by Judy Reeves
I can imagine mom looking down on me today with a big proud smile on her face thinking – that’s my girl.
The day I told them of my goal mom uttered one word. “Scarlett!” her face conveyed the rest.
Dad daren’t or couldn’t speak.
I was seven years old.
Awareness that I was different from other children started at primary school. My parents sent me to the local mainstream school from the age of five. Children teased me because of my prosthetic leg – some shouted “bionic girl” or “spastic” others imitated my walk. I did everything with my good arm. Mom told me they were jealous because their parents did not love them, so I was a very lucky girl. It all still hurt, I wanted desperately to be accepted, to fit in, to be an ordinary little girl.
I did in time make friends who just accepted me for who I am.
My parents had no wish to hide me away, at the same time they realized they needed to be there for me, supporting me – they did just that. Mom and dad always told me I was special because I brought so much joy into their lives, they loved me dearly – to me that was the real meaning of the word “special.” There have been many life challenges – both physically and emotionally, mom and dad had great faith in me – pushed me to grasp every trial with both hands. They were there to pick me up when I fell, – psychologically, and, literally. According to mom, “There is no such thing as failure, just practice for the main event.”
Dad kept an emotional distance. He did his parental duties, made the right noises and gestures, I felt some sort of love from him – not like the love from mom. He was the quiet one, seemed to have an air of regret about him, or perhaps disappointment, sense of failure? – I could not decipher it. Mom spoke a lot about everything, dad kept it all very close to his chest. In my eyes they made a good team because of their different characters.
As far back as I remember, mom called me Scar, except when I had done something to annoy or astound her, then it would be a firm “Scarlett!” On those occasions, after a short while she would smile and all returned to being good with us. Dad held back from disciplining me. Mom maintained a positive mental attitude always. “Come on Scar you can do it.” rewarding me with great big warm protective hug. That has always been much better than any chocolate treat or such like.
Mom and I often had heart to heart chats when I became old enough to understand life and the world in general. She believed in, and instilled in me, the value of honesty, talking things through candidly. Everything.
When she was first diagnosed with breast cancer I found it hard to have those chats. Mom, remained strong. Dad withdrew further into the labyrinth of his emotions. I had not, could not, fully grasped the reality of the situation.
One day, mom sat me down, her eyes welled up with tears-she reached out and held my hands. That particular day, I sensed our chat would be different, mom’s whole demeanor had changed. Having only ever known mom to be a calm, centered, yet formidable woman, I worried. What was about to come? As a family, we had the difficult conversation about her cancer before now. Mom, cleared her throat, took a deep breath before speaking. “My special girl Scar, I need to tell you this now – the time is right. I want you to listen and understand. Scar, dad loves you very much, he finds it hard to show how he feels. He is a good man at heart. He has not always been the man you see today.”
Butterflies danced around in my stomach.
I said, “Mom you are great parents, I love you both.”
Mom spoke, almost in a whisper. “Dad blames himself though none of this was his fault.” She sighed deeply then continued. “I was seven months pregnant with you, we were coming home late one evening from a friend’s party, dad was driving. Neither of us had any alcohol in our system, me being pregnant and dad never really drank. God knows where it appeared from, we didn’t see it coming. Bang! Another car ploughed into us. I bore the brunt of the impact. The hospital doctor told us you had to delivered by emergency caesarian section. It was touch and go if you lived or not – you entered this world a fighter, a real survivor.”
I hated seeing mom like this, she had kept the family together, in a way she was the survivor. I found it impossible knowing what to say to her. I hugged her.
“The surgeons had to amputate your leg it was broken so badly in the womb, they could not fix it.” Mom paused for air. “Your arm was saved but you would never have full use of it.”
No one ever blamed dad but he has punished himself ever since Scar, though the driver who caused the accident spent time in jail. The judge summed it up as “Reckless driving nearly claiming the lives of three people, causing harm to an unborn child.”
“Six years in prison could never compensate for the life you have had because of that that ………piece of scum.”
Her face flushed with anger.
I listened, my butterflies danced.
She composed herself and carried on.
“We named you Scarlett, my idea, I love that strong feisty colour, never bland always bold, distinct, rebellious, the colour of survivors. As I watched you in that incubator fighting so hard to stay alive I knew you were my Scarlett.”
Tears ran down my cheeks.
We both cried.
That was the last time we were able to have our chats – mom’s condition went unexpectedly into rapid decline.
Dad stared blankly in Mom’s direction, fear and grief on his face – we sat at her bed, waiting for her to leave us forever. Mom by now barely recognizable as the mother and wife we knew. Our world about to be thrown into darkness, Mom, our light, about to go out. I hugged him and said “Dad, I love you.” He looked at me, lost, seeming so small and helpless. Sobbing silently, his whole body shaking my dad said. “Oh Scarlett my dear, wha, wha are we to do?
“Dad, you and mom have been the very best of parents. I love you dad. We have each other now, mom will still be with us though. Knowing her I can see her looking on with positive advice on everything I do. “Come on scar, you know full well you can do that!”
“Yes.” A vague smile formed on his face. “Yes, I can see her too.”
That day cemented the bond between dad and me. Although talk never turned to the car accident – between us it was all O.K.
I cannot say that life returned to normal after mom passed. A sense of emptiness hung over the house and our lives. Dad, over time, started to be more open and assertive. The icing on the cake came when he called me “Scar”, until then it was mom’s special name for me. Then I knew for sure that dad had begun to let go of his self-reproach.
Life without mom left each of us in different emotional places – at the same time uniting us in our grief.
Today, a year on, I fulfill my childhood dream, tandem skydiving – floating, soaring above the ground, free, the wind in my face, proud of myself, proud of my mom and dad. I am truly grateful to them for allowing me to be their strong, feisty, bright, adventurous Scar.
Mom, your light shines on.