Mirror Mirror on the Wall — I am My Mother After All
or "Four Generations of Strong-Assed Women"

By Dr. Patricia L. Bay, Psy.D.
Published in W Magazine, May 2010

My eye was twitching as I walked down the hall to the court hearing to testify. I was not nervous. My "go-to-testifying" power suit was comfortable enough. My fancy red pumps were not the easiest things to wear, but dang, they are so cute. My eye was twitching because I was trying to weather what would hopefully be the last event in a "perfect storm" of stress.

Just before I left for court, my mom called, said her dog died and was lying there in her apartment. My dad died a few months ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's. What I thought would be the end of several years of stress helping my mom and brother care for him became mounds of "death paperwork" — especially the forms for the military. After 63 years of marriage and on her own for the first time in her life, my mom moved into a retirement residence. It is an ordeal trying to empty decade's worth of stuff from her house. Her dog dying is just one more thing a series in of losses for her.

Three days before testifying in court, I awoke at the crack of dawn to leave for McCloud to teach one of my weekend couples' retreats. This is an intense, three-day event that requires a lot of energy as well as intellectual and professional focus. I love it!

That first evening of the workshop was wonderful, but I ended it to a 10:00 p.m. phone call from my eldest daughter and my husband. My 3-year-old granddaughter was in the ER in respiratory distress with pneumonia. She was screaming in terror as they tried to put in IV's and take a urine sample with a catheter. Understandably, my daughter and husband were upset and stressed. They worked with the wonderful hospital staff to comfort and restrain her. I sang her comfort song, Baby Mine, over the phone to help her settle down. It was horrible listening to her pain and feeling so far away.

Forever the survivor, my mom is doing great accepting all the losses in her life and the move. I love watching her laugh and smile for the first time in years. She would tell you that she comes from a long line of strong women who do what has to be done. I will tell you that my mom has an indelible spirit that reaches out to everyone around her and makes them smile.

My daughters are also made of strong stuff. My eldest is a single mom who works hard to make ends meet. Juggling a full-time job with a healthy three-year-old is not easy. Managing one with two weeks of chicken pox followed by pneumonia is more than a challenge. My youngest daughter is a military wife, whose husband is preparing for his second deployment overseas. She works and is completing her BA in Psychology this spring. Her patriotism is profound. Her strength is inspiring.

As the IV dripped fluids into my granddaughter's dehydrated little body, she felt stronger. I listened through the telephone as everyone in the hospital room roared with laughter. She had stood up on the examination table and stuck her tiny hand out in the "stop" motion she learned in preschool. "Doctor Lady," she hollered at the top of her lungs, "Stop. You are hurting me." Yep, she is the fourth generation of some strong-assed women.