Our special guest author today is Fran McDonald former Notre Dame football player and the founder of McDonald Physical Therapy in South Bend.
As in the past, I would like to share a story that has taught me a great deal and has had an impact on my life. The story begins with an argument between a mom and her 21-year-old son. The son had been contributing his summer salaries for many years to help his family pay their bills. At 21, he thought this practice should be changed. He thought the change would be no big deal, heading into his senior year of college. He spoke to his mother, but she told him that the family still had many needs. He was angry. His response to her was hurtful. He said that she didn’t know what it was like to work outside the home. She was only a stay-at-home mom, and with that he left, angrily slamming the door. He knew he was right about his request for the money and accused her of being close-minded and selfish. He went back to college for his last year at ND, and they were still at odds. Months into his senior year, his mother called very upset. She wanted to speak with him regarding a family matter that would change the life of their family forever. It was hard for her to tell him but she shared that his dad, his role model, had left home. With 6 of 10 children still at home, he was in disbelief about what he had heard. For a moment, his world seemed shattered, but then he felt, once again, that he had the answer to this problem. He would talk to his dad, reason with him, and all would be well. In his mind at 21, the answers to life’s problems seemed simple. Looking back, the answers weren’t that simple. He was very limited in his perspective and experience. Life became more challenging for the 21-year-old and his family in the years that followed.
When a crisis happens, (like this pandemic) one can choose to learn and grow from it, learn and stay in the same place or become bitter, fearful, insecure, and cynical. Learning and growing was the path this mother pursued. The parents divorced, and the mom held the family together. She started working in the sterilization unit of a hospital. When her last two children headed off to college, she herself, began taking some college courses. She continued to work full-time while studying and graduated with a double major in Social Work and Theology. After graduating, this mother took a job in New York City as a social worker in a nursing home. Her commute was 90 minutes each way. She left the house at 5:45 every day, took a train, took a bus, and returned at home after 9:00 p.m. most nights. She rarely, if ever, complained. She loved learning. She enjoyed her colleagues and her “family” at the nursing home. She later became the social work director and continued her graduate work. At 73 years young, and I do mean young, this great lady did something unthinkable. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from Fordham University. Her 10 children were there applauding her in Lincoln Center, New York City. She retired from work at age 76 and celebrated her 93’rd birthday in July. This “stay at home” mom who didn’t know what it was like to work outside the home, is my mother. The impatient 21-year-old son, obviously, was me. She presently spends her time continuing to be an amazing mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother to all of her children and grandchildren. She has taught me many things, and her example has guided my life.
When I think of the many challenges our clinic has faced during this pandemic, to stay fiscally responsible and continue to help as many people as possible during this very difficult time, I can’t help but think of my mom. During the last few months, whenever I thought the challenges of running a small business were daunting, my mom came to mind. It was during these times that her example gave me the strength to move on and work even harder to succeed. She demonstrated that hard work, faith, hope, love and commitment to family can help lead one from sadness and sorrow to happiness and success.
I have been blessed to have lived long enough to have learned (most of the time) from my blindness and impatience. As we age, we learn through experience that it is important to be open, humble, and caring to others. I have also learned that it feels great when we make a positive difference in the lives of others. There is no question that my mom has done this for me. I have also learned a great deal from my patients (i.e. whether it is as simple as getting the advice that kitty litter would absorb the 4 quarts of motor oil I spilled or as complex as lessons I learned from listening to a young 34-year-old dad who needed more intensive physical therapy after a severe stroke.) I only hope that the work we are doing in our clinic, during this pandemic has made a difference in your lives, and I thank you for trusting us with your physical therapy needs.
We hope you are all healthy,
Fran McDonald, PT, DPT, OCS