The American Dream, Strokes and Meeting My Mother.

My mother was supposed to be a stay at home mom.  That was my parent’s arrangement.

My mother made friends with the other military wives on base, where we lived.  She and her best friend, Vicky, were much ahead of their time.  She wanted to do more for her family. She wanted to look out for her kids, going against societal pressures.  She and Vicky joined the La Leche League, they led their own group.  My brother is not circumcised.  We wore organic cloth diapers.  We didn’t have strollers, she carried us around in slings close to her chest.  We coslept.  She gave birth at home, with an underground midwife.  We weren’t vaccinated.  She homeschooled all four of her kids for a number of years.  She was really, really fucking committed to this raising kids thing.

She would go on to start her own cloth diaper business.  It started out as a mail-order business.  She took out ads in Mothering Magazine.  She opened a small store front, in Maine, in a teeny tiny little town.  She employed a few women, Part Time, as business picked up.  She sold wooden toys, books, cotton kids clothes, and of course her handmade cloth diapers.  It only lasted a few years and she sold the business, along with her diaper designs.

From there she sold children’s books, through a pyramid scheme home business.  She was successful.  She quickly climbed her way to the top of the company and for a few years, life was good.  Her income was more than it had ever been.  We were living the American Dream.  They took her to conferences and trainings all over the country, paid for her, and sometimes us, to go on all-inclusive vacations.  She spoke at multi-level marketing conferences and conventions frequently.  She was Sally, Susie and Lisa’s hero.

She met a woman in Boston who worked for another book distributor and fell in love with their books. She wanted the best for us.  She bought the beginner’s kit so we would have a bigger home library.  Their encyclopedias were filled with vivid photographs.  The books were all library bound.

She mentioned the books to the VP of the company she worked for.  She was fired a few hours later.

She was, we were, of course devastated, financially and, for her, emotionally.  She spent the next several months struggling.

Eventually she bounded back, rebuilt a downline with the new company and climbed her way back to the top.  It wasn’t the same though.  She had gotten in at the very beginning with the first book distributor and getting to the top, while it wasn’t easy, wasn’t as difficult.  As the company grew, her downline and, ultimately, her checking account grew.  She had to get back to the top.  HAD to.

She worked a hundred hours a week, she stopped getting dressed.  She forgot to eat.  She only slept an hour or two a night.  She would come to dinner 45 minutes late, leave two bites through, eventually she stopped coming to dinner with us at all.

I resented her so much.  There was never time for us, her kids, the kids she was just trying to give the best to.  She stopped homeschooling us, stopped paying attention to what we ate or when.  She stopped cleaning the house.  She forgot to pick us up from soccer practice.

When I came out to her, at 13, she was typing an email and on a conference call.  I sat in a chair in her office for over two hours waiting for her to notice I was there and ask me what I wanted.  Her response was, “Go tell your father.”.

When my sister, at 17, started an online relationship with a 40 year old man, she was none the wiser.

A lot would go on over the next several years.  She did eventually climb her way to the top, the company sold and they fired all of their direct sales reps.  She worked for countless pyramid schemes after that.  She sold make-up, flags, flowers, wrought iron home decor, kitchen accessories, clothes, food.  You name it, she sold it.  Each time buying in, completely, to the company, to the product, to the incentives and distancing herself further away from her family.

In August of 2009 she had a massive stroke.  She spent three months in the hospital, recovering, followed by six months of at home care.  She’s paralyzed on the right side of her body.  She can’t take a shower alone.  She can’t get dressed without someone to clasp her bra for her.  She can’t cut up food.  She can’t open her Rx medicines.  She can’t squeeze lotion in her own hand.  She can’t hold her grandsons.  She can’t lift herself off of the couch.  She can’t speak in complete sentences.  She can’t open a bottle of wine.  She can’t use scissors.  She can’t…

She’s the most beautiful, patient, funny, generous, motivating, loving person I’ve ever met.  I wish I had known her when I was a kid, more so, I wish she had known me.

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