The Grownups Were Right After All.  Tomorrow�s Not guaranteed

The Grownups Were Right After All. Tomorrow�s Not guaranteed

A Story by pasnthru

 

 

Here is the scene. Happy couple are languidly walking hand in hand along the beach. Both are tan, lithe, fit, easy on the eyes, and look like something you see a lot on TV or in magazines. He's handsome, tall; she is petite, pretty, and along with everything else they've got, both are those people who even look great with wet hair. It's late morning and the warm August sun glances off them and everything else, but they feel especially gilded in the way only infatuation can make people feel. They continue walking, swinging hands. Then, oblivious to everything but one another, he raises the long muscled arm that holds her hand, and as if they are of one mind, she twirls effortlessly around under his expert leading, one, two spins, even in the wet sand. And after the impromptu brief and blithe dance step, grinning at each other, they walk on into the bright afternoon...

 

 

   I know the scene; I was that girl. Envious? Nauseous? Don't be; there's more.

 

Fast forward 15 years. Same girl. Guy is long gone. I am lying in bed, unable to move my lower body. Left hand is pretty much immobile too lately. Part of my body I'll not mention is on fire and feels stung like a thousand bees (the closest illustration that I can think of to describe the pain) due to nerve damage, they tell me. I have to ask my roommate (and dear friend) for everything it seems, and I worry constantly about taxing her and her family's patience with too many requests. Now I usually get around in an electric-powered wheelchair, but it's in the shop for repairs. Again. The hellish weather our long Florida summers inflict is finally over. It's beautiful out, not unlike the day mentioned above but cooler. I gaze out the window, longing to walk out there. I'm also craving a cup of tea but can't bring myself to ask for yet another thing. Without the "help" of a mirror I also know that my hair resembles Mayella's from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. I then give way to a rare meltdown for a while, complete with sobbing and the lowest of thoughts. (Never liked the expression "pity-party", although I guess it's exactly what I'm doing.) Time to reach for a book that I know will produce least a snicker or two out of me, or the Psalms, or the many other uplifting Bible passages to try and get through, but right now even these are not helping.

 

 

 

   It's not a good day.

 

 

   Depressed? Feeling pity too? I encourage you to read on anyway. There's more. It ain't over yet

 

 

   11 years ago, like some unwitting live board game piece, I found myself suddenly placed on a road I didn't want or plan to go down, thank you just the same. In 1997 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. What I knew about that (or any other malady worse than a paper cut) could fit on the head of, well, a tack, just slightly more than the old pin analogy. It is now, meaning 2008, and here I am, haven't been able to walk since 2002. A lot of other unpleasant physical stuff is going on too. I rely on aforementioned battery-run wheelchair to get around. And yes, at times the wheelchair will break, whereupon I'm confined to having to be pushed around in a manual wheelchair or lying in bed while I wait out the paperwork and other red tape it takes to get my conveyance fixed. It's then I realize I'm really helpless, and have to pretty much ask for everything, which, as you've probably guessed by now, I hate.

 

 

   Most of the life-changing events of the past 11 years unfolded gradually, giving me time to adjust. Other drastic life changes have been distinct, sudden and sharp in memory as though they happened minutes ago. When I lost my mother in December 2000 to a very unexpected heart attack, it was then my world really came crashing down around my ears. Made the whole ms thing seem like a stain on dark clothing, at least on the Scale of Bad Events. Others like the years from '03 to '05 are a blur, due to pain and the drugs I took to try to get the edge off. In the past 8 years or so I've had more humiliating experiences than I would ever care to relate, even if I could remember them all. I think I may have blocked some of them out. Stuff that nobody wants to go through, such as being picked up naked and wet by firemen, while clinging desperately to a towel because I fell again while trying to get out of the shower. In 2004, I lost my dear father, after his long fight with the various afflictions old age sometimes brings. And somewhere in those same years, lost 3 beloved cats, who were like children to me (in a way that sometimes only other animal lovers know). You could say I've had myself a time of it. (Southern parlance.)

 

 

   Like anyone who has a story to tell, I'm writing this to all willing to read it of course. However there is a less willing segment of readers I particularly want to reach, and am not sure how. They are people like the person I once was pretty much from the time I entered adulthood till my late 40s before suffering, Real Suffering, that is, slowly transformed me into someone else. I actually remember and will admit to a time when suffering to me was when a store did not have my size in an outfit I liked. I wish I were kidding.

 

 

   I always knew there were ill and disabled people around. As anyone has learned by the time they're young adults (and some unfortunately well before that) there is a large division of this world's population that is Really Suffering. I also made up my mind at a young age that I wanted to stay as far away from all that side of life as possible. That seemed to me, and was then, a far-off, world. And this is why I didn't put this story under any Health subtitle or category. Because this kind of person, the person I used to be, the person I most want to read this, would ironically not be interested in anything regarding that subject. Health for him or her (and the person I was) and many other fortunate folks is not only a nonissue, (but a big yawn as far as I was concerned). All I cared about was finding a husband and carving out some kind of career that I could live on, so better get out of my way while I pursue both rigorously. The husband thing hasn't worked out. The career thing did. In the late '80s I discovered computer graphics and I was off and running.

 

 

   (Actually I have to say here that I still don't gravitate much to health-related topics.)

 

 

   Life as I knew it started to slowly fall apart in 1997. It was fall, my favorite season. I had just broken off an engagement, (not the guy I mentioned earlier; that one got away). I was feeling much more relieved than anything else. Getting on with life. But marring my gladness about just barely escaping a bad marriage was the fact that it was getting impossible to ignore weird things my body had been doing. Like any good Queen of Denial worth her scepter, I had been pushing out of my mind certain things such as legs sometimes not cooperating, workouts getting harder, etc. for more than a year. But finally, off to a doctor a co-worker recommended I made myself go, stumbling into his office one day on my lunch hour. And following that being promptly sent to a neurologist (even this Q of D's alarm rate went up then). After a long, boring, bewildering, even bizarre bunch of tests (wonder how they come up with some of this stuff?!) ended up being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

 

 

   After answering the doctor's questions as well as I could in my by then confused state, her prognosis was that I had the progressive kind of ms, the kind that slowly accelerates in severity. What I decided to do the evening I got the news was get drunk. I called my friend Patty, the second only friend on earth I had confided in about the whole thing and told her. I also told her the only thing I could think of that I wanted to do. As we were climbing the fairly long flight of stairs to the watering hole section of the 2- story restaurant we went to, I remember thinking, "I wonder how long I'll be able to climb stairs like this." For some reason, that's one of the sharper memories I mentioned above. I also remember determining as I stiffly lumbered up those same stairs that in a few moments I planned to get so snockered I would not muse on what more the future might bring, or hopefully much of anything else, for that matter.

 

 

   And so we did. Happy Hour kept the margaritas coming, and it was fun for a while. I vaguely remember Patty driving me home; now when I think of that evening I marvel on how very short it seemed. Sometimes I wish it had lasted 11 years, and in fact was still going on...

    As anyone who's done it knows, the trouble with getting good and blotto to forget a certain monster for a while is of course the morning after. You inevitably wake up and everything's back pretty much the same as it was. The Thing never really went away, it turns out, and what now supersedes everything else on your calendar is to Cope. (Added to that may be the extra letdown of physically not feeling so great for a while.) And the hardest part about my own morning after, in fact, one of the hardest things I ever did in my life was telling my mother, who was my best friend. I had already reluctantly 'fessed up to her earlier about all the tests, the stumbling, etc. But all that leads to the topic of my relationship with my mom, and is for another story, (maybe).* Suffice it to say, she went on antidepressants.

 

 

 

 

   I've learned enough to fill volumes, as the saying goes, as people whose lives change drastically often do, whether they want to or not. Surprisingly, especially to my own self, the person forged on the hot anvil I am attempting to describe is slowly turning out to be someone that I, (and I like to think) God, and everyone else likes more, less proud, haughty, less concerned with things that don't really matter, more compassionate and patient. Someone a little prettier at least on the inside, where it really matters, I finally learned. Sigh. Just like my parents used to say (to a pair of deaf female ears, I'm afraid).

 

 

   What I most want to emphasize are three things: "no, Tomorrow Really isn't Guaranteed", not to anyone. The parental units and other older people were right. This article is not about health, except how it has affected me. It's really about how life can up and change on you, while you're making other plans, for some, suddenly and drastically. I've been one of the luckier ones in that for me life at least changed gradually albeit drastically, and a bit later down the road. I was in my early forties when life started to change contrary to my plans. I had by then lived, loved, danced, and done many things I'd set out to do. As for the second and no less emphatic point: if you will permit me to be a nag for just a moment, I urge you now to forgive that person or people (or yourself), go on that cruise with your parent(s), hang on to that basically good man/woman who isn't looking so good right now, put down the laptop and play with your kids. Get out of debt. You get the idea. I call it Regret Prevention, and it's only now I have learned to strongly recommend it.

     The third thing I want to point out is a discovery I slowly have made. No, I no longer have the hot size 2-4 figure, the boyfriend, the snazzy sports car, or the luxury apartment. The majority of my now greatly scaled-down wardrobe comes from Wal-Mart and thrift stores rather than Ann Taylor. The well-paying job in the corporate world with the fancy (for me) title is long gone. I had to resign 7 years ago when it just got physically too difficult to work there anymore. Almost all of the "friends" I thought I had faded away once that happened. No, I don't like any of it. But the discovery is that I wouldn't go back and be that girl again. Even in the first paragraph of this story. Not really. (OK, sometimes on bad days, I confess I do want to relive that moment.) But that girl's gone. Not all of her, admittedly, but someone else is being formed and is here now. What has been and is still being hammered into shape through the Suffering Mill is turning out not so bad. I like this person more. I have slowly learned to lovingly, without judgment, grieve the loss of the other girl less and less, and finally say goodbye.

 

 

   This article was never meant to convey gloom, despite some of the subject matter. Maybe I can parlay these final paragraphs into the brighter note intended. I cannot wrap all this up without writing about the good that's come from all this. Yes, I finally noticed there are people much worse off. I certainly have a better, more loyal (albeit fewer), class of friends now. I more than get by with their help, as well as art, (my second love next to God), books, my cats and computer. The Bible is my mainstay. Heralded and noted distinguished author Dave Barry's books get me through too. I now glean immense enjoyment (and not a little eye-rolling from some friends, I'm sure)** from the simplest, everyday things now, such as red cardinals in the trees. Great-looking bugs. I study the amazing patterns covering the bark of some trees. Things I used to rush by, never seeing because I once had places to go, things to do, (people to annoy). Now, I'm off on the sidelines occasionally watching other people go by in the same rush.

 

 

Don't feel sorry for me. Not for a minute.

 

 

   No, I haven't become any Mother Theresa. Not even in the same county with the likes of her. (more Southern parlance?) I know better than anybody how much of a misanthrope and curmudgeon I still remain. You can ask my roommates. But one day at a time, I am deepening my relationship to God, beknownst to me and Him, if no one else. I'm now trying to make this the most important thing. It is as the Psalmist said, (I paraphrase Ps. 119:71), "It is good for me to have been through trouble; so that I might come to the knowledge of your rules". A lot of people only learn The Hard Way. I am one of them. But at least I've learned some. And the learning goes on.

 

 

 

 

Now I have Someone Unseen beside me as we walk (and I roll) on into the bright afternoon…

 

 

 

 

 

 *Our relationship was extraordinary. I miss her terribly, but am glad she hasn't been here physically to deal with any of this.


 **That's ok; I used to do it too. All the time.

 

© 2009 pasnthru


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Wow. I don't know what to say other then I wish that this story could have had a happy ending. I will honor your wishes and not feel pity, but I will take this as an oppurtunity to get something out of life. When I was at the end of sixth grade, my life changed drastically too. But, I smiled and didn't think much of it. I was in a major car accident and I had to get my stomach cut open and my head stiched up. efore reading your poem, I had gone back to my old ways of not giving a care to my surroundings, or just going any way that the wind blew me, but now.....I mean, you have seriously changed my life. I will definately change my perspective on the way I feel about certain issues after hearing your story. So thank you. Thank you for posting this. Great writing and I wish you the best.

~Qu33n B Cullen~

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Wow. I don't know what to say other then I wish that this story could have had a happy ending. I will honor your wishes and not feel pity, but I will take this as an oppurtunity to get something out of life. When I was at the end of sixth grade, my life changed drastically too. But, I smiled and didn't think much of it. I was in a major car accident and I had to get my stomach cut open and my head stiched up. efore reading your poem, I had gone back to my old ways of not giving a care to my surroundings, or just going any way that the wind blew me, but now.....I mean, you have seriously changed my life. I will definately change my perspective on the way I feel about certain issues after hearing your story. So thank you. Thank you for posting this. Great writing and I wish you the best.

~Qu33n B Cullen~

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on December 4, 2008
Last Updated on April 2, 2009

Author

pasnthru
pasnthru

Gainesville, FL



About
I am a Florida native and lived here most of my life. Growing up here in Gainesville the late '50s and '60s instilled (or installed) a profound love for the natural Florida that I'm regrettably seeing.. more..