The older I get, the more I realize I'm turning into my mother.
I suddenly love the Winter Olympics, watching them every night, keeping up with the who's-whos and medal counts and even audibly cheering during a nail-biting finish of men's cross-country skiing. Yes, I was cheering for cross-country skiing.
Earlier today, I caught myself putting ketchup on my eggs that I made for lunch.
We (nearly my entire family) used to cringe when we'd see my mom squirting ketchup on eggs - and would tease her incessantly for memorizing the Olympic television schedule, keeping up-to-date on the key athletes and staying awake in middle-of-the-night hours to watch her favorite events.
Now, with ketchup and Olympics - and those are examples from this week alone - I realize I'm becoming a carbon copy of my mother.
Don't get me wrong, I love my mother dearly. She's probably the strongest, most determined, independent, smart woman I know.
I think she had to grow up fast, after her mother died when my mom was 16, and took on a lot of family responsibilities because my dad's job had him on the road the majority of the time. She put her career on hold to care for her children, to be there for them, and selflessly moved wherever my dad's job would take us.
I owe a lot of who I am - especially the parts I really like - to my mom leading by example.
Long ago, we nicknamed my mom "Bear." I can't remember exactly where this came from, but I believe it came from some form of "Mama Bear." I also believe it came from my mom's tendency to turn into a "bear" when the kids weren't picking up their stuff, listening to her or doing that whole list of things kids do to aggravate their moms.
Somewhere in high school, I was christened with the nickname "Cubs" - a mini version of my mom. To the best of my recollection, that nickname wasn't given to me because I was independent or strong or smart. It was given to me by my younger brother and sister who claimed that I was "just like mom" when left in charge of the house when my parents went away. (I don't believe they meant that as a compliment at the time.)
Still, I'm proud to be a Cub.
There are times, however, that being like my mom scares me a bit. Not a bit - it scares me a lot. It scares me not like horror movies or roller coasters scare me. It scares me to my inner being, a kind of terrifying fear you bury deep inside you.
See, I want to be like her in nearly every way - with one huge, glaring exception.
For the past 20-plus years, I've watched Rheumatoid Arthritis ravage and literally chip away at my mom's body.
It started when she was 30 with a sharp pain in her arm. Since then, she's endured two knee replacements and two hip replacements - in her 40s and 50s - and the doctors now have given the okay for shoulder replacements and surgeries on both ankles. If she wants, they'll rebuild her fingers and hands. (Virtually a bionic woman!)
The problem with Rheumatoid Arthritis is that is breaks down the joints to the point of replacements - then, finding that it can't attack the new, manufactured one, just moves to another joint in the body.
I remember my mom riding bikes with the family, painlessly going on family vacations, taking horseback lessons with us and even dancing at a fraternity party during Mom's Weekend at my college (not that long ago, really!).
I remember when her disease wasn't physically debilitating.
These days, my mom struggles with the most simple day-to-day activities. Imagine not being able to tie your shoes, reach dishes from the cabinet, brush your hair, cook dinner, or just get in and out of a chair. The list of can't-do's is long.
Really, really long.
Last week, someone at Daily Mile issued a challenge (sometimes I can't keep up with all the challenges out there!) to write a blog post about someone who's inspired you to run.
The list of people who have influenced and inspired me is long - check this post about how I dedicated each of my marathon miles in November - but near the top of that list is my mom. (I have often wished I'd written more about her on my marathon dedication post, but it was already getting long and nearly unreadable.)
She influences me by not only supporting me in ways she probably doesn't even know - passing along her mental strength, determination and downright stubbornness - and encourages me in her own, often unsaid, way to keep running and pursuing the things that make me happiest in life.
I'm including a few pics with this post - a family photo (sans not-yet-born baby bro) from long ago, a pic from my sister's wedding (although surely some of you think that bride could pass as me), a pic from the Finish Line of my marathon and the most recent family photo taken at my brother's engagement party a few weekends ago.
I can only hope that keeping up my healthy lifestyle and focusing on running can help me escape the disease that's taken over my mom's life.
Rheumatoid arthritis is genetic, so I don't know how much a healthy lifestyle and exercise can help me avoid it - fingers crossed that the genes I picked up from my dad's side of the family win out! - but I know that it can't make it any worse and, hopefully, could possibly lessen the effects if that dreaded day should come and affect me.
At the very least, it reminds me to appreciate every step I can take. And to keep going for as long as I can.
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