Sunday, February 23, 2014

23 February 2014

I have been away from this blog due to having a collapsed lung and ensuing antibiotics. I was extremely tired and had no energy or willingness to write. I'm better now but i got out of the routine. i will add some writing I have done lately, this may help to explain the jump in dates at the top of the page.


9 February 2014
Sunday – a grey day

It is a particularly grey day today. Typical for Michigan being down wind from a large patch of open water (read: great lakes) that rarely freezes over, the constant influx of additional atmospheric moisture makes for a long season of overcast and grey skies. For a Michigander the overcast of winter can just be too long about half way through the season. This is when the “blahs” begin to show up. Let's just be done with it already. Spring can start anytime now.

All of this is made worse now as I no longer can go for a walk, go ski in the woods or any of those physical “work off the winter blues” activities. I even used to enjoy cutting and splitting firewood for next year's heating season on cold winter days. All that has changed now. I get to let the winter climate stream through a closed window any more. The view is bleak, the sky grey, and the three story Juniper outside my window just holds snow on its branches as if to mock me that there is at least snow to play with.

Having no children, I never was privy to watching the passage of time play out before me. I always felt as if I were in my early thirties going on whatever my chronological age was. I never let the idea of age bother me. This worked for a long time, I seemed immune or at least “removed” from getting older. I saw myself becoming not as young and still working, but just a little less, that's all. I had planned longer vacations, maybe with a theme, like retracing the Louis and Clark expedition – in stages. Maybe make some photographs accompanied by a journal of the trip. I could turn it into a book … I was going to ease into the second half of my life with style and grace. No more struggle. No more worrying about anything.

When I was 59 or 60 (I'm 62 now) I was diagnosed with MS. In one quick action I was plucked from my vision of the second half of my life and moved directly to the next phase after that. I am now a member of the “Old Guys”group. I sleep in a hospital bed, in an institution, have 24 hour attendants, am fed according to someone else's choices of what I should like and when I will eat it, can't get out of bed on my own,I wear big adult diapers, which don't always hold everything, so I often sit in urine soaked sheets until the overworked staff can get a moment to change me and the bed. This is what I expected when I hit ninety, not sixty. Where are those golden years I was looking forward to?

This is my present backstory. Then this morning I learned one of my high school friends succumbed to leukemia last night. Boy, suddenly my peers are dropping away a little faster than we expected. My friend Miles and I always planned on collaborating on some photo projects, trading stories from our shared past, our careers, you know, that second half of life stuff. Each of us got hustled out of that in a hurry, right into the “Old Guys”group. Where the skim of invincibility shows itself to be more wishful thinking than a matter of fact that I wanted to depend on. This comes on you with the same fierceness and finality of discovering that while you thought that you were fully clothed, walking through the center of town, you are actually naked. The boundary between living and surviving draws tighter while the possibilities of that final exit loom at the edges.

I know that any of us can die at any time, but it is when feebleness is your closest associate that the bleak result moves as close as just over your shoulder. I wish that Miles had been able to keep the leucocytes in check (he did) and get the red blood cells to recover (they couldn't), that was the plan. But not everything adheres to the plan.

I wish that I could get out of bed unaided, walk to the bathroom and pee in the pot. But that simple pleasure left a long time ago. I am thrilled that I survived a partially collapsed lung a few weeks ago(due to the MS not permitting full expansion for deep inhalations). Survived the ensuing infection and all the antibiotics. Now I am on oxygen with a cannula living halfway up my nose 24 hours a day. They say that getting old is not for sissies. I can attest to that.

I know that things will look better another day. I have had enough for now though. Too much has happened to just keep on smiling. I hurt in a non-physical way. I'm tired of the “Old Guys”group and its special concerns. I just have to give it words and let it go. Just writing this has helped. I'll drift to sleep tonight listening to the blues on my ipod. Thing will look different tomorrow.

Thanks for providing me a place to share the load.

Sometimes too much is simply too much.

John Whiting, 
somewhere in southern Michigan

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