l e only way out is through.







Do It Yourself, Mom. 

Thelma Zirkelbach  


My son's voice over the phone was exasperated. "I canít help you with this. You have to learn to do things for yourself."

I stared at the computer screen, black except for the ominous message, "Disk boot failure." I might as well have been viewing a human being in cardiac arrest; I was certain I was that incapable of handling the situation.

Instead of arguing with Michael, I said timidly, "Okay, Iíll try." I hung up and began to cry. Great, heaving sobs poured out. I felt as if my son had slapped me.

When my husband died, I told myself I was lucky to have my children nearby. They'd been my support when he got sicker, when horrible accidents happened in the hospital ó a lumbar puncture that paralyzed his legs, a fall from a wheelchair that landed him in ICU. They helped calm my fears when his Medicare coverage ran out. They joined me by his bedside as the end neared. During those first confused and lonely months after he died, they comforted me in my grief.

At first I leaned on them for everything, each small decision, each home emergency no matter how trivial ó a leaky faucet, a broken fence, a TV that refused to work. My husband, both a computer specialist and a fixer of all things around the house, had been my support system. Now he was gone.

But gradually I took steps on the road to independence: sold some property, found a financial adviser and an accountant, cleaned out box after box of old files. Didn't Michael realize how far I'd come? Apparently he was focused on how much farther I still had to go.

After I quit crying, I glanced back at the computer. Perhaps it had repaired itself? Of course not.

I picked up the phone and called Hewlett Packardís technical support number and spent two hours on the phone with an amiable fellow from India who cured whatever illness my computer suffered from. Then I treated myself to my favorite comfort food, coffee ice cream. And I made a vow that I would do as much on my own as I could.

Have I? Pretty much. I havenít gone so far as to repair an air conditioner or build a fence, but I've found service people I can trust to do jobs for me. I've handled other computer glitches, even fixed a leaky toilet. I've made decisions, hopefully most of them sensible. I'm pleased with my progress and the growth of my self-esteem. Independence is becoming a way of life.

You know what parents say when they set goals for their children: "Someday youíll thank me for it." (I had a high school friend whose mother said that all the time.) In later life, sometimes the tables are turned. So, thanks, Michael. You did me the best favor you could the day you insisted I learn to do things for myself.


A very special thank you to Thelma Zirkelbach for sharing her story with us. Recently widowed, Thelma is a romance writer, currently working on her memoir.

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