Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy, Happy, Birthday Baby

For all my complaining and melancholy, not to say melodramatic ruminations, I cannot help but observe at the same time that turning 55 (almost) is just about the best thing that has ever happened to me. Given a choice, I’d just as soon stay this age for the rest of my life.

I remember feeling the same way when I was 12. It was not that the number was somehow magic, nor that 12 was the same for anyone else; it is simply that at 12, and now at 55, things seemed to fall in place, become aligned, like the meshing of gears. My life proceeds almost without effort on my own part.

I think less and less of the past, less and less of the future, more of today, this minute and hour.

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

And it is. We need not compound it with admixing the sand of the past with the mercurial future. It is what it is, as the popular saying goes. Experience has in many ways been the schoolmaster of hope for long enough now, that hope, at last, has comprehended the face of its Christ, which is faith, dividing want from assurance, dream from vision.

One of the great ironies of self knowledge lies in the recession of self and the raising to preeminence of all that is other. If one would live, he must first of all die. And not only once, but over and over. I die daily, St. Paul said. And so do we all. It is willingness that finally differentiates growth from a sense of persecution and victimization.

Take up you your cross. And enjoy it. In heaven it is what they do for shits and giggles.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The King is Dead; Long Live the King

Lets all sink with the King
--Alonzo, The Tempest

The end of the year brings me to reflection, as I suppose is often the case for most. It seems a dreary time, and quiet. There seems a waiting to it, while events gather in secret, wrapped in the future like the rain which hoards itself in clouds before they break--all in good time--and revelation becomes manifest.

I have no dreams other than those which have fled. My goals are the boundary markers which describe the lands long departed from, frozen in testimony to what is both changeless and unchangeable.

And I wonder what I am doing here. I perceive myself as a second thought, brought to life in the flesh by some sort of unwise science--a Frankenstein monster--made of parts yet never a whole, pinned to the earth, to the table of creation, by every stitch and scar by which I am drawn and concluded. The beginning now becomes the end.

In my life I have made a few good decisions and a lot of bad mistakes. I have been a fool when wisdom would have suited, and lazy in the days I might have otherwise redeemed.

In the past I have loved with passion and conviction. What is love now other than a fortune already expended, and whether for good or ill, no matter. It is the finished canvas, the portrait on the wall. One passes it by two dozen times a day and affords it barely a glance. It is done, and simply there.

I have seen people die--almost everyone eventually--and will likely see no more without I happen to have a mirror.

Do I love at all, or only remember?

What are 10 years when one is 20 and 30? What when 55?

All that I would accomplish, given a lively grasp of every second remaining, lies yet unattainable beyond the chasm of time, fixed in the frozen land where no man may tread.

In short, I would re-accomplish my life.

What seest thou else

In the dark backward and abysm of time?

So asked Prospero of his daughter, Miranda, who knew neither how he nor she had come to their full poor cell.

And yet, what we see will never be more than what has been done. We both know and do not know, and the puzzle is both solved and without solution.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Squeaky White Christmas

In the last two years, I have fallen into a rather strange Christmas habit. Lets call it a Christmas tradition. This came about after a Christmas visit from my mother in law. While at the house those couple years back she spent much of her time either cleaning or cooking.

Sadly however, after that visit--or because of it--she and my wife had a falling out, and she has not visited us since. Now there are certain things, as the passage of time has proven, that only Salma will do. Cleaning the bathtub is one of these things. At various points throughout the year we may go as far as to notice this and confess a certain desire for another visit by mom.

It is sort of a running joke, you might say. Whenever the subject of some mutually deplorable job arises, it is a safe bet that one or the other of us will say "I wish mom were here."

But of course neither wishing nor joking has any effect on the bathtub itself. It simply continues to gather grime.

And so it has become my Christmas tradition to clean the grimy bathtub. While other people play with their toys or listen to new music or eat candy and cake, or go back to sleep, I ceremoniously remove all my clothing, retrieve the stiff bristled wooden handled brush that is used for nothing else, climb into the tub, toxic spray bottles in hand, and scrub! Off comes a year's worth of no longer useful dirt, swirling merrily down the drain. Oh look! It's white underneath!

White Christmas.

Take that, Mom!

Now what about that laundry room, that corner where the mouse lives. He must have a family by now . . .

Should I? Should I expand my seasonal tradition?

Well, maybe just wait for New Years Eve.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No Problem

As far as I can calculate, our foreign exchange student, Mamdouh, knows, with confidence, no more than seven words of English. These are Yes, No, Hi, Bye, Now, and No problem.

As a rule, foreign exchange students will tend to learn more of English as they mix in with our conversation and culture. In the case of Mamdouh, however, I believe he has actually learned less of English than he started with.

I asked him the other day, for instance, whether he would prefer a piece of toast or a waffle, and he said Yes.

I asked if this meant he wanted both, and he said Now?

You see how it goes?

At another time I had loaned him my cigarette lighter for a moment. When, later, I could not find the lighter, and asked him about it, he told me that this was No problem.

I expressed my feeling that it may not be a problem to him, but it was, in fact, a bit of a problem for me.

Yes, he answered.

We have not seen Mamdouh for three days now. While the rest of the city lies frozen in the present blizzard of snow and ice, Mamdouh is out somewhere driving with his buddies in his new Camry, no snow tires, no chains, no experience.

It is, as he says, No problem.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I know it must sound silly to you folks who are accustomed to snow in the winter, but here in Portland, Oregon, when it snows, life stops. Your car is stuck, you can't go anywhere without chains, and even with chains on, most of us have no idea how to drive in the snow anyway.

So it happens that we find ourselves stuck in the house. Day after day. The simplest things have become impossible--a cup of Starbucks, a trip to the store, not to mention Christmas shopping. Good thing he have no money anyway, because there is no way this Christmas week to get out and buy anything.

White Christmas is not all it's cracked up to be. It may have worked in the old days, when people traveled on horseback, or riding in a sleigh, but it doesn't work for cars.

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.

Cabin fever. It gets so bad that you actually sit down and write meaningless crap like this just for something to do.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nicotine Fit

I do not know my limits with MS. I only discover them after it is too late.

Today's discovery came about because of cigarettes, or rather a lack of the same. It is snowing here, you see, and the night has deposited an inch or so of sleet on top of the snow, and neither the snow nor the sleet are going anywhere soon, as the temperature remains at around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (not to mention the wind chill factor, nor indeed that the wind is blowing like a bastard out of hell).

This, of course, means no possibility of driving. It means that the only way to get cigarettes will be to walk eight blocks to the 7-11 store.

I decide to quit instead. I am struck suddenly with a profound sense of the sort of desperation that nicotine addiction can drive one to. I resolve that this is where I draw the line--between prudence and madness, between addiction and self control.

Ten minutes later, in coat and hood and hat and gloves, I head out the door.

One of the first things I realize after 2 blocks or so is that the wind is blowing in every direction at once. This is not actually supposed to happen according to natural laws, but the evidence, as it buffets all sides of my body, is undeniable.

The second thing I realize, on perhaps the fourth block, is that I have MS and my left leg has stiffened up like a frozen screw and bolt, and I am probably not going to make it to the 7-11, much less back home again.

Frozen also are my nose and my lips, along with my last Camel, which, protruding from the unfeeling corner of my mouth, may or may not have burned through the filter and down to the skin--I don't know, because 1) I can't feel my face, and 2) I can't see out of the film of ice that has formed on the lenses of my spectacles.

I am halfway to the store, halfway from home. I forge on, doing my best to bring my left leg along with me. If I don't make it, if I collapse here in a snowbank, people will at least be able to follow the drag marks left by my useless foot. He came this way, the searchers will say, I can see the track from the side of his Nike.

A block away now. My face is a frozen mask, my lips rigid in the form of the last puff they took on the Camel. In my own imaginary mirror I look just like Lee Harvey Oswald at the moment he was shot by Jack Ruby. If you have ever seen the picture, you will know what I mean. I have taken off my glasses in order to see the snowdrifts in my way, but I think now that my eyeballs themselves are freezing, for I can see hardly any better than before.

Can I really, having come this far, enter the 7-11 looking like this--frozen face mimicking the shock of murder, eyeballs fixed like a doll's, dragging my left leg as if I had in fact just recently been shot?

But of course I must. It's between that and joining the snowmen I have met in yards along the way.

The clerk, a friendly woman from Nepal who knows me well, brings my cigarettes to the counter without needing to be asked. It is a stroke of good luck that she is there, for I cannot move my lips, and another employee may not have been able to understand my gestures.

I held up a hand, however. Then I removed the glove and and spread my five fingers.

I'm not doing this again. Not anytime soon. Five packs will last me five days, and perhaps, just perhaps, both I and the city will thaw out by then.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Rumor or Arabia, Part III

Though I hesitate to say so, I do believe that I have learned more about Saudi Arabia from Osama bin Laden than from our exchange student, Mamdouh al-Shammari.

Why? Because in two months I have seen Mamdouh only about as many times as I can count on two hands. And of course seeing him is not the same as talking to him. One can just as often see a newspaper photo of bin Laden.

On the other hand, who has really seen bin Laden in the flesh?

These Saudis are elusive. They are like the wind, originating from who knows where, and going who knows where. Chimeras and specters, whispers in the night.

What do I know from Mamdouh of Saudi Arabia. It never rains. Saudis like Americans. Saudis hate Osama bin Laden. They hated Saddam Hussein. They think that Whats-His-Name, the President of Iran, is a lunatic.

This is what Mamdouh has told me. This is all I know.

Other than that, as regards information, a travel guide is much to be preferred.

It is snowing here in Portland. The streets are covered with snow. Mamdouh has never before in his life seen snow, much less driven a car on it. And yet he drives. How is it that he knows how to drive in the snow.

It is but another in a catalog or mysteries.

A Rumor of Arabia, Part II

Now you see here is the perfect example--Yesterday (Tuesday) Mamdouh returned to the house at about 10 a.m. from wherever he had been all night, promptly went to bed, and slept throughout the day and the following evening. My wife and I went to bed at perhaps midnight, and then somewhere during the witching hours, Mamdouh arose and slipped quietly away into the night once again.

Does this seem a bit mysterious? It seems so to me. Where could he be going? What might he be doing?

We know that he has friends, fellow countrymen, who live downtown and also go to the University--but do they all stay up through the night and sleep out the day? The question does not change with added characters. One merely wonders now what all of them are doing.

It may seem odd, given the multitude of more reasonable suspicions that might have entered my mind, but my first thought was that he might be a vampire. In fact, I still haven't ruled it out. After all, is this pattern not typical, even classic, for characters such as these? By day they take to their coffins, to sleep away the hours of light (or maybe they read books or do knitting--something, in any case, quiet and bloodless and only dimly lit). Then comes the night, where violent secrets come to life, wherein the chains of light are severed and the creatures roam free, ravenous, stalking the coed and the bag lady alike, for the taste is for blood, not for beauty (no matter what comes out of Hollywood).

I think, anyway. Although I'm not an expert on vampires. It strains the imagination, such that in the light of day even I cannot fend off disbelief.

And yet . . . did I imagine it, was it the wind, or the neighbor playing his TV too loudly, was it the freight train down by the slough . . . or was it a howl that I heard, a wolf-like gasp of thirst trailing from the open window of Mamdouh's ghostly coach (a 2003 Camry) . . . Maaaaam-doooooo-oooooooo-ooooooouh . . . .

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Rumor of Arabia, Part I

It seems that my entrepreneurial wife was right—hosting a foreign exchange student is a lucrative side business, assuming one is lucky enough to get the right student.

I suppose one could end up with a student who actually wanted to talk, or watch TV together, or go to the mall, or share details about his culture, or eat with his adopted family—and of course that might prove irritating.

But with Mamdouh it has been more like hosting a ghost, or a mouse you happen to see scurry across the porch from time to time. We find more often evidence of his presence than the actual corporeal entity. His underwear, for instance, on the counter top in the bathroom. His five packages of pita bread in the fridge. Cheese from home. The peanut butter cookies on his closet floor.

He is a specter, a rumor. There is more of idea about him than actual existence. Sometimes you can smell cologne as you pass his room, but that is all, for he is not there, it is only his scent, an odor of verbena, a whisper, Maaaam-doooo-ooh . . .

Yesterday I actually forgot his name. I kept thinking Marmaduke or Monsoon or Timbuktu.

I did talk to him recently. I think it was on Sunday. He had been out all night, came in sometime during the wee hours, and slept through the day until about 8 on Sunday evening.

“Wow,” I said. “You slept through the whole day, Mamdouh.”

“Yes,” he said.

And then he was gone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Snow in Portland this week. A fairly rare occurrence here. It will generally snow maybe once or twice in the winter, then quickly turn to rain and slush. But this week the temperatures are in the teens and 20s and we have some bitter winds that are keeping things frozen. Yesterday my wife wouldn't let me go out, but then she took a nap later and I snuck away for a Starbucks.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Ghost of Christmas Past

This morning I talked to my long lost daughter. One of them anyway. We talked via e-mail, as I had sent best wishes for the holiday. She mentioned that Christmas is not the same anymore. And of course it isn’t. It never is.

I can identify, because for me Christmas hasn’t been the same for decades now.

What Jamila is missing, of course, is her own childhood, a feeling of familiarity and security, a foundation that seemed permanent, yet proved transitory. Children count on their parents at the deepest level—and even though I was not her biologic father, I was nonetheless the closest thing she had known to a father. Twelve years is a long time to a child. Twelve years is equal to permanence.

And then the whole thing crashed, as she said in her e-mail. The whole thing just disappeared.

What is Christmas? What is family? Where is home?

It is what we remember. It is the elusive set of feelings and smells and tastes and faces and voices and times and journeys emanating yet from the past like specters out of Dickens. The bell above the door tinkles, the knob turns, and no amount of locks and bolts can keep us from the visitation.

What is it by which we find ourselves confronted?

It is love, of course. Pure and simple.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Merry Christmas To All!

War As Usual

Is this a messed up world or what? These days we are living through remind me of the Vietnam era in some ways. Endless war, disaffection at home, a hunger for real change, and the conceit that real change can be had.

We read again about the threat of nuclear war, this time between India and Pakistan. We read of American soldiers injected into impossible circumstances, picked off by 2 and 3 and a dozen, sitting ducks in the shooting gallery of political indecision, lack of will, shifting focus, and ambiguous purpose.

I happened to hear Ted Koppel on NPR point out that American tax payers have not paid a single dollar to finance our present military conflicts. The money has been borrowed from other countries, China in particular.

What interest does China have in financing these wars? Well, of course it has none, other than the money.

It is all about money. Money has no friends, money has no enemies. It has always been so.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Lost Post

Well folks, you're just going to have to take my word for it . . . earlier this morning I wrote a post of absolute genius and beauty, eloquence and wisdom, a post to end all posts, the mother of all posts . . . It was about God and life and destiny and meaning . . . but it disappeared before I was able to save and publish.

I'm blaming this on the computer. I need a new laptop. I am blaming this on the failure of laptops to perform as well as a pencil and paper. I am blaming it on MS, because I have no idea what happened to the post or where it went. I only know that my wonderful bit of wisdom for the day is gone forever. And because of MS there exists nary the smallest word of the thing any longer in my mind.

All I can ask is that you just try to imagine it. And enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

News, So-Called

Logging in this morning through the MSN home screen, on my way to better things, my eye happened to catch a "news" story about Barrach Obama's smoking, and having to field tough questions regarding the same in an interview with Tom Brokaw.

Scandalous! First we have a President with sexual urges, and now we have one who smokes! What next? A President who imbibes strong spirits? Lordy, lordy.

Tobacco products in one form or another, the cigarette, the cigar, continue to insert themselves into the affairs of the White House, in some cases literally so.

Oh the shame.

In other breaking news, researchers have found that people with MS are more likely to have headaches. Yes, it's true. No kidding. Specifically why this might be so is a question yet to be fully answered. Could it be because our central nervous systems are fucked up in general? Could it be the propensity of the person with MS to fall over his own feet and land on his head? Could it be because we are always struggling to stay awake and functional despite relentless fatigue?

Or maybe it is our brainstem lesions, as researchers have suggested. That's got to hurt on some level, right? This last, however, is not a finding based on stringent scientific data. It is only common sense.

To Blog Or Not To Blog?

Blogging seems to be a fairly lonely sort of business. One is alone with his thoughts, as is the case 99 percent of the time anyway in life, and the only difference here is that he is for some reason writing them down. Why? So that he can be clear about what he himself is thinking?

No, I don't believe so.

Why write then? Why blog?

One suspects that an audience is either anticipated or imagined. Perhaps it is someone loved. Perhaps someone lost. Perhaps it is a group of like-minded friends. Perhaps it is a group having something in common. Like MS, for instance.

Perhaps we simply want to speak, and to hear a voice in return. Society seems to become less and less a community, more and more a scattering of isolated fragments, buck shot, trying to remember not only what barrel they came out of, but what the original target had been.

We set our fingers to the keyboard, we direct our thoughts into hyperspace. We say, essentially, Is anyone there?

And we wait. And we listen very closely. And we think anew.

There are observatories devoted to listening to space. There are devices that listen to the nearest star, to the nearest galaxy, to the asteroid belt and the rings of Saturn, and to planets and solar systems that are no more than theory.

And what is the answer, what sound does it make?

It is the sound of one hand clapping, I suppose.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Get Rich Quick

My wife is a natural born entrepreneur.

This is a word that would give her some trouble as far as pronunciation goes, being foreign not only to Indonesian, but to English as well. It is not a word that rolls smoothly off the tongue—like moon, or mango, or salamat malam. Rather, it is a word hopelessly at odds with the rolling and trilling Indonesian language.

No matter—for the concept is in her blood, the way duck hunting is in a Labrador’s blood, or mousing in a cat’s. No need for verbalization. She has money in her blood, and of course it must come out and breathe the air of the wide world of possibility, for one can only sell just so much of the raw material to the Red Cross before anemia sets in.

Many a time have I pondered where the root of this proclivity might be found. Does it arise from a childhood of poverty in Jakarta? Does it come from her father’s ambitious, though sadly unrealized notions of status and rank? Or did she catch this particular bug in America, the land of the quick buck and the sly scheme? Are riches dreamed of sight unseen, or only after the feasting of the eyes?

The answers to questions such as these remain to this day wholly in the realm of my own imagination, for Louis is a woman of few words when it comes to the particulars of the forces by which she is driven. She keeps her own counsel. This is both a good thing, as regards the confidence of character (i.e. bull-headed will to go forward), and a bad thing, as shall later be seen in more detail.

The first opportunity to rise in the world to which I was privy (to the tune of ten thousand dollars) was her (which is our) entry into the business of real estate with Pastor Corey Pritchet,

More about that later.

The second was a pyramid scheme wherein one sells memberships in a company offering, ostensibly, free legal advice, which is, in keeping with proper balances and measures, worth exactly what it purports to be worth. The trick is that if the individual entrepreneur can get ten thousands friends, give or take, to sign on to monthly memberships, she will make for herself, oh, say, ten million dollars in the first six months.

I love money, money loves me.

These are the words to a song which is sung at ITTL (I take the lead) seminars.

We are magnets for money. It just keeps gushing in, threatening to choke us.

And now comes my personal favorite. Sex toys.

Yes. I do not know where she initially came up with the idea. Perhaps she was one of ten thousand signed on by another entrepreneur. In any case, one day Louis showed up at home lugging an enormous suitcase filled with penises and vaginas, love beads and love potions, strawberry flavored massage oil, whipped cream, hot pink things that look like minuture toilet plungers; things that hum, things that buzz, things that flash and crawl about like lazy ferrets.

I make a sex party! she says.

Uh . . . .

Now the funniest part of this is not the toys themselves, but the juxtaposition of the toys with the person of Sant Louis—sweet and innocent Louis, church-going Louis—the conservative, proper, level-headed Louis I know and love.

What does this one do? she wants to know.

I sure do love Sant Louis.

Via the inscrutable route of sex toys, we now arrive at Saudi Arabia, and one Mamdouh Al-Shimari. The latest road to riches is to be found in the trafficking of foreign exchange students. Mamdouh is the first, but there will be more coming, Louis promises.

Here is where I get stuck—early on, as always. I am guilty, as often judged, of an inability to see the big picture, to comprehend the vision.

But here’s the thing—I can’t get past the difficulty that seems apparent in the fact that we have only one three bedroom house and four people already living therein. Are we to pack these students in on the sort of racks they have in submarines? Will we have henceforth a mess hall rather than a dining room? Will we send to whole troop on Tuesdays to the laundromat, or just set up our own where the kitchen used to be?

You see, I am easily lost in the details. Money is not in my blood. I am not really sure what is. Multiple sclerosis for one thing—which itself is not amenable to being stretched, exercised, challenged, shaken, or agitated.

But these limitations do not fit into my wife’s vision. And it is for this reason—nothing personal—that I had best shut-up and follow her lead. Faith is not a synonym for success. It is very much more like surrender.

What, after all, do I have to lose?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Travel II

As a matter of fact, while the rest of the fam went to the Tennessee aquarium to gawk over other peoples shoulders at the sea life they could have otherwise seen just down the street from our house in Oregon, I excused myself (claiming to feel seasick), and struck out instead into the unseen, undiscovered heart of Chattanooga. Ambling ever so happily under the rusty October sun, I passed by pre-Civil War churches, houses with blue and red shutters, over train tracks that spilled off the looming slopes of Lookout Mountain like frozen streams. I saluted everyone I passed, listening for accents, weighing the nuances that made one person Tennessee and another Georgia.

By the time the family stumbled blinky-eyed out of the stuffy aquarium, I had found a wonderful restaurant called Sticky Fingers, offering barbecued chicken and ribs, cornbread and greens and beans, and hand tossed biscuits which the employees actually threw at the diners from the balcony above the main floor.

Now does that beat sand crabs and squid, or what? Honestly, what is better--a live shrimp drifting through the murky green water behind three inches of glass, or one that's sitting on your plate next to a little amber pool of Carolina honey sauce?

You tell me.

Travel I

For as long as I can remember I have had this dream of traveling, of wandering wheresoever the whim might take me. The trouble is, I have always been either poor or married, neither of which works well for carefree excursions.

Poverty provides its own definition in this case, so we will say no more.

Marriage . . . well, let me offer an example:

Some years back my second wife and I flew down to Atlanta, Georgia to visit our daughter, living there were her husband and their child. How strange and wonderful it seemed--for one who had rarely been out of Oregon, anyway--the red clay, the humid days, the enormous bugs--June Bugs! It seemed perfectly exotic.

Best of all (or so I had initially thought) was the ocean of history lying all about, just waiting for me to dive in. Specifically, I am talking about Civil War history, in which I had long been an avid reader. Here was the chance to visit the battlefields around the city of Atlanta itself--Peach Tree Creek, Jonesboro! From the city you could drive North and follow in reverse the route taken by William Tecumseh Sherman in his investment of this hub of the Confederacy.

Yet farther north, just short of Tennessee, lay the battlefield called Chickamauga, after the stream running through. Here is where Hood's Texans split the center of the Union line. Here is the gentle knoll where General Thomas, the rock of Chickamauga, held off the final Rebel push in pursuit of the fleeing fragments of the Federal army.

And here, on that same hallowed battlefield, is where the potential of fascination in travel vanished. For what my wife and daughter had in mind was to drive straight through, entry to exit, ten minutes of history from the passenger seat of a rental car.

You can roll down the window, my wife said. I can drive through slowly.

I insisted on getting out of the car. I walked through the grass, upon the ground where thousands had struggled in combat well over one hundred years ago, where thousands had fallen, their country's fate in the balance.

I was thinking I might be standing on the very spot occupied by General James Longstreet's horse when my wife honked the horn.

And then on to Chattanooga and the Sea Life Aquarium.

Sea life in Tennessee? What did they do, truck it in from the Oregon Coast?

This is not travel. Not in my book, anyway.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fat Head Dog

Having finally gotten my tooth fixed (hopefully), Smokey, the Labrador, decided to break off the one just next to it. He did this with his big, fat, hard head. Now I don't know which tooth it is that hurts--the one that has been under repair, the one Smokey broke, or both.

It's not enough, I guess, to knock me off my feet two or three times a week--which he does apparently just for laughs. Now he has to go and break my tooth. Also he broke my glasses yesterday. Just a quick right cross--didn't even see it coming.

I do not know what I've done to deserve this sort of treatment. I've tried to talk with him, but he just stares at me and tilts his head to one side.

Man's best friend. Right.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Fountain of Youth

Okay lets get this straight. Multiple sclerosis has absolutely nothing to do with old age! If people would endeavor for themselves to discover the first thing about it, they would find that most people diagnosed with MS are between 20 and 40 years of age. But no, I hear again and again, from people who do not know what they're talking about, that MS is just another malady arising from old age--like senility or arthritis or death itself.

Because I am a good deal older than my wife, certain of her friends insist on advising that this--the risk of illness, or some other form of creaky incapacitation--was an avoidable part of such an arrangement from the start.

My objections, however, cannot help but seem a bit impotent as I totter into the debate on my cane looking exactly like . . . well, like an old man.

Does it sound a little too weird for me to wish I'd been diagnosed at 20?

I figure if anything MS makes me young, because it drops me statistically right smack dab in the midst of a much younger age group.

Put that in yer pipe and smoke it!

MS + X = Y2K

One thing that I have found to be true with multiple sclerosis--having had a couple years now to really appreciate the finer points--is that ones body is not up to dealing with anything else on top of it. A simple head cold, for instance, will cause a total system collapse--Y2K to the corporeal body, only not theory this time, but the real thing. Too many switches are already flipped, too many numbers have already rolled--BAM!, the whole organism crashes to a grinding halt.

And by anything, I do mean anything--the cold virus, yes; but also the toothache, the sprained ankle, the broken bone, the migraine headache. Each and any additional malady will be too much for MS to live with.

A toothache, for instance, is hard enough to deal with on its own merits, right? But adding it in with MS is like trying to load a grand piano onto a little red wagon. Nope, it's just not gonna fly.

Before MS we were accustomed to the rather convenient arrangement wherein a toothache would involve a tooth--maybe even the entire maxillary or mandibular set, maybe even the jaw. Now with MS the pain must go beyond the tooth, into the neck, into the legs, into the feet, for Christ's sake. The toothache must be accompanied not only by throbbing, but by body-wide exhaustion and increasing confusion.

Now try explaining this to someone else.

You fell asleep twice because of a toothache? Yeah, right. You say your tooth is making your elbow hurt? Okay . . . .

On second thought, don't bother trying to explain it.