Do­ing the best with what you have

The Covington News - - Opinion - JACKIE CUSH­MAN

One of my mother’s fa­vorite say­ings is to do the best you can with what you have at the time. She should know. She was the first in her fam­ily to go to col­lege, grad­u­at­ing from Auburn Univer­sity in three years. She taught high school math­e­mat­ics at a time when few math teach­ers were women. As a sin­gle mother of two ado­les­cent girls, she en­cour­aged us both through col­lege.

While I was in high school, she dealt with her own mother’s fail­ing health. On week­ends, she drove two hours each way in Ge­or­gia from Car­roll­ton to Colum­bus to check on her mother and do what she could.

She has suf­fered and con­quered a va­ri­ety of ill­nesses (uter­ine can­cer, colon can­cer, gall­blad­der re­moval). She does the best she can with what she has.

This week, I had planned to join my sis­ter Kathy Lub­bers, and the 50,000 other peo­ple at­tend­ing the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Tampa, Fla.

In­stead, my sis­ter joined me in At­lanta.

At this par­tic­u­lar junc­ture in life, we have more im­por­tant things to do.

Our mother, Jackie Gin­grich, is in the hospi­tal once again.

Her lat­est bout of bad health be­gan in early July with pain in her back and her hips. Af­ter fly­ing from Brunswick to At­lanta, she was hos­pi­tal­ized and di­ag­nosed with a spinal frac­ture, then dis­charged. Three days later, she was back with an in­fec­tion. Af­ter a much-too-long stay in the in­ten­sive care unit, she was moved to the hospi­tal’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion wing. A few days later, slightly more than a week ago, she suf­fered a se­ries of strokes.

The re­sult: she was no longer able to move her left leg or right arm.

Yes­ter­day, as I walked through Emory Hospi­tal’s lobby to join my sis­ter and my mother in her room, I was struck by a rush of mem­o­ries: I saw the place in the lobby near the es­ca­la­tor where I had stood in Au­gust 2005, when her sur­geon told me that she had colon can­cer. The feel­ings of shock, fear, dis­be­lief and my blood leav­ing my body all came back to me.

On the way down the es­ca­la­tors, I saw the cor­ner of the lobby, near the win­dow where my sis­ter and I had waited as she un­der­went surgery a few months later, the day my daugh­ter turned 6. I re­mem­bered how afraid I was that she might die on her grand­daugh­ter’s birthday.

Pass­ing the cafe­te­ria, I re­mem­bered buy­ing my mom lunch while she was re­ceiv­ing chemo­ther­apy in­fu­sions. Would she make it? Would she re­cover?

I passed the ta­ble where I had sat with the pri­est from my church af­ter see­ing my mother. I re­mem­bered won­der­ing if she would make it through the or­deal.

Walk­ing into her room yes­ter­day, I looked at the white board. The usual in­for­ma­tion was there: doc­tor, nurse, tech, my name and num­ber, along with my sis­ter’s and aunt’s. In ad­di­tion, three items were lined up and sur­rounded by a hand-drawn box: MRI, Neu­rol­o­gist, PT. MRI in­di­cated the test that she was to un­dergo that day; the neu­rol­o­gist was sched­uled to ex­am­ine her; and PT re­ferred to phys­i­cal ther­apy.

Un­der the head­ing goal was “Get up.” “A goal,” Mom said, “is bet­ter than no goal. You have to have a goal.”

An enor­mous goal for a woman who has suf­fered strokes.

But she is used to beat­ing the odds.

Af­ter com­plet­ing chemo­ther­apy in 2006, my mom was so weak that she ended up in a nurs­ing home. As my sis­ter and I drove away af­ter drop­ping her off, we both cried, sure that she would not come out. We were wrong. Months later, she moved into as­sisted liv­ing, then back home. Since then, she has been driv­ing, go­ing to bridge, par­tic­i­pat­ing in red hats and in­vest­ment club, and count­ing the of­fer­ings at the church. She has watched her grand­chil­dren at bal­let per­for­mances, flag football games and hol­i­day pro­grams. She has vis­ited my sis­ter at the beach.

Yes­ter­day, how­ever, she did not meet her goals. Ex­tra tests had taken up her time and her strength. But she is de­ter­mined and does not give up.

As Kathy and I left the hospi­tal last night, I thought about all the goals that I have made over my life that I have not yet achieved.

Then I re­flected on all the twists and turns that life has thrown my way and re­al­ized that I have done the best I could with what I had at the time, re­al­iz­ing that while I might have to resched­ule and re­ar­range, I would — like my mom — continue to per­se­vere.

I have no doubt that to­day, when I walk into the hospi­tal room, that “Get up” will be listed again un­der goals. My bet is that to­day she will reach her goal.

If not, then pos­si­bly the next. Af­ter all, to­mor­row is an­other day.

To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man, and read fea­tures by other Creators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit

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