Photo shows a woman who sits in a wheelchair with a head array. She has short blonde hair that is tinted in pink and she wears a pink t-shirt that says "Love." She wears blue jeans and her legs are crossed. Her power chair module in the foreground. Beside her is a young girl. They appear to be mother and daughter. The girl has very long hair. They smile together in an intimate pose.

Reversed Roles Parenting with Disability

LivAbility Magazine

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Reversed Roles

Parenting with Disability

by Cassandra Brandt


It’s Saturday morning and Haley, my 15-year-old daughter, comes to my room. We talk softly as she gives me my morning meds and empties my catheter bag. She brushes my hair and applies my makeup. As she dresses me we discuss school and her boyfriend. My brother, Efrim joins us and transfers me to my powerchair.

Haley is my only child and I am her only parent. She was 13 when I became paralyzed from the shoulders down as a passenger in a rollover car-accident. Before then, she travelled around the West Coast with me while completing school online.

The accident flipped our lives upside-down just like it flipped the vehicle. After three intense months of hospitalization and rehab, my brother, daughter and I moved back to our small hometown. As a quadriplegic, the lack of independence drove me insane. Efrim, a bachelor and a writer who had been living in New Orleans at the time of my accident, abruptly had a huge responsibility – caring for me, cooking and cleaning, and trying to still find the time to research and write. Suddenly he’s cooking for three instead of one.

And then there was Haley, fourteen and in eighth grade. I tried to allow her to do whatever she asked for: football games, hanging out with friends, nights with her cousin. Her best friend would help with my physical therapy alongside my daughter. Haley was stressed and depressed, and I wasn’t sure if our predicament brought it on.

I worried that she had one foot out the door.

 
She and my brother used to be close but now she wasn’t used to someone other than me telling her what to do. My brother makes it possible for my daughter and I to have our life together although it isn’t always easy

Life has gotten better. Sure, my fifteen-year-old spoon-feeds me and tucks me in bed. I couldn’t imagine a more reversed role. But what Haley does most for me is give me the desire to live life to the fullest no matter what.


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Now that I am not working, I cherish hearing every detail about her life while my former, able-bodied self rarely had the time. Haley brightens my world with her silliness, her sweetness, her seriousness. She has long been my friend and my daughter. We talk about the future from time to time. I want her to have a family and/or career, want all her hopes to come true. I just want to be close by, experiencing it with her when I can, as she once experienced my life with me.

Haley and I argue over school and grades and attitudes just like any other mother and daughter. I know she could just run out on me if she wanted, and there are many times when I am in tears and it is she that wipes my face and calms me.

I have met many beautiful quadriplegic moms online since my injury two years ago. We don’t need working arms and legs to be the one person our kids count on the most. They may see us in agony, but they see us as strong, too. They know we took on a hard life and lived it, still found joy, and always loved and encouraged them.

Tell us your story: Editor@Ability360.org

Photo Courtesy of Cassandra Brandt


Cassandra Brandt
Writer

Cassandra Brandt is a freelance writer with a BA in Sociology. A single mom from Arizona, she was a traveling ironworker before her 2015 injury which left her a quadriplegic.

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