What have I been going through? This bounces about my mind, particularly as my body bounces about the streets of Menlo Park, which it does a lot these days, sitting still being on my avoidance list. Sad, in a word. With no apparent cause. Which makes me think that something old is creeping to life. But in the course of the day, and it is a day full of fine things, most notably tinged with publication…my book…let us call it that…and its promotion. And even that this has come late in life, no real problem there either. I can think of all sorts of good reasons to delay such a stage.
But it is clear enough bouncing down Live Oak Ave., that well-known path to enlightenment, what much of this sadness is about. It’s about five inches from my wheelchair seat, my lower back, which is currently registering everything. For example, travel. No, not the sort of trip one speculates about. But the trip one has to make, a.k.a., business travel. I don’t know what else to call it, bopping about in search of a few bookstores willing to have me read on their premises. Before a live, albeit small, audience. One has to travel there, and that probably necessitates an airplane or two. And whether I can feel one trip or other in my lower back, surely the sum total is there. The problem really being that even without airplane trips, just bouncing about the streets is fatiguing these days.
But how fatiguing? Hard to say, and really not to the point, because the issue has more to do with the spirit. The body memory is keen. It holds a succession of deep physical failures of the organism’s nerve supply. Each utterly demoralizing, the next one always anticipated…and projected to be as bad as its predecessor. Which is why it’s important to consider these possibilities, weigh them…and try to imagine something better.
First, there was the shooting. Second, there was the deterioration of walking and the slide into a wheelchair…which, one must acknowledge, took another 20 years. Third, the loss of nerves to the right arm, and further paralysis. And fourth, well, that’s sort of where I am. Waiting for the next horrible loss…and perhaps finding it in the diffuse phenomena one calls age.
And this is where the quadriplegic introvert really needs to speak up. Share, as we say in California. Get a second, not to mention a third, fourth and fifth…opinion. Because if I am utterly frank, it seems an outrage, getting older. After all, my body began acting older, that is to say, weak and unreliable, at such an early age. Now that genuine old age is encroaching, adding to the neuromuscular mix, it seems an outrage. How could this happen? The fourth big physical failure. And what did I do wrong this time? This time thing being most unfair. But never mind such thoughts. For me, the body’s giving way, things hurting more here, weakening there…these are feelings. They are pervasive, and they form a sort of trap.
Swimming. It is always a possibility, and I live near a public pool. What would happen if I contrived to get in the water now and then? It would take effort, but that is up to me. The important thing is to remember. That there are things I can do, have always been things I can do, to offset my physical decline. And the effectiveness of these things, well, that is only part of the story. As long as something could be done, a level of improvement possible, my spirits could be buoyed…okay, not to the point of effervescence, but lifted. Gloom alleviated. Somewhat. And much of the time ‘somewhat’ will do.
Modifying my bathroom to accommodate a wheelchair. Acquiring a van that can accommodate my current wheelchair…not its predecessor. Getting more help when I travel, particularly in hotels. These are things, big and small, that would seem to brighten the future. Put it this way. If I should turn up at a well-known bookstore in Iowa City in June…and believe me, this is entirely conjectural…the thought of having to handle the trip on my own feels burdensome, almost painful. But if I can find some help…the source of that help as yet unknown…but someone to be around when I shower, help me dress, well the whole thing feels lighter. And lighter, simply put, is good.