“When a child is born, so are grandmothers.” (Judith Levy) And in some of the most special circumstances, grandmothers often become ‘mothers’. This was the case for Marc Aaron Barclay. I had the privilege of sitting down with Marc and his grandmother, Winnifred, at Providence Healthcare. Winnifred is a rehabilitation patient here and this is the story about her unconditional love for a tiny baby, despite many unplanned circumstances.
Twenty-five years ago, Marc was born in Jamaica to a young girl. She was merely a child herself and hardly the age to take care of a newborn baby. Needing the comfort of her mother, she came to Canada to visit Winnifred, as a scared teenager with a tiny boy in her arms. Shortly thereafter, not understanding the responsibility of a parent, and having gotten into some financial trouble, she left Marc in Scarborough with his grandmother, and fled home to Jamaica. Winnifred immediately decided she would adopt Marc and raise him in our safe confines and peaceful country.
“In that moment, she literally gave up her whole life for me,” said Marc. For this reason, he treasured her more than anyone else in the world.
What made my conversation with him even more inspiring and proved the unconditional love of this woman for her grandson was that Marc was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at the age of seven. He has spent most of the time since in a wheelchair with limited mobility from the neck down. Grandmother, caregiver, nurse, best friend… those were just a few roles that this heroic woman played in the life of her grandson.
When asked to describe his grandmother in one sentence he said, “She is my Wonder Woman. She’s my grandmother and my mother all rolled into one.”
Recently Marc was faced with a complete role-reversal when Winnifred was admitted as a patient of Providence in July, following a foot amputation resulting from of a long battle with Diabetes. Overnight, she went from being his strong-willed caregiver, to a place of vulnerability. A woman who now needed his compassionate care.
He knows Winnifred is in good hands at Providence and schedules daily transportation to spend each day at her bedside, knowing she would do the same for him. He said in the month she has been here, the staff have made her stay so pleasant. Hopefully in a few weeks, she can safely return home. Then real life will start again. Two doting caregivers with health challenges of their own will make for a difficult journey. Marc is confident, with Winnifred being her usual pillar of strength, they will get through it together. After all, they have overcome many hurdles before.
“My grandmother and my mother. She’s strong. She’s my protector. She’s my everything. We’ll come through this together.”