Mary Mezhlumyan: “Little Karen gave me wings”
Karen, 2 months old, fills the room with his loud cries.
Mary turns to the bed where the baby is lying.
On May 7, in Kapan, Mary Mezhlumyan had a son, Karen. The baby was born two weeks ahead of schedule. Mary says he came fast, just like she did. (Kapan is the center of Armenia’s southern Syunik Province.)
We agreed to talk to Mary for a few days, but our conversation was relegated to the baby’s sleeping and eating breaks.
The conversation is by video hook-up given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the country
27 years later…
On July 23, 1993, eight-year-old Mary was playing outdoors together with her cousins and went to a spring to wash her hands when the Azerbaijanis starting bombarding Kapan. A cluster bomb exploded right next to Mary, throwing her into the water. Mary says her arms just melted away.
27 years after the incident, Mary still asks herself why it happened. Over the years, she’s concluded that it happened to her since she could overcome it, while others might not have had the will.
For a year and a half after the incident, Mary stayed at home. She shied away from going outside so that people would not look at her. Her parents were advised to invite teachers to the house, to home tutor the girl, but Mary’s father decided against it. He wanted his daughter to leave the house and interact with people. In time, Mary overcame her complex of appearing in public.
After graduating from high school, Mary studied at the Kapan branch of the National Polytechnic University of Armenia, majoring in economics.
For several years, Mary had refused to wear a prosthetic. She says one was too light to accomplish anything and the other was too heavy and cumbersome. Now, she finds them inconvenient for holding her son. The good and practical prostheses, according to Mary, are quite expensive.
"I don't show that I'm upset. There are emotional moments at night when I'm alone. I remember what happened and ask why me. Maybe it’s because I was the strongest,” Mary said in one of our previous conversations.
She then told us about a neighbor's boy who has a disability and gets around in a wheelchair.
"When I look at him, I do not feel disabled myself. You must be strong, since whatever happens in life, human beings must bear it all. I know that bad luck is to be followed by good one, same as with the rain being always followed by the sun. Nothing stays the same. Life is too short for something to stay the same,” says Mary.
"Now I understand that I have become doubly strong"
Two years ago, on New Year's Eve, we were in Mary's living room, talking about this and that. The Christmas tree had already been decorated, and Mary, as usual, had a list of dreams to fulfill.
Now, Mary's dreams are tied to her son. She says that the most important thing is for her son to be grow up to be good person.
"Before Karen, I used to say that I was a strong person, but now I understand that I have become twice as strong. No one, nothing can beat me,” Mary says.
Little Karen has changed her life. The day passes unnoticed, feeding, bathing, and walking her son.
"Karenchik sleeps next to me in the quietest way. When he’s sleeping, you suddenly catch him smiling or breaking out crying. He seems to understand me,” says Mary, adding that she has been feeding Karen since day one.
"I already know who I live for. Before Karen I didn't live. Now, I live. I know why I was born, why God kept me so long. I was born at the age of six months and three weeks, weighing 900 grams. Then, I was bombed and lived again,” says Mary.
Before Karen and after Karen
Mary turned 35 this May.
She seems to have divided her life into two, before Karen and after Karen. Mary says that before she had a son, she wondered why there were so many difficulties, and now realizes that she had to travel down that road to have her son.
When I ask Mary about the difficulties she now faces, she immediately responds that she can overcome them all because her life’s main goal has been realized – she’s become a mother. She says that financial difficulties are solvable, and the most important thing is to be spiritually at peace.
Mary receives a monthly disability pension of 25,600 drams ($53).
To date, she has not been able to change her disability status which incorrectly states that "the cause of the disability is due to a childhood sickness”. Mary has written to countless various government agencies, but nothing has changed. She says that the law must be changed before any correction can be made.
"Karen gave me wings"
"People should look at me and then laugh at their own problems. When I look at how people complain, it seems odd. They don't appreciate what they have,” says Mary.
Over the years Mary has learned to make coffee and to style her hair by using her feet.
- I also cook, didn't you know?
- What meals do you cook?
- Whatever you say. I can't wrap dolma alone or peel potatoes, but if I use my brain a little, I'll learn that too. I also iron clothes with my feet.
Mary plans to do certain things on her own in terms of taking care of Karen but acquiring the skills will take time.
"But in any case, I need a pair of extra hands to take care of Karenchik," she says, adding that Karen's birth has given her wings.
"I dream of Karen becoming a very good person. Second, that he gets a good profession so that he can, like a strong mountain, stand at my back. I want to live a carefree life with Karen. Let there be a good work. Karen and I will be inseparable,” Mary says.
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