Mom VS. The Tough Guys


This story starts with my mom, veers off into a seemingly non-related story about two tough guys and then lands back in my mom’s lap. You’ve been warned.

1: Mom – “It could be worse,” was a favorite saying of my mom. She would bring it up at the worst times—never with a cheery smile or Pollyanna comeback—just with a slight shrug of resigned acceptance. Sometimes she would add with a sigh, “oh, well.”

2: Tough Guy #1 – I met this guy who was in the trades. I asked how the year had been. “Yeah, I don’t pay attention to most stuff like that,” he said.

He stopped and realized it might have sounded arrogant or ignorant, and then made the following, even more alarming statement:

“My wife and I were hit by a drunk driver head-on when I was 25. I lost 95 percent of my blood and was burned badly. My folks were told I was going to die.”

He spread his arms out wide. “But I didn’t.”

There are probably harrowing details behind that, but he seemed in a hurry and I felt like it was none of my business. Before he left for to another job site he said, “I should have been dead 30 years ago. Nothing bothers me anymore.”

3: Tough Guy #2 – This other guy, a friend of mine is semi-paralyzed from a football injury, cancer, then cancer again, and following that a debilitating pain that saps his energy. He was scheduled for a surgery that would fuse much of his spine, stabilize his back and reduce some of his chronic pain.

“At least it was supposed to. I was all set for surgery, but I guess I’ve had COVID.”

COVID? How could he not know that’s he’d had COVID?

He looked at me. “I’m used to feeling crummy. I spend most of my day focusing on the parts of me that aren’t sick. That’s the only way it works for me.”

It seems the people who have best weathered 2020 have had some sort of worse event prior in their lives—something that made the pandemic pale in comparison. And while I would in no way say I am tough, I guess I have become tougher. I guess we all have.

I have come to understand that the very thing that has been a ceiling over my head for the last year is now the floor that I can stand on. No matter what happens, as long as it’s not worse than 2020, I know I can handle it.

And, the ability to persevere has left a bit of grit and toughness that will allow to me to face even tougher things in the future. My mom went through the Depression, lost a child in miscarriage, got arthritis and finally Alzheimer’s. When she heard the diagnosis, she took it with a shrug and said, “It could be worse.”

I think I understand her better now.

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