These little golden earrings I hold in my hand are a Mother’s Day gift from Indra, my only daughter. When I look at them, they remind me how far we’ve journeyed over the last 25 years.
I remember Indra at 17, a beautiful young girl, who left home because she thought she was a burden to her family. She settled into life in the Downtown Eastside, wandering the streets, mumbling incoherently, moving from one hotel to the next, self-medicating with street drugs to ease her pain and at the mercy of anyone who’d care for her. Finally, after five long years, she was admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward, where she was diagnosed as severely schizophrenic. On Mother’s Day that year, my hope was that she’d just call to say hello.
In 1990, Indra was admitted to Riverview where she was on a locked ward, often forbidden grounds privileges following frequent runaways to the city. Soon we were hearing about a deadly epidemic. Indra was not immune. By 1994, she tested positive for HIV and soon afterwards began a regimen of countless daily pills. On Mother’s Day that year, I was afraid for her very survival.
Fortunately in 2000, she was admitted to 24-hour skilled nursing care at the Dr. Peter Centre. She was a strange waif from rural Riverview, frightened of the heavy traffic on Thurlow Street and very anxious about the urban West End neighbourhood, where she would begin a new life, with the care she really needed, including prescription methadone.
What is Indra’s situation now? Last fall, she had a narrow escape from H1N1. She lay in St. Paul’s Hospital ICU on life support, each breath a battle. It was then I learned how truly strong and fearless she’d become over the years and how dedicated the staff and volunteers at the Dr. Peter Centre were to her struggle.
I am as proud of Indra as any mother could be. And this year, there are these golden hoops, little circles of completion, our long journey close to reconciliation with the loving care of family and so many others over the years. On Mother’s Day this year, I was filled with boundless gratitude.