I see you, Mom

Written on February 2nd, 2018

Your illness is invisible, Mom, but I see you.
I see you sigh when you sit down and groan when you stand up.
I see your muscles tense when too much is asked of your hands. I see the tiny bend in your toe, the first physical sign that this disease has taken home in your body — something the rest of the world wouldn’t notice that is painfully obvious to you.
I see the entire water bottle you must go through just to take all of your medicine.
I see the cabinet full of pill containers and supplements. I see the essential oils, the vitamins, the attempts over and over to find something to keep this at bay.
I see the fear that someone with the luxury of a functioning immune system will come into work sick, wreaking havoc on your already-complaining body.
I see the judgment of those who do not understand weighing heavy on your heart.
I see the mountain of insecurity that is difficult enough to climb without screaming knees and swollen feet.
I see the disappointment in yourself when your body refuses to work, the disconnect between mind and tissue, the chasm deep and wide and lined with shame.

But I see everything else, too, Mom.
I see you sprinting towards anyone in need without a thought given to the pain it might cause your aching legs.
I see those hands of yours — the ones that sometimes fail to function — changing lives and caressing hearts and writing a story unlike any I’ve ever seen.
I see your feet, toe deformity and all, paving the way for me and my sister, walking the treacherous ground first so that we may trust it’s safe.
I see you laughing on the floor with the dog even though you know it will hurt to stand back up.
I see you waking up every morning after far too little rest with a smile and determination. And on the days where you can’t seem to muster up any sense of confidence?
I still see you have more grace than I could ever fathom.
I see you doing what needs to be done — steroids, shots, everything in-between — with a sense of realism I know I could never embrace.
I see you putting the entire world before yourself even when your body is screaming for you to be selfish.
I see you smile at the sound of your cracking joints, focused on the potential humor of the noise instead of what it represents.
I see you wrapping your arms around each person you meet. Who cares if those arms are tired of bending and carrying? I see they are still strong enough to lift even the heaviest spirit.

And I see that you don’t see half of these things. You know your pain better than anyone else — but you can’t begin to know your impact.
I see you suffering. And I see you giving us all the strength to thrive.
I see the way you take this bitter pill — and all the others you are forced to swallow — and find the smallest drops of sweetness inside.

This Rheumatoid Awareness Day, Mom, I see you.