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My mother is a force of nature…goofy and adorably honest. From "put your legs up above your heart" to "squeeze a little lemon in your eye," I never know what she's going to say or where exactly she's moved the couch. Fourteen years ago, a dog followed my mom home. Mandy can barely walk, but she still lights up when she sees my mom. That's exactly how I feel, too. No matter what's going on, when I hear my mom say, "Hello?" in her quirky way, everything feels better.

After I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, I moved in with her. She drove me to my appointments and listened to me cry, as I tried to make sense of what was happening to my body. We made meals together. We mowed the lawn. We went to movies and started to talk. She let me swear and sometimes she swore, too. But more than that, she heard me out. We saw each other for our strengths and loved each other more for our vulnerabilities. With her support, I grew stronger and followed my dreams. I moved to Chicago far from my mom. We talk every day, but I miss seeing her face. The next time she visits, she'll bring me a gift. After rummaging through her purse, she'll pull out her middle finger and say, "Take that!" She'll laugh at her own joke as if she's never done it before…and I will, too.

Marlene Kelly; Chicago, Illinois


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