ELKHART — Suzanne Morris has always called her mother and herself rocks.
“Occasionally we may fall into pebbles but we’ll get back up and build into our rock again,” she says with a smile.
Morris, 22, has taken care of her mother, Elizabeth, since she was 16. Now a single mother and a full-time college student at Ivy Tech, she has had to juggle with her responsibilities, leaving her with “never a dull moment.”
Real Services held the annual Age of Excellence Award Luncheon May 10 at the Century Center in South Bend. Morris won the award of caregiver of the year for a disabled person.
Melissa Hendershott, Elizabeth’s case worker at Real Services, said she nominated Suzanne because of her attitude toward her situation.
“She is always willing, giving and caring about the whole thing,” she said. “She is always on top of her mom’s care, she is very organized.”
When Morris was announced as the recipient of the Age of Excellence Award, she burst into tears, she said.
“I’m not one that wants to be recognized for what I do, that’s just what I’m here for,” she said. “But it was nice to be recognized by people other than those who are close to us.”
Elizabeth, 43, was hit by a semitrailer about 10 years ago while moving to a new apartment. The accident left her epileptic and she began suffering of memory loss when Suzanne was 16. That was about the time Suzanne took up on the job to help her.
About three years ago Suzanne learned her mother is going blind and has lost sight in one eye.
“She’s just falling apart,” she said.
Suzanne does all the errands for her mother. She works on house chores and also goes to college and takes online classes to finish her degree in interior design. Suzanne said she finds motivation through her son.
“I honestly don’t know how I go through every day, it surprises me sometimes,” she said.
When she turned 18 , Suzanne moved with her boyfriend, but would still go every day to check on Elizabeth. As soon as her brother, Dusty, moved out from Elizabeth’s apartment, Suzanne moved back in.
Sitting in her living room, Suzanne looks at the award she received, which is hanging on her wall next to some pictures of her family and her when they were young. A second later her son, Liam Reecer, bolts into the room and asks if they can play and she asks him if he’d like to play with her phone. When asked if she has any hobbies or is a member of any organizations, she shrugs.
“My hobby is my kid and my mom,” she said. “I just try and make my mom happy, given the situation. She’s my best friend, she’s the only person I know.”
Suzanne started studying interior design because she thought of herself like her mother, who likes to decorate. One time, Suzanne came home with a box full of Christmas decorations after her mother had been in a depressive state.
“That just made her day,” she said. “I just love making my mother happy, that’s just what I do.”
Suzanne’s relationship with her mom is one of mutual love and care, despite Elizabeth’s complicated health condition, Hendershott said.
“I think Elizabeth is very appreciative of Suzy and all of the work she does.”
Suzanne has many goals, short and long-term. She wants to graduate, get and internship, get a job and later open her own business. She says she wants this to happen before she turns 35.
“I just always find myself being put in bad situations where I feel like there’s nothing that can be done, but we’ve survived,”