Still Smiling

3 March 2019

Strong. Webster’s defines it as an adjective, “having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks,” or “able to withstand great force or pressure .”Everyone has struggles and trials in their life.But the challenges we face do not mean we can’t go on. They simply mean we must discover how we truly handle stress. Then we change because of what we have accomplished. But the only way to get through these rough times is to not only stand firm in what we believe but to also be strong in who we are.

I sit by my mother’s bedside, the dim light of the bedside lamp giving off an eerie light in the dark of the night. My grandmother leans over my mother, carefully and gently washing the stitches along her spine. I turn my eyes to my mother’s face. Her eyes are squeezed shut and her lip is caught between her teeth as she breathes quickly.

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I was sure she would cry; I surely would. Having surgery on your spine to fix two discs and then to wake up and find you had nerve damage due to a doctor’s slip of the hand, would have left me in a puddle of my own tears. I look away. She doesn’t make a sound, but I know she wants to.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a tea-bag, you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Roosevelt was right, in many ways, however not only women are like tea-bags. All people naturally keep a barrier between themselves and others. We use this “wall” to keep ourselves from entering situations that make us uncomfortable or puts us in danger. But what happens when someone or something breaks that wall, and you’re left exposed? This is what Eleanor was referring to as the “hot water.” The hot water is any powerful or intense situation that requires you to show your true self and how much you can withstand. Each person’s threshold is different.

My grandmother moves and begins to help my mother sit up, often a lengthy and tearful process. Tonight I move to help, putting one arm gently under my mother’s side and waiting. I watch as she takes three deep breaths, and then holds the fourth as she begins to move. My grandmother and I steady her, and help her to a sitting position on the bed. She breathed heavily, clutching the bedspread as her life support.

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t,” stated Rikki Rogers. Strength isn’t always defined by how many bench presses you can do, or how much weight a person can lift. Sometimes being strong means getting through the rough times, like losing a loved one or getting in an accident. Strength can come from the little things in life too, like finishing a paper you never thought you would, or getting an A on a math test you were sure you failed. All of these things, although they are tough to endure, make you stronger in the end.

My grandmother holds my mother’s hand, steadying her as my mother slowly stands. Her hand grips my grandmother’s like a vice, her fingers wrapped so tightly around her hand, I wasn’t sure if she was cutting off circulation. Slowly, they walked towards the bathroom, my mother limping and stopping every few steps to catch her breath. But my mother never stopped trying. She kept pushing forward in the coming months, getting better day by day. As Mary J. Blige said, “There’s so many things that life is, and no matter how many breakthroughs, trials will exist and we’re going to get through it. Just be strong.”

After a year,I noticed my mother smiled more often. Somehow she still smiled after all she had been through. She still limped, and she could no longer work at her job at the hospital. But her outlook on life did not change. She still loved her garden, and she continued to bake every day. She didn’t let a setback in her life stop her from living. She picked up from where she left off, and she made do with what she had. She showed me what it meant to be resilient; she defined strong.

Work Cited

“Mary J. Blige Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, MA:
Merriam-Webster, 2003. Print.

“Richard Rogers Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

“Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

“Famous Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 7 Nov. 2015.

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