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Newsletter Dated: 3/17/2012 8:19:05 AM
Subject: BOBBYS - March 17, 2012
There is some controversy as to when I began losing the mobility of my right hand and arm, but I recall a time in the early millennium when I was able to play enthusiastic tennis and golf, while writing abundant letters, notes, novels, op-ed columns and checks.
Then one day I noticed it was becoming increasingly difficult to tie my shoelaces, button my shirt, dexterously manipulate the intricacies of a necktie, and run delightfully descending arpeggios on the piano. Finally, when I began having trouble zipping up my fly with my right hand, I mentioned it to my primary physician during an annual checkup.
“Sounds like arthritis to me,” he said, donning rubber gloves for a prostate examination. “Bend over.”
That was five or six years ago. Since then my right hand has become useless to the point where I have had to teach myself to type left-handed, have my meals cut so I can feed myself from the sophomore side, and take anywhere from a half hour to the entire morning to get dressed — limiting my attire to jeans, khakis, battered t-shirts, and Anchor Bay slip-on deck shoes.
BOBBYS are to people unrelated by either blood or marriage what OSCARS are to Hollywood, and over the years — even before I became handicapped with Primary Lateral Sclerosis — I have awarded many such imaginary statues to acquaintances that deserved them. Several doctors have been honored, such a Drs. Gus Ruckert, Barry Fenton, Margaret Colgan and the ob/gyn who delivered my youngest grandson. Her name was Dillinger; first name unknown (I seriously doubt if it was Joan.)
Successful nominees have included teachers such as Elizabeth Schnabel, Minerva Cranberry, Ethel Abbott and Harold Coles; friends Jordan Wintringham, Dave and Patty Roberts, Betty Thompson, Ben Peters, David Roberts, Sr., Don Sproule, Ed Musicus, Karen Savage and Greg Landry; lawyers Harvey Bunis and Dan Glickman — plus others I cannot recall or who would be too embarrassed to be mentioned.
Recent recipients of the BOBBY are Drs. Richard Bernstein, Gary Leonard, Terry Maxwell and Peter d’Aubermont.
Primary Lateral Sclerosis is a first cousin to Lou Gehrigs’ Disease, but luckily for me, it is painless (though progressive), rarely if ever fatal, and it inflicts debilitating damage to my brain and anatomy as it runs its lifelong course. Unfortunately however, as degenerative as it is, there is no treatment and there is no cure. Now that I got it, it’s mine to keep. Forever.
My neurologist has told me that even though therapy would be a waste of money, “they” are working on a stem cell antidote — but by the time it becomes useful, I’ll not be.
With less than a thousand Americans afflicted, the burden is, of course, on my wife and family. But primarily on her, that hapless, long suffering woman. Herself, afflicted with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since visiting her sister in Lake Tahoe, Nevada three decades ago (see my column CFS, FOR SHORT 8/06/2011*) she has as many bad days as good ones, yet manages to take care of me as no professional caregiver ever could.
She prepares and cuts up my food, opens packages and the mail, handles rudimentary household chores, turns pages in a book and helps me get dressed in the morning and ready for bed at night. She is always there to patiently assist while I get on with my miserable existence — even writing checks and signing all sorts of documents, chauffeuring me hither and yon, etc. Those obviously are just the superficial things. This river of despair runs much deeper, especially for her.
There are those who say I was fairly worthless to begin with, and I now seem to be frustratingly helpless as well. Except, I must quickly add, for the usual thought processes. My love of history and literature remain unimpaired, and I will continue writing — even left-handed, or with my tongue, if necessary — so long as I can think straight, assuming I ever could.
My appreciation of the arts continues strong, especially in the hands of serious and talented people such as Dave Savage and Ollie Roberts, of whom I know so damn little.
My political and religious views will be, as always, moderately liberal (I will probably not vote in the 2012 presidential election, as even an opposition vote may give credence to the GOP’s abject absurdities — and we thought Sarah Palin was the essence of idiocy! Wow!) I will pursue my cantankerous fiduciary ways as though nothing has intruded upon my psyche, not that much has.
My kid brother’s main concern is whether or not PLS is hereditary. It never occurred to me, but the medical establishment assures me it is neither contagious nor genetic. Jack and the others are safe; he is free to negotiate with Stephen Hawking for any used (and cheap) voice-writer that may be lying about, gathering cobwebs.
I may or may not start using a cane, although my balance is erratic and walking has taken on certain Scarecrowesque qualities (“if I only had a brain!”). The cane will be — if I eventually succumb to it — used until some fool asks about it, or snickers, or calls attention to it.
I find I am quite content to sit at my keyboard and peck away with my left hand, while composing sentences and phrases of elegant prose — and while dreaming of yesteryear when my wife and I won numerous trophies for tennis mixed doubles. Back then, a handicap was merely a number (16) they posted in the clubhouse next to my golf scores.
PLS is not the end of the world. At 80 I am in remarkably good health, so much so I dozed off during the latest MRI. The majority of my peers are either gone or going. Some family members I knew in my 30s are, mostly, kaput. A number of others should be.
I still intend to travel again to all the places I once loved: Ireland, England, France, Spain, Africa, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Hollywood, Tampa, Miami, San Francisco, Toronto — places I was usually unable to share with my wife in the old days.
All I need now is time. I have everything else.
*past columns can be accessed at www.authorsden/robertmills. Simply click on “blogs,” a couple of lines above the photo. All columns are archived by date at bottom of the page.
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