I am the luckiest guy in the world. The reason I feel so lucky is because I was able to take a walk with my mother today. There was nothing unusual about our walk. It was just a simple stroll near my grandmother's home in Temecula, California. We cracked jokes about the names of streets and discussed her childhood growing up in suburban San Diego and how it differed from my urban upbringing in Los Angeles. We talked about my upcoming graduation from UCLA and my big move to New York City a few short days after. We also talked about what happened on February 16, 2012, the day my mother was almost killed.
On Valentine's Day, I was chatting with my mom over the phone as I climbed the steps to the UCLA Radio station. I was laughing hysterically at some long-running joke between my mother and me and lost track of time. Realizing I was a couple minutes late to the UCLA Radio News broadcast, which I co-direct, I told my mom I had to run. This worked out for my mom as she needed to look up directions to the restaurant where she was headed with her new boyfriend. I wished her a good night and she wished me a great news broadcast.
Two days later, I was getting ready for work when my phone rang. My grandmother was calling me. That wasn't strange. It was almost nine in the evening. That was strange. She asked if I had heard from my mother at all that day. I hadn't. When I asked what was wrong, she couldn't tell me. She didn't know either. All she knew was that my mother's ex-husband received a call about a woman who had been shot and was involved in a house fire. Using the fine research skills I have acquired as a UCLA student, I quickly found the story. On a local news site, a picture of the house I helped my mom move into just months before was in flames. After contacting the LAPD and figuring out which hospital a "Jane Doe" had been taken to, I rushed to be with my mother. Because we didn't know her condition, all we could do was hope that she had made it out of the house alive. She did, but she was in rough shape. All I knew on my way to the hospital was that my mother's ex-boyfriend was responsible for all of this.
My mother, Shaunna Heth, had been in a relationship with the shooter for several years. Last November, she finally called it quits. I helped her move out of their cramped apartment and into the home full of a few friendly, artistic folks. From the minute I walked in, I knew that place was perfect for my mom, as she is an artist herself. On that horrific afternoon just a few months after she had moved in, her ex-boyfriend lit the house on fire and went on a deadly rampage, wounding three individuals including my mother, and killing one man and finally himself.
My mom was shot twice in the face: once in the eye and once in the cheek. The bullet that entered her right eye has left her blind. The bullet that entered through her cheek remains lodged near her spine, where it will stay. My mother, being the optimist that she is, thinks that keeping the bullet there makes her a badass. She's right... it totally does. She currently has her jaws wired shut and has been enjoying a liquid diet consisting of soup and smoothies. Considering everything she has been through, she looks fantastic and is in the best of spirits. She knows it is going to be a long road to recovery, but she has mentioned on multiple occasions that she is simply happy to be alive.
On our walk today, I realized just how lucky I am. I feel lucky to have completed this past quarter at school. I feel lucky to have secured a job in New York City that starts right after graduation. I feel lucky to have such amazing friends and family members in my life. However, the reason that I know I am the luckiest guy in the world is because I get to walk around quiet suburb streets laughing with my mom. I'm already looking forward to our next walk tomorrow and all of the strolls we have to look forward to.
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