Mother’s Day: One Family’s Story | AspenTimes.com

Mother’s Day: One Family’s Story

by Jeanne McGovern

I am a mother, and I can honestly say there is no greater joy in life than seeing my children smile — you know, that smile that's so real it shows in their eyes and brings out their dimples. Conversely, there is no greater challenge in life than seeing my children cry — whether it's because they are hurt, sick, sad or just downright exhausted. But I know, deep in my heart, that sometimes those tears are what ultimately lead to the smiles. My job is to raise my children to be kind and compassionate human beings; young adults who are ready to face the world that lies before them. I pray I am doing it right.

I am also a daughter, and my mom taught me every one of the things I wrote to be true — and so much more. There are no words to describe my love for my mother, so I will not even try. Rather, I will hug my mom tightly when I see her on Mother's Day and I will endeavor to embrace all the moments with my own children until I see her again. Every minute counts, when it comes to those you love the most.

So in thinking about how to honor moms everywhere in this edition of the Aspen Times Weekly, we wanted to introduce you to Jennifer Dolecki-Smith. Her story is about being a mom, but there's more to her life than meets the eye.

As we learned, Dolecki-Smith's 8-year-old son has a rare, life-threatening disease. Grady lives with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), one of the 350-plus types of primary immunodeficiencies that cause the immune system to not work as it should — only some 20 kids are born with this disease each year in the United States.

As a result, Grady is at risk for serious infections; in order to keep him healthy, Dolecki-Smith (and the entire family) has to ensure that Grady maintains a strict treatment regimen and avoids risky environments for bacteria and fungi.

The fact that extra care and consideration are needed for Grady — who attends Aspen Elementary School — can be stressful. Equally stressful, says Dolecki-Smith, is ensuring that her 9-year-old daughter receives equal attention. Add that to the fact Dolecki-Smith is a genetic carrier for Grady's condition — which she learned upon his diagnosis at 8 months old — and her role as a mom and caregiver can feel super complicated.

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But Dolecki-Smith has found that the struggles and experiences she and Grady have shared have made them closer — they have an incredibly special relationship and bond. And she wants other mothers who may be in similar situations to know that they aren't alone, and for all mothers to know that what they do each and every day matters in their children's lives.

Here are a few of her thoughts:

JM: What does it mean to you to be a mom?

JDS: It's everything rolled into one. It is exciting and rewarding to see every phase of your child's life. It's dynamic, and you say every stage is the best stage, and then you hit a new phase that is equally as exciting. For me, there is a lot of time and energy dedicated to being a mom, but I can't imagine it being any other way.

JM: What is different in your role as a mom when it comes to Grady?

JDS: All along we've tried to keep Grady's life as usual and consistent as possible with kids his own age, but with that also comes daily medications, shots three times a week to boost his immune system and so on. I guess I would describe this as some hard love; it's been a roller coaster making sure he gets what he needs but that he also feels loved.

JM: How does this affect your daughter, Nayanna?

JDS: Grady gets tons and tons of attention, so I have to be on the ball to be sure my daughter is getting the attention she needs and deserves. I find that when we get out of whack, we just have to straighten it out. I think the most difficult part of this juggling act — which is similar to any mom with several children — is balancing things, making sure everyone feels happy and loved. Our family just has an extra layer in this regard.

JM: How was the Aspen community supported your unique family situation?

JDS: The community has been just wonderful and supportive — especially the schools. Everyone takes into account what has to be done, and follows through. Aspen is a great community.

JM: What advice would you give to moms who are faced with a challenge — whether it be chronic such as Grady's, or just the day-to-day struggles all families come across?

JDS: Look at your own situation and do not compare yourselves to others. Everybody is different and we need to recognize and respect that. And take it one day at a time. If you look too far ahead, everything seems bigger than it is.

One day at a time …

JM: And, last, what does your mom mean to you?

JDS: My mom is one of the most giving people that I know; she is always putting other people first. She just embodies everything about generosity. That's the way I want to be, but also not lose myself in it.

OUR THOUGHTS …

My mom means more to me then is easy to describe. Having her in my life, even though she is on the other side of the United States, means that I always have someone to call, no matter what time of day it is, who will talk to me while I’m walking home about anything and nothing at the same time, who will calm me down, cheer me up or sometimes tell me what I need to hear, even if it’s not what I want to hear, in that special way that only a mom can. Of course, I think my mom is the best, and I’m looking forward to taking her out for our yearly tradition of mother-daughter afternoon tea next time I’m back home in the South.

-Rose Ann Laudicina, digital engagement editor

My mom has never relented in her love for me, though I can’t say she ever approved of every decision I made. She allowed me to stumble and fall, knowing fully well that I would, but she was there for me nonetheless. She taught me the meaning of loyalty and unconditional love, and she still does, no matter how grave the situation might be. I can only hope to bring a measure of her sensibilities and love to my children. She taught me right.

-Rick Carroll, managing editor

My mom means the world to me and I realize more and more each day the sacrifices she made for us. She is smart, tough, strong, forgiving and odd — all the things a mom should be.

Being a mom is the single most important thing I have ever been involved in. It gives me pride, makes me humble every day, my kids help me to see things through a lighter, more funny lens on a daily basis — they have taught me so much; more than I could ever teach them, aside from saying please and thank you. They make my life better for having them in it.

–Ashton Hewitt, advertising director

I am my mother’s favorite. My four siblings know it. I am also my father’s son. My two brothers and two sisters know it.

In the line, I am the fourth out of the five kids and the middle son.

The last time I talked to my Dad was on my mother’s birthday in 1997. “Here she is. Thanks for calling. Talk to you later.” He died of a massive heart attack, his third, less than 36 hours later. He was 56.

In the nearly 21 years since that day, I’ve watched as my mother made a new life, but the same life. She’s never been on another date. They met in high school in Detroit and got married shortly after graduating. He was all she needed and wanted.

As families did back in the early 1960s, they started their family and were blessed to have us first four kids in a window of less than five years. From my birthday in March to my older brother’s in July, the four of us are a year apart: I’m 51, my sisters are 52 and 53 and my brother is 54. And when I was born, she was 24. Let that sink in, millenials: four children by 24 and a fifth before 30.

My mother always has been a rock, through the losses and the gains. She was the mom all the other kids in the neighborhood wanted to be around. Our house was the epicenter for many of our high school friends, those who wanted the family and fun we had. We knew what we had was good. Really good. Really safe.

She has spent the past 20 years raising the next generation of our family tree without her soul mate. She now has nine grandchildren. They all have napped on a couch pillow that she needle-pointed her life mantra: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Come Sit by Me.

She is a strong woman, a person who always advocates for the underdog and the best for every person. She is the epitome of what she preaches: Be nice. Be nice to everyone.

Thanks, Mom.

-David Krause, editor

My mom, Marilyn, has been on the party circuit with me for a couple of decades now. She and I have had some great experiences together. She relishes in what she calls my “Champagne lifestyle on a beer budget” here in A-town. She became a permanent fixture here in the summers almost 10 years ago when she moved to Sun City, Arizona, and had to escape the heat. Conveniently, she would drive to Aspen instead of making the trek to the rest of the family in Minnesota who all have more than one-bedroom apartments. But I gave up my bedroom, slept on the couch and took her to all the best things because not only do I love her and like being around her, but she put up with some serious BS from me in my teenage years. So, I figure it’s the least I can do. Payback can also be sweet.

-Carolyn Sackariason, reporter

I am a replica of my mother, Kathy Stonehouse. I’m stubborn, I’m bossy, I’m weird, I’m a worrier, I’m OCD about some things. I’m also kind, giving, creative, open-minded, witty, independent, strong, patient and wonderfully weird. I couldn’t be more proud to be a spitting image of my mother. By no means are we a perfect family but she created and developed our lives in so many ways and I can’t thank her enough. I am so happy in life and a lot of that is due to her. I never questioned for a second how much she loved me and I appreciate her always pushing me to be my better self. I’m 30 years old now and I still call my mom and rely on her answers to get me through life. She’ll laugh and tell me I’m old enough to make these decisions on my own and I always tell her from the day she had me she signed up for this “job” of being my mom until we depart this planet. I hope to someday be half the mom that she is.

-Anna Stonehouse, photographer