Friday, October 23, 2009

New perspectives........

In a heartbeat, I've gone from patient to caregiver.

A few days ago, my 75 year old Mother had a stroke. Though she remains completely lucid and seems very aware of the bullet she dodged, her life is forever changed. So is mine.

While spending countless hours at our local hospital seeing that her needs are met, I found something. Meaning to my life.

Not that I have led a meaningless life, but since my diagnosis I have defined the meaning of my life in terms of how and when I was going to die. I focused on making sure my wife could live financially well. House and property paid for, dependable car, debt free. How shallow is that?!

In caring for my Mother I forgot about my illness. For the first time in nearly a year, it was gone. Meaningless! No matter what happened, I couldn't die now. She needs me.

Is it possible that my illness will give meaning to the lives of my loved ones? Can I deny them that?

Damn, this is complicated.


Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Not My Arm, It's My Brain.....

My symptoms first manifested, on a small scale, in March, 2007. In September of that year, during a charity 150 mile bike ride, I had a crash. I was in a long pace-line of cyclist when five of us went down. A rather large cyclist behind me ran over me as I skidded across the pavement at 18 mph.

After untangling, taking inventory, and checking my bike, I rode the final 54 miles. My shoulder was in great pain and after crossing the finish line I broke down, not from the pain, but from the mental effort.

The human mind is a powerful thing. I have been (or was) a distance runner since age 8 and have marveled at the my body's ability to run long distances. One second you're running as fast as you can and immediately after crossing the finish line, you can't even stand. It's all mental.

Back to the shoulder. The doctor diagnosed a severe separation and rotator tear. By coincidence it was my right shoulder and my CBGD symptoms are specific to my right side.

For the longest time I was able to hide my loss of fine motor skills and the increasing stiffness in my arm behind my shoulder injury. When buddies called for golf or bike rides, I could blame it on the shoulder. Not any more.


I attended the funeral of a relative recently. As is often the case, I saw other relatives that I had not seen since the last time someone died. Several of them ask how my arm was doing. I typically just said, "As well as can be expected," not wishing to go into the details of my illness.

After the services, as the throng made their way out of the building, a cousin said, "I hope your arm gets better." Suddenly, a woman (with big hair) grabbed my arm and rather dramatically began to recite bible verses about God's healing power. I waited until she was finished before extracting my arm from her grasp.

Then I said, "It's not my arm, it's my brain." I left before she grabbed my head. :)


Monday, October 12, 2009

I Can No Longer Live With Myself.......

It is normal for most of us to imagine, expect, desire, or strive for a future better than our present. That presupposes a dissatisfaction with the present and disregards the fact that when the future arrives it becomes the present. Not the present that we were unhappy with but a new unrewarding present.

I find myself in a quandary. I can no longer aspire to a brighter future. My illness guarantees many unpleasant moments, and indeed, the reasonable expectation of a total loss of physical dignity. This dilemma forces me to try and find the path to happiness in the now. Not tomorrow, or next month, or even after work, but NOW.


When I was first diagnosed I quickly planned a future that ended with my suicide at just the right moment to spare my family from the burdens my illness would surely bring and to allow myself the dignity of death on my own terms. The right moment would be when I felt I could no longer live with myself.

I obsessed about a way I could make an empirical decision as to when the moment was here. The scientist in me tried to identify the variables and quantify the measures with which I could identify my self worth. I even created a spreadsheet to record the areas of subjective variables I might use.

I stepped outside my situation and took a fresh look at my ideas from the end point backwards rather than from my then current point of view (present to future). The end would come when "I could no longer live with mySELF."

Here's the deal. Who is the "I" and who is the "Self" and how can one have authority over the other, indeed, the authority to destroy them both.


There is a man than has wandered a five mile radius of my office for at least 15 years pushing either a lawnmower or a bicycle. He argues with himself rather loudly and never makes eye contact with anyone.

I was stopped at a red light as he walked by this morning. His strides were long and angry and he seemed to shout at the small push mower as he crossed the street in front of me. I thought to myself that "I hope I never become like him." Then I realized I had actually spoken the words and I was, in fact, having a conversation with myself.

There is a much thinner line between him and me than I had imagined.


Input and suggestions are always appreciated.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You Can't Speed Read Life.....

In another life I taught speed reading. We used projectors to rapidly display phrases at set intervals and then tested for retention and comprehension. Being a tad on the competitive side (I check my neighbor's mailbox to make sure I get more mail) I worked hard at getting to the point where I could comprehend larger groups of words at faster and faster speeds.

John F. Kennedy reportedly read at an incredible 2,000 words a minute at 80% comprehension. I never reached those speeds but I read constantly though I fear I have been less than selective about the minutia I have stored in my head. For instance, while in Viet Nam I read Tolstoy's "War and Peace," Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago," and (the rebel that I was) "The Quotations of Chairman Mao." (I even relished carrying the Little Red Book in front of officers). But most of the time I devoured books by Louis Lamour whose westerns I could read in a couple of hours or Robert Heinlein escapest science fiction. I even read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy two or three more times as well as Tolkien's lesser known works.

I still read every magazine article that happens to be within reach though while in the military I occasionally looked at the pictures too. :)

I don't speed read anymore. Or maybe I can't. My eyes don't move as smoothly from line to line and I find myself rereading a sentence to be sure I grasped the full meaning of the prose.

I once looked forward to retiring so I could read the great works that I never got around to. Now I guess I'll have to pick a "Bucket List" of literature and hope I find the time.


This post was inspired by Jimmy Bastard whose recent blog,
"Silence of Speech" made me slow down and really read.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wimp Disclaimer....

It is not common for me to reread my blog posts but I read a few today. I'd like to let my readers know (both of you) that in my day to day life I'm not as much of a wimp as my blog may make me seem.

I post things, feelings, and thoughts that I otherwise push aside. I am actually having a pretty good day today. Business is good, weather is really nice, and I have had a very productive morning.

So if I always seem to depress you, today, smile.

Photo is from Father's Day 2006 (New bike jersey)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pride Cometh Before......

It has been a brutal time since I last posted. I have had such a tough ten days that I've been reluctant to share it.

It seems I've somehow aggravated an old knee injury on my "good" leg and it is quite painful. It also adds to my instability.

On my day off I decided to weed and mulch one of our flower beds. It should have been a small job, but it exhausted me. Later, while checking my vegetable garden, I fell. I was stepping over the rabbit fence and just didn't clear my trailing leg. I fell like a sack of potatoes. Luckily I landed on soft earth avoiding stakes and garden tools.

The earth felt warm and the tomato vines I had bruised as I fell were giving off their distinctive odor. I took a careful inventory as I lay there, then I cried. I had known that a fall would come but I was not ready for it.

Then later that day, while talking to my wife, it all came bubbling to the surface. I sobbed, "I'm sorry." She hugged me as I tried to regain my composure.

I was sorry not only that I was the reason our dreams were being slowly shattered but I was sorry that I had failed to maintain my facade of strength. I must not place the emotional burdens I carry on her.