By Jaime De La Paz
Photo: Scott Pacaldo
Children always have something to show off. “Mom look at this!” or “Dad look at that!” I’ve had a few moments like that, but I’ve had many more spent watching over my mom in case she needs help with simple tasks, like getting up from bed or getting a chair to sit in.
My mother has rheumatoid arthritis. It’s a chronic inflammatory condition that affects small joints in the hands and feet. She’s had this since I was three years old. As time progresses, she’s not getting better. Eventually all the bones in her body will start to shift. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this nightmare, only pain medication to deal with symptoms.
Growing up, my mother wasn’t like any other mom I’d see. When we would go to the park across the street from our house, she would automatically head towards the bench and sit. I would see other kids my age being chased by their mom or being helped across the monkey bars. My mom could only just stare from a distance while I played.
I would help dress her and there were even times I needed to help her use the restroom. Whenever the task was too much for me alone, I’d call my dad or my two older brothers. Eventually, however, my dad wasn’t there. He left Washington, where we lived, for California. He needed to find better work and help pay off the bills for my mother’s hospital treatments. My father meant the world to me. I was a daddy’s girl, so trying to support my mother without having him with me as I grew up was heartbreaking.
My two older brothers would help as best they could. Freddy is very sweet and usually did the cooking. Victor was more reserved. They’re both out of the house now and starting their own families. Freddy is a chef and Victor is in the Navy.
Recently my mom and I moved to California to be with my dad. Now that my parents are in the same house, it’s a better environment. But I still have to help quite a bit because my mom is still suffering. Sometimes it feels unfair to have a parent live with an incurable disease. Still, since my parents have been back together, it seems like her spirits have lifted. We live day by day, trying to give my mom a meaningful life with her family.