Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Beginning of the End....

On October 28, 2007, at about 4:15 PM my cell phone rang displaying the name "Grandma."

My 92 year old Grandmother still drove a car, whipped me in Scrabble, and sang in the church choir, but rarely used her cellphone, so I was concerned that she was having car trouble. I answered cheerfully and was surprised to hear a strange female voice say, "Do you know Lillian Esrey." My heart jumped as I identified myself. The voice told me she had been in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. She sobbed as she told me it was really bad.

The wreck was barely three miles away but the voice said the ambulance was already on scene and was to take her to a trauma center in Memphis. I broke down when I told my wife but regained my composure when I told my mother that we needed to go to the hospital.

We never saw my Grandmother alive again. The next day I had the task of identifying my Grandmother's broken body as it lay motionless on a stainless steel table. I choose to go to the morgue alone. I'm glad that only I carry that image.

The man that killed her eventually plead guilty to negligent manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

At the time of her death my symptoms were just manifesting themselves as something that was degenerative. Her instant removal from my life changed me and is a line of demarcation that I will never be able to recross. I miss her daily.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Anger Management......?

A few months ago I wrote about grief and how it pertained to my condition. At the time I had not reached the level where I could express or even feel anger about my illness. I'm afraid that is changing.

In my frustration of not being able to do things that were simple tasks six months ago I feel increasingly bitter. I've ALWAYS been a person that internalized emotions. From experience, I know this is not a train without stops. Sooner or later something has to give.

Anger can only be directed inward for a short time before it starts looking for outlets. It usually reaches out to those closest to you. My dog will forgive me faster than my wife, so Lucky may have a rough go of it. :)

Seriously, despite my efforts to think positively, sometimes it becomes too much. Basic psychology teaches that how we define our biological condition controls how we react to situations. Our body responds similarly to extreme joy that it does to intense anger. Our reactions to the biologic conditions define us. I fear that my end days will define me as a bitter, angry man. How can I short circuit the process? How can I skip over anger and jump to resignation and peace?

I have not found the answers, but I'm searching for them. In the meantime.......I'm pissed!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Developements....

There has been a weird new development in my symptoms. Nothing! I mean there is nothing new and my current issues seem to have hit a plateau.

I wake up every morning and take inventory. What hurts, what works, and what doesn't. For the past week I've felt pretty good (relatively speaking). I'm still working 50+ hours a week and business is good. I guess the digression is taking place at its own pace.

The tomato/flower garden I planted is coming on nicely except some cut worm sliced some of the sunflowers of at ground level. The little bastards! I enjoy the sunflowers and the birds do too.

Here are a few of last year's.

I also take photos of some of the wild things that grow around here.

These (get your mind out of the gutter) become these.

Then these!

Click on images to enjoy full resolution.


If a picture is worth a thousand words then this has been a very long blog!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Be Safe My Son......

It is one thing to romanticize about the patriotic heroism associated with military service. It is another thing entirely to experience the utter futility and needless loss of life that wars produce. It is ironic that though I, after serving my country twice in Viet Nam, as a devout pacifist spent the early part of the week saying goodbye to my oldest son as he prepares to leave for Iraq.

He was not, as most are, some fresh out of high school 18 year old that was sold some bill of goods by an Army recruiter. He will soon turn 27 and made an informed decision that going through military training would augment his chosen career in law enforcement. Despite my political leanings I encouraged him because he was doing things for the right reasons. For that I am proud.

But I am fearful not only for his physical well-being but afraid that his experiences will cause him to see the rest of his life through the olive drab glasses of a cynic. A cynic like me. Never to again accept things at face value.

A few soldiers will be wounded, fewer still will pay the ultimate price, ALL will be changed.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Talking With My Hands.....

I've talked with my hands for as long as I can remember. Not sign language but verbose gestures emphasizing my point. My parents sometimes made me sit on my hands as I told them some exciting story about my school day. It was hard to do.

My childhood was filled with family games of Charades and school plays. I later was scholar shipped and attended The National Conservatory of the Dramatic Arts in San Diego, California. I'm sure these experiences only encouraged me to physically enhance my speech.

I recently stumbled across this tid bit:

According to a new study, talking with our hand is actually beneficial. This makes thinking easier. A research conducted by the University of Chicago revealed that people who moved their hands more frequently while talking have higher retentive memory compared with those who kept their hands still.

Researchers at the University of Chicago explained that gesturing while speaking seems to make speech less of an effort which may leave more mental resources available for memory.

Now, you can tell yourself its ok to use your hands. It’s one way of improving your memory.

Last night I was having dinner with friends (thank you Olive Garden) and became aware that I was gesturing only with my left hand and my right hand was just sort of dancing beneath the table. I looked at it with a sense of bemused embarrassment (a term I stole from L.Q.).

One of the more common symptoms of my illness is loss of speech. It's ironic that even though I have not yet lost vocal abilities I have, in a sense, begun to to lose MY method of communicating.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Knowing It's The Last Time.....

Under normal circumstances it is rare that you know you'll be doing something for the very last time. Maybe the day you retire or the last day of high school or perhaps the last visit to the hospital to see a dying friend.

My circumstances are different. I planted my annual tomato / flower garden yesterday. It was a very difficult challenge and left me exhausted. Then I wept. I knew that it would be the last garden I ever plant. I was barely able to dig the holes and struggled to hammer in the support stakes. If my condition continues to degrade at the present rate, there is no way I'll be able to plant next year.

I keep running into things that I've always been able to do but now, either can't or am barely able to struggle through.

The message here is to be cognizant of how lucky you are to be able to do not only the things you enjoy, but also the things you now think are necessary evils. Be happy that you can peel that bannana, pop that top, fasten that seat belt and be joyous that you can carve that turkey.