Moving Forward Series
Meena Dhanjal Outlaw
It’s 8am on the morning of Christmas Eve when I practically shove David out the door to pick up my daughter and bring her home so she can spend the night with us. Our youngest son accompanies him.
The quietness allows me to focus on getting as many gifts wrapped as possible.
In this moment I cannot help, but reflect how Christmas has always been the one holiday I deem as truly special.
Probably because as a young girl I saw my Hindu mother put up a Christmas tree every year.
In addition, she would bake a turkey she was gifted from the company she worked at as her second job every evening and all weekends.
It was a miracle to see this one time of the year be the forefront of enjoyment for my Indian born and raised grandparents.
It was also ‘The’ family Christmas with my aunts, uncles and cousins also joining us.
After my spinal cord injury I made sure this same sentiment was passed to my children in our own home.
Christmas is my way of making sure that our values have always remained the same even though I am different.
All I ever wanted to do for the past eighteen years was to make sure they knew no matter what form of a mom I am, I am their biggest fan.
My son grew up not knowing me before my accident seeing that he was three weeks old at the time.
My daughter had three years of me before I became disabled.
She also witnessed me fall to never walk again. Shortly after her Dad left and she forever blamed herself for my accident and the divorce.
It’s been six years watching her struggle to find peace. I have had non-stop prayers for her throughout this time. It was in the last six months that her situation became more peril. Her deep dark depression was truly taking her away from me, and nearly from this life.
Many parents have told me that children are resilient. However, her pain, like many children, only became transparent in her teenage years.
My little girl has never been the same again.
In fact, I have a photograph of her a few days before the accident. This light, airy beautiful young girl with dark brown eyes, jet-black hair on light silky olive skin with a huge cheeky smile upon her face, depicting the happiness we shared.
Then, there’s the photograph taken on the day that she came to see me at the hospital for the first time after that day.
The photo showed a beautiful three-year-old girl dressed in blue jeans with a white long sleeved tee with flowers embossed on the front. Slipped over that a dark maroon half coat with a hood and zipper.
It was January in Houston at the time of this picture. Her hair was braided on each side. She was looking right at the camera, but instead of this happy, vigorous child, there was no light in her eyes with her expression solemn.
As I worked hard to recondition my body and my mind, I made sure she also had a trusted psychologist.
Her school was very supportive since they had known me before and after. Therefore, they knew our story well.
I thought that little heart was mended by the time I married David, which was six years later. He certainly brought her the sense of safety and security every little girl depends on.
However, it was two months ago when I had received a phone call from her where she was crying, she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was my reaction, however, that had surprised her.
“How can you be so happy Mom?”
“Because I knew something was amiss.”
“So, what, you’re happy I’m crazy?”
“No, babe, you’re not crazy. You now have a means now to an end. For all the years I thought I had lost you, I too have hope now that we can begin again.”
It’s been a short time that she has been taking her medication. I can see a young beautiful woman at the age of 21 finally have a glimmer of light in her eyes.
Being a mom on wheels has always brought upon physical challenges. Just to get my children out from the car required me to think proactive.
In fact our mantra was, ‘safety first, then fun follows.’
This was the only way I knew how to be sure that they would not be in danger, because I worried what if I couldn’t get to them?
I had many nights of no sleep and missed many meals just tormented worrying about her.
Now she is safe.
My life has never been the same since my injury and truthfully, my heart is still healing. Thankfully, I can now feel a few more band-aids being ripped off.
It is through my sorrows that I have persevered. My pain is what has driven me to help me, so that I can then help my children.
We must remember that not all children are resilient from a crisis. Most, in my experience of helping others, is that they actually hide their pain to not feel even more of a burden than they already feel.
It’s Christmas Day now and two hours since David dropped her back to her safe house. Two hours in which I am recalling how these two days have been filled with Christmas spirit.
With all three of my children and my husband together after a long time, the atmosphere has changed from dread and worry to harmonious peace.
In two days my oldest son will turn eighteen years old. He’s the eighteen-year symbol of our survival and accomplishments.
Once, he was three weeks old when I feared that I would not be the mother he needed. Now I see I am my children’s perfect mother.
Yes, Christmas is and has always been the holiday in which I have seen the unorthodox come together, and the broken begin to really and truly heal.