My mother is a single mother. As I was growing up, we learned to coexist in easy codependence: mother and troubled son. As a young boy of 10, I was bullied constantly at school and had little confidence in myself or my abilities. On the lacrosse floor my teammates had my back, but outside of athletics I felt like an outsider who only relied on my mother for help. I never spent time with any of my peers outside of school and sports. In my mind, none of them seemed to want my company.
Twelve years ago, my lacrosse team and I qualified in the Provincial Lacrosse Championship, a tournament of the best lacrosse teams for our age group and division located in Prince George, British Columbia. Between games, my mother, myself, a coach, and his son decided to walk along a local hiking trail trying to spot a moose. We didn’t find one. On our way back, my mother tripped on a fallen branch, breaking her ankle in three places.
Our two roles suddenly switched. When I saw her lying in the hospital bed with her ankle in a splint, I realized that I needed to help care for my mother. That I needed to be her caregiver until her ankle healed. The world seemed to close in on itself. Everything familiar and stable in my life melted away as I realized I needed to step up and make sure my mother recovered from her injury. Luckily, members of my community gave me the strength I needed, and thank God they did.
My mother needed surgery but couldn’t get it for three days. I thought I was going to be alone while she recovered in the hospital. To my surprise, I never slept alone. Teammates and parents volunteered to keep me company in the hotel room, I rode home with the coach and his son to Vancouver Island, and a family volunteered one of their beds for me until I could meet with family. I woke to their friendly faces and a hot breakfast. Just their presence and desire to help allowed me to sleep unafraid.
During all of this time, my mother spent her days bedridden and unable to walk or stand for long periods. All the cleaning, laundry, and cooking fell to me. I knew — even at the age of 10 — I had some big shoes to fill when it came to housework. Still, the sheer amount of work shocked me. I realized just how much work my mom did around the house for things to run smoothly. A teammate of mine volunteered to do yard work. Once each month until my mom recovered, he mowed and weeded our lawn. With his help, I learned that members of my team did care about me.
I never went hungry. My lacrosse teammates and their parents delivered homemade frozen lasagnas, pies, soups, and bread for us. For the first month of my mother’s recovery, we had enough gifted food in our freezer for all of our dinners. I already knew my way around the kitchen and often made dinner when my mom got home late from work, but having premade food helped me cook three meals a day for myself and my mother. For the first time in ages, I thought that people wanted my mother and I to succeed. I felt welcomed in a community I originally thought didn’t want me.
Some good things came out of my mother’s broken ankle. I came to appreciate what she does. The effort, care, and discipline it takes to upkeep a house with a messy pre-teen. I also came to realize members of my community were there to help, even if I didn’t know how to ask. Everybody seems to have some part of them that wishes to help. Before my mother’s broken ankle, I would have said otherwise. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to take care of and help my mother heal.