to them, acting as respectful as I could under the circumstances.

I headed home to get ready for the ceremony which was to be held at the town football field a few blocks from my home.  My family, boyfriend, and a few friends planned to attend, then we would go to my grandparents’ house for cake.  I didn’t really want to be obligated to a family party afterward, but I knew it was important to them.

My mother sat in the living room, in her usual spot.  But the room was not how I left it that morning.

“Where did that come from?” I asked, referring to the wheelchair next to the couch.

“I rented it for tonight.  I can’t walk to the field and the parking is so bad. This will make it easier.  I’ll return it tomorrow,” my mother explained in her most casual tone.  It was just like her to be dismissive about something like this.

I went to my room.  My mother never used a wheelchair before.  Sure, she struggled to walk and used crutches, but she always walked.  Now, tonight, she would be pushed into my graduation.  She had never, not once, brought up the possibility of renting a wheelchair.

How long had she been contemplating giving up on her own legs?

The ceremony was like most commencement exercises.  There were tears and joyous cheers, heartfelt wishes for the best of luck in the future.  And just like that it was over.

A friend commented to me that she didn’t know my mother was in a wheelchair until she had seen her that night.  I mumbled something about not knowing about it either.

In the days that followed, my mother used the wheelchair around the house to go from room to room.  She never returned it as she said she would.

It quickly dawned on me that I wasn’t nearly as free as I had thought I would be.

linking up with my pals over at yeah write.

56 Responses to “Elusive Freedom.”

  1. ugh!! painful. and sadly, i relate.

  2. Katie Jane says:

    Brought tears to my eyes. As I enter my Senior year, I too am experiencingsuch mixed emotion, I have no idea what to think. Beautiful writing here; mental note for voting on Yeah Write.

    And don’t feel too discouraged! Every stage of life has different levels of dependence/independence. I don’t know if the ratio ever really changes…just the people and things we do or don’t depend on.

    • Thank you.

      The theme of needing others and being needed are running strong through my mind this week. Thinking about others on the brink of their futures does this to me.

  3. PAMO says:

    Life always seems to present us with challenges we didn’t know we would have to face. Thank you for sharing your story. It seems like there might be more story to follow.

    • It’s true, there is quite of bit of story before and after this day. Some of it is already on the blog (which is not at all organized, so I can’t even direct you to it). Much more of it is yet to be written.
      Thank you for reading.

  4. Jester Queen says:

    Oh how sad. That moment of growing up came so suddenly for you with the realization of your mother’s mortality.

  5. Zoe Byrd says:

    This brought up a lot of painful memories for me…Im surprised at how Im feeling right now…My mothers was mental illness and constant suicidality. It was her “wheelchair” I suppose. Every major event is somehow punctuated with her acting out in this way. Like your situation it really underscored how our former lives were NOT letting us go even if we ran. Wow…This was a real purger for me, Michelle…really sad story but so well done.

  6. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to feel like you are on the brink of freedom, only to have something like this pull you back to reality. Every year around this time when graduations are everywhere I also think back to my high school and college graduations, and remember the excitement mixed with sadness, nostalgia, and some other emotions that are too complicated to name. You captured that so well here.

    • Beginnings and endings always stir up a lot of emotion for me as well. And graduations in particular are something most of us can relate to and they are everywhere this time of year! Don’t even get me started on my college graduation… Oh wait, maybe that can be next week’s post :)

  7. Oh my, what a way to end the story. :( I can feel your teenage optimism, then the weight of reality settling down. :(

  8. psychochef says:

    Wow, Michelle. You told this so well. This piece is heart-breaking, but I still found beauty in it. I really enjoy your writing.


  9. Brilliant writing. I can see from the other comments how your experience resonates with everyone – it would make anyone realize this in their own life to some degree. You put this into a great perspective that sometimes it’s not our own fear that keeps us where we are.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Thank you! Fear is a pretty strong factor, but I think you are correct, even absent that fear, there are sometimes things beyond our control that can pull us back to where we no longer wish to be.

  10. Mamarific says:

    I can feel your frustration at having your freedom snatched away, when it was just in reach. Great writing.

  11. I really felt the change from elation and hope of freedom to the weight–of guilt, of responsibility. Oh, man.

  12. Painful to read, grateful you put words to the draining of hope. One more chapter in your much-awaited memoir. Hugs to you.

  13. IASoupMama says:

    I hate that feeling of life swerving for reasons out of our control. Hate it, hate it, hate it. But love you!

  14. dorothyadele says:

    Nice post but a sad ending. I wish you well.

  15. Your mom and her timing. Wowza. That’s intense and I am torn between sympathy for her and wondering why she couldn’t or didn’t ever frankly discuss these issues with you.

    • Yeah, my mom had impeccable timing. If I had a nickel for every time her inability to do things like a rational adult left me shaking my head and wondering why, I’d be very, very wealthy.

  16. Ahhh, Michelle, one of your best.

  17. Robbie K says:

    This is heartbreaking and beautiful. I am still waiting for your first book!

  18. Man, what a tough time to tie those things together.

  19. Cindy Reed says:

    What a night to learn that freedom isn’t what we think it might be. I think this is why I carved the word “free” on my ankle (in tattoo form) this year. Even if it isn’t true, I can write it on my body.

    • I look at the idea of freedom so differently now. I’m tied down, but not in the same way, not with the same feelings. And it will be true for both of us someday. In our tiny houses :)

  20. Ken says:

    It’s a strange thing how outside events steer us in directions we never really intended to go. I was going to be a mechanic after I graduated. (they still called them mechanics back then) Shortly after I got out of school, my dad broke his leg quite badly and I stayed on the farm to help him out. I just never left after that.

    You always have such wonderful posts. :)

    • I’d be curious to hear more about that decision (conscious or otherwise) to stay on the farm and what you think of it now, years later. I spend a lot of time wondering what would be different if certain things hadn’t happened, although that can be a dangerous thing.

  21. Such a poignant story — I really like how you juxtaposed your graduation and hope for the future with that of your mother’s. The only thing I can think to say is, “wow, just, wow.”

  22. This is beautifully written. I can relate to this a lot.

  23. Stacie says:

    MS is such a fucking bitch! So well done, so moving. I was looking for your memoir in Costco today but I only found inferior ones…

  24. Oh, I just hate those guilt trips, those desperate attempts to win the spotlight…. I’m sorry that happened, but I’m so glad you wrote about it.

  25. Joe says:

    Of course I don’t know the story surrounding this post, but it seems that someone didn’t want you to go.

  26. 50Peach says:

    Hugging you. Beautiful, haunting piece.

  27. This is very good. Deep. You have this way of revealing what happened in a way that shares that things were a surprise to you too. We’re surprised. You were surprised. It works.

  28. So, in a way, you just found out earlier than most of us, who still falsely believe into our twenties that A. we know everything already and B. we’re in charge. But I feel like you claim a piece of your own freedom with each memory you put in writing and let others read.

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