Friday, December 10, 2010
Among The Lucky Of The Unlucky
"An ambulance can only go so fast" - Neil Young
Our band was taking a quick break, a man jumped on stage and took my hand. "I heard you on the radio he said. Then he dumbfounded me by calling my interview "Brave".
You must have me confused with someone else. Someone with nothing to lose. Someone who isn't worried every day that he is finally seeing the end of his ability to drive, to draw, to write, to make music, to make love, to do, to be. Someone like... whom? Like someone who hasn't been paying attention.
I've been paying enough attention to realize I am at least among the lucky of the unlucky. I respond well to the medications available. We have the insurance to pay for expensive pills and surgery. With continued luck and discipline, the worst will be held at bay while I go on appreciating what my friend Janet calls "The finer miseries of Parkinson's".
How different does that make me from anybody else? Who isn't pushing their rock up a hill? Who Lives more than a phone call away from tragedy? Who doesn't depend on the fine calculation of other drivers on the road to keep a trip to the grocery store from becoming a trip to the emergency room? Who doesn't carry some rogue cell, a bit of themselves that will rebel and fester until it overwhelms the life it is a part of?
Herman Melville wrote of the whalers in a harpoon party at sea. Fragile men in a fragile boat, rowing toward a Sperm Whale to kill it with a small spear of iron and wood attached to a rope. The rope threaded throughout the boat and when a whale was struck the line jerked alive with deadly speed. The rope could snatch away a life or a limb on board the boat with impersonal lethality. Melville knew that we all are surrounded by such ropes and thought that a whaler was at least fortunate enough to see them.
Most of us are at least dimly aware of these ropes. Much of what we do every day is spent at some level trying to elude or escape them. To see the rope is to fear it less, to know where not to step, to keep a hand clear. What is truly frightening is what you do not know: Where the whale is, what it will do next. Facing this is the bravery required of each of us, and it is the price of a good life. This price is the same whether you are diagnosed or not. Diagnosis is merely to be shown one of the ropes.