When I was in kindergarten I can remember looking over at an empty desk or mat and thinking “how in the world can they miss school” or “why do their parents let them”? It was never an option for me to stay home from school. Looking back now, I was only sick twice that I can recall. Once when I was four years old I was in the hospital in the middle of summer for pneumonia and then again when I was in the first grade when I got chicken pox during Christmas Break. Later I learned that I was exposed to the virus on purpose when my sister had chickenpox 2-3 weeks before I got them. When it came time for me to have my medical/dental checkups, my mother always scheduled them after school or she would check me out early from school…. and by early I mean she would pick me up at 2:00 pm when school let out at 2:15 pm.
Anyway, during awards day for the end of my kindergarten year the school gave out a certificate of recognition for students having “Perfect Attendance” for which my distant cousin, Tiffany, and I both received a certificate. To obtain this certificate, you had to attend school every day the doors were open and stay the entire day, or if you were checked out and it was after 1 pm then it didn’t count as an absence or have to be made up. I believe that was the spark that started the “perfect attendance fire” in my mother. It wasn’t like half of the class got this recognition, just the two of us. And no we didn’t get anything but a piece of paper, but it was a piece of paper my mother wanted me to have every year. So did Tiffany’s mom.
So year after year passed by and I still maintained the multiple years of perfect attendance, and without doubt, I received that piece of paper at the end of every year as usual. So did Tiffany.
High school started and I ate, drank, and slept cheer leading and gymnastics, especially my junior and senior years in high school when we started competitive cheer leading along with cheering for the football and basketball teams. We practiced for a few hours after school and then I would come home and practice more. I would do my homework and go to bed. My mother would wake me up for school and I would be so tired from practicing and studying that I just wanted to say “I’m not going to school today” or “I’m sick or tired and I’m staying home” but never did because I had to get the “perfect attendance” certificate at the end of the year. So did tiffany.
Graduation from high school was 6 months away, and yes I still had my “perfect attendance” record going in full force. My college advisors also told me along with my grades, it is a recognition I can proudly put on a resume and it is very impressive to the person reading the resume. So I continued on as usual.
In November of my senior year, I came home from practice and my mother wasn’t there, so I thought she was at the store or shopping with her sister. A little later that evening, my dad walked in and told me that my mother had had a stroke and that they also found Stage 4 Breast Cancer on one of the scans and that she was going to be in the hospital for at least a month. My dad stayed with my mother most of the time, and my sister worked night shift so I was at home by myself for a while along with going back and forth to see her in the hospital which was 50 miles away.
I was 18 years old and at home alone a lot for that month that my mother and dad were at the hospital. It was so tempting to stay home from school, but I woke up every morning without fail and went to school. Most kids would have taken full advantage of the situation and stay home from school a couple days, but it never crossed my mind. I went on to school, practice, studied, and to went see my mother as usual.
She came home and her life was forever changed as she was now severely disabled, and depended on others to help her with basic daily living activities. She just urged me to keep doing what I was doing and that she was fine and well cared for by my dad and other family members. So I did. I went to school every day and then cheer practice as usual. Soon football and basketball season ended, we competed in Nationals and sadly cheerleading ended and graduation time was here.
Awards day finally came and I received my last “perfect attendance” certificate. So did tiffany. But unlike Tiffany, along with my certificate also came $3,000 worth of scholarship money. My mother was there, unable to walk, watching me from the car on the outside school track for which we received special permission for her to do in able to see me get that last “perfect attendance” piece of a paper. She was smiling.
Twelve years of Perfect Attendance and Top Ten Academically in my class. WOW!!!
I was and still am very proud of myself for my accomplishments. Never once did I say in my head “I only do this for my mother” or “I only did this because she made me”. She made me believe I could do this all on my own, in her own quiet way. She didn’t program me, or beat, yell or threaten me to go to school, I went because I wanted too and I also had that moral of “sticking with something until it is completed to ultimate satisfaction” instilled inside of me. She never made me get up and demand I go to school, but I made the choice to go without argue even if I wasn’t 100%. I never argued with adults, it wasn’t allowed, and that is a moral that is not instilled in most of the current youth.
My mother wasn’t my friend, she was my mother and she played her role in rearing me into what I am today. She could have cared less if I liked her when she told me to get out of bed 10 times that one morning, she wasn’t there to be my friend, she was there to mold and teach me.
My mother and I became friends before she died. We shared secrets about boys and her life, but when she died she knew I would still continue with “perfect attendance” with or without a piece of paper or her.
She died during the break between winter and spring semesters. Even when she was in a coma, she wasn’t going to be a reason for me to miss college. She waited until the time was right.
I continued on with perfect attendance through my one year of pre-requisites for nursing school and then 1 year of Nursing School. ( You ask why one year….. that is another story ha-ha) , then when I re-enrolled in the Nursing Program, I again had perfect attendance for 2 more long, hard, stressful years and graduated second academically in my Nursing School class. It was easy, it was my nature. My mother instilled respectful morals in me that show through to this day. My mother instilled a healthy competitive nature in me and I never knew it until years after she died. I thank her for that every day.
Later on I realized I wasn’t in competition with Tiffany, but with myself to complete goals that less than 4% of the nation completes. It is a rare feat, but I did it. So did Tiffany.
Strive for your HIGHEST YOU!
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