Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I'm Grateful, Really ... but ...

I really am grateful. For years--for decades, really--I had no health worries whatsoever. Oh, sure, I had measles, chicken pox--even whooping cough when I was a Wee One. In the baby book my mom kept for me (for a while--soon, three sons ended all her "free" time) she has listed the following:
  • May 28, 1945: bronchitis
  • April 1947: chicken pox
  • October 1948: measles
  • March 1958: mumps (this one is in my handwriting! I was in 8th grade)
So, other than these customary childhood diseases, I really didn't experience much poor health. Colds, flu--that sort of thing. No major injuries (though I lied to some elementary school friends, telling them that a slight scar on my knee was from that time I almost got my whole leg cut off).

And throughout those carefree years, I'm sure I exhibited the unsavory signs of the Arrogance of the Healthy. It's easy--when nothing's wrong with you--to attribute the ill health of others to negligence or weakness of character or whatever. My mom--bless her--used to get on my dad's case about his eating (oh, did he love jars of dry-roasted peanuts!), though she was somewhat less attentive to her own fondness for All Things Chocolate.

So we (The Healthy) may sometimes find ourselves saying--If he'd only eat more sensibly ... If she'd only exercise more ... If [in other words] he/she were more like ME!

I see this trait, by the way, glowing garishly in comedian Bill Maher, who often chides the overweight (he isn't), the unfit (he isn't), the elderly (he isn't). I'm more aligned politically than not with Maher, but I can't stand his somatic arrogance. (Once--and I think I wrote about this in an earlier post--Maher, commenting on the racial issues that were swirling around LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, added that yes, he (Sterling) had cancer, but it was just, you know, prostate cancer--no big deal. Really? I beg to differ.)

Anyway, Time tamed me, peeled away the arrogance I'd had about my health, and began, when I entered my fifties, sending me continual Mortality Messages that were unequivocal: You are like everyone else. You are going to fade and die--just like everyone else.

Of course, I'd known that, intellectually, since I was a kid. But knowing it intimately is something entirely different. Just as you can't know what parenthood is like unless you've been a parent--or what a teacher's life is like unless you've been a teacher--you cannot really know what Mortality is like until you've looked him in his rheumy eye and smelled his fetid breath.

I've written here before about the parade of problems I've had post-50--Bell's palsy, skin cancer, prostate cancer (with failed surgery and radiation treatments--I'm now on Lupron, a drug which keeps me alive but has measurably diminished my life).

Lately, there's a new player in the game: vertigo. I have to be very cautious now about how I move along a sidewalk, how I stand or sit or shift from one to the other. It doesn't seem to bother me at all when I'm driving (if it did, I would immediately give up driving), but I'm nervous now about riding my bicycle this spring (haven't done it yet). If I feel dizzy while riding, that will mark the end of my cycling, something that began about 1952. I would miss it--a lot.

As I said at the outset, I've been very fortunate in my life in many ways. So many, many folks have had to deal with far worse circumstances than I ever have. And so I try never to whine.

But, of course, it's relative ...  I can react only to what I've known.

All of these medical issues are physical blows, surely, but they are more devastating blows to the mind--to the imagination. They are, of course, the parents of fear. Who is a most unpleasant companion.

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