This mother faced the hardest test in her life. No, it’s not the test that you think it is. It’s the other test, and you will understand which one it is, only when you realize how well she aced it.
My mother and father were married for ten years before she discovered that he was having an affair. He begged her forgiveness and then promised he would never be unfaithful again.
Although she was devastated by my father’s unfaithful acts, she apprehensively gave him a second chance. She did so because she felt it was in the best interest of her three sons: she felt that we needed our father.
When she discovered that he continued the affair, what little chance he had at regaining her trust and restoring the marriage was completely destroyed. Realizing that she could take no more she kicked him out of the house and filed for divorce.
Though my father agreed to the divorce, and the proceedings went pretty smoothly, it was still the most difficult time of my mother’s life. The decision of custody was left to us, and we all chose to live with our mom. She didn’t have a job. When my parents married, they agreed that she would be a housewife and full-time mother. Although she finished medical school in the Philippines, where my parents had met, she wasn’t qualified to practice medicine in the United States since she hadn’t taken the ECFMG, the difficult cumulative medical exam that graduates of foreign medical schools have to pass in order to practice medicine in America. She did not have a driver’s license, because my father didn’t believe that she needed one. Because public transportation in the suburbs was almost nonexistent at the time, doing everyday tasks was very difficult for her. There were times when all four of us would hitchhike to Kmart.
Her entire family was thousands of miles away in the Philippines. I was five, my brothers were seven and ten, and we were not equipped to provide her with the kind of support that she needed. My mom cried an awful lot during those times! I remember listening through the walls of my bedroom at night, hearing her cry and repeatedly asking the Lord to help her get through this. After phone conversations with my father, she would cry uncontrollably. Each time I heard her, I would do what she taught me to do when I really needed something: I prayed to God. Prayed to God to make my mom stop crying.
Mom could’ve picked us up and moved us to the Philippines, where her parents were financially well-off. However, she wanted to be an American, and she wanted her kids to grow up as Americans. In 1979, I was in kindergarten, and my brothers were in second and fifth grade. They were in school all day, but I was out at noon. Soon after the divorce was complete, she registered for driving lessons. I went with her to every lesson right after I got home from kindergarten. After a few months, she finished the lessons, pursed her driving test and got her driver’s license.
She was getting alimony from my father to support the family, but it was only about one-tenth of what he was making as an anesthesiologist. She made use of the money, though. She bought a 1980 Toyota Corolla. She drove this little car to a facility that helped prepare her for that very important exam: the ECFMG. After ten years of not reading a medical book or gaining any medical experience, she decided to register for the examination.
While mothering three boys, she prepared to take one of the hardest exams in the world. For a whole year, she read for hours a day. She read book after book after book, and then followed that up by reading study guide after study guide. She went to Stanley Kaplan classes two or three days a week. She prayed, both at church and at home … oh, how she prayed. She was relentless. When it was time to take the test, we drove from Frankfort, Illinois, all the way to Des Moines, Iowa. A friend of hers, who had graduated from the same university in the Philippines as my mother, came with us. She was going to take the test, too.
We waited for months for the results to come in the mail. Her friend got her results first and she did not pass. When my mother’s results came in the mail, my brothers and I crowded around her as she opened the letter. She began crying. Then, fighting through her tears, she gleefully screamed, “I passed, my darlings! I passed! Now we can have everything we want. I am so happy.” I remember thinking after she said that, I do have everything I want, Mom’s happy again. From that point on, she began laughing and smiling a lot more, and she stopped wasting tears on my father.
My mother never had to preach the most important lessons in life. She showed us by example: how to get up after falling down, how anything is possible as long as you are willing to work hard. She showed us not to give up on love. Although, at times, love may fail you, if you keep trying, you will eventually find the one who is meant for you. After she became the woman she wanted to become, she fell in love with and married a man who is truly deserving of her. They remain happily married to this day.
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