I always despised my family’s expectation I would become a medical professional. The majority of my family is in the medical field, not to mention my grandfather founded one of the largest children’s hospitals in the state. Those were shoes I didn’t think I could fill.
When I was growing up, my uncles, aunts and cousins on my mom’s side had everything, from perfect jobs to perfect clothes. My mom, brother and I were always the black sheep with thrift shop clothes and wallets thinner than my aunt’s patience. I didn’t grow up with vacations to different countries or getting the latest, greatest phone like the rest of my cousins. I was never bothered by that fact, because I was always around smiles and laughter and lots of people who cared and who made it feel like I had everything I needed and more.
When I was 7, my mom packed our bags and moved us to Minneapolis so she could take care of my grandparents while their health steadily declined. My weekends were spent at my grandparents’ apartment while my mom cooked for them and the nurse kept an eye on them.
There were only a few moments when I helped take care of my grandparents, but they left lasting memories. For some reason I absolutely loved taking care of them, being able to put their shoes on, pushing the wheelchair up ramps and feeding them orange slices. I also loved their stories of growing and falling in love with each other and raising a family.
After my grandparents passed, I became closer with my neighbor Birgit, who always opened her door to me, including the times when my mom had to call the police because her boyfriend at the time was drunk and violent.
When I first learned Birgit had multiple sclerosis , I didn’t fully understand why she couldn’t walk well or was always in pain. Almost every day I saw her fall and get back up and repeat. She could always get back up no matter how long it took. I always offered to help her, but she always refused.
As the years passed by and I sat at the bottom of her steps while she smoked and complained about the world, the more her disease progressed. The worse her health became, the more open she was to the idea of being helped. I began taking the garbage out and letting the dogs out, along with other tasks around her house. One night, she was so weak she couldn’t get up from the stairs; the woman who I thought could do anything couldn’t pick herself back up. Her wife and I both tried to help her, but she kept saying she couldn’t do it. She was out of energy, lying on the threshold and barely moving.
I wanted to cry seeing this woman, the woman who treated me like a daughter and gave me whatever my parents couldn’t, unable to move and wanting us to leave her there. She had helped me so much but I felt as though I couldn’t do anything for her.
All of my life I have been taken care of by amazing and strong people, but through all that I realized even the strongest have weak points. As I grew up the more, I began to take care of others instead of the other way around. I enjoyed every moment of helping others, including the bad ones. I never wanted to go into the medical field because of my family, but now that’s all I want to do because of those who treated me as family.