Saturday, February 18, 2017

Whence Comes a Heavier Month

T. S. Eliot in his poem, "The Wasteland", wrote "April is the cruelest month. I understand his reasoning, but in my own reality February is the cruelest month. Why should I say this for isn't it also the shortest?

In the olden days of Pilgrims and young girls' accusations of witches afoot, there was a man named Giles Corey. He was not necessarily a bad man nor a good man, but a stubborn landowner with a temper. When he was 65 he beat one of his indentured servants with a stick for stealing a container of apples. A little more than a week following, the servant, one Jacob Goodale, died and it was ruled a result of the beating. Giles was charged with using unreasonable force and nothing else since corporal punishment was legal. He paid a fine and that was that.

Fifteen years later Giles was accused of what was considered a more serious action, committing witchcraft, and he was sent to trail where he refused to confess. As we have said, he was a stubborn man and was about to prove how stubborn. They took him to the field next to the prison and staked him to the ground. He was then subjected to the punishment of Pressing in at attempt to force a confession from him. He refused and after two days of this he died, but he never confessed. Pressing is a cruel execution. Heavy weights or stones are placed upon the torso of the victim and more weight is added and added until the torturers get what they want. The subject usually suffocates to death because the accumulated weight prevents the lungs from working.

Giles died in September of the year at the age of 80, a tough old man with his life pressed away.

Living can be a form of pressing. The weight of years and events adding to what is upon you. February is proving to be a heavy stone in a series of piled up rocks. I believe I am a tough man. I have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune over the decades, but every time I have brushed myself off and stood up and gone on.  No bad thing had gotten me down for any length. I choose to be happy in life, which doesn't mean always laughing. We have had our struggles.

But the last few years have been rough, I must admit. There is a song that goes, "Nobody wants you when you're old and gray." That was certainly true of the job market. I was sent out to pasture after 70, which seemed fine because it was getting harder to do what I had been doing. With Social Security and my pension it seemed possible to survive modestly. A year later, I was suddenly caretaker of both my parents after my mother had a debilitating stroke.

They each passed away after several months of suffering. It took a year to completely settle an estate that had almost nothing in it. Everything was gone, but my duties were done. Then on the heels of not being caretaker to them I became a caretaker to my wife, who has Bipolar Disorder. It is a terrible, imprisoning, torturous thing to have and it somewhat isolated us both

We abided.

Then came a year of health issues, my wife getting a knee replacement (and she needs another). This was costly, of course, but not devastating, however worse was to befall us. Last May, just about June, I had a strange weakness in my legs during a walk. I also had it in my arms. The doctors (several) could not figure out the cause and I was subjected to many tests and office visits during the summer, which were interrupted by two hospitalizations for clostridium difficile infections (C. Diff.), the first almost killing me.  I was to have two more attacks of this miserable infection that didn't put me in the hospital.
Once over this it was back to the tests and specialists and my mysterious ailment.

The mystery was solved on December 1 when I was informed I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig Disease, an untreatable, incurable, progressive, ultimately fatal condition.

But none of this knocked the breath out of me (although the ALS eventually and literally will).  I would just live as I had as long as it would let me. Yes, we were hurting financially because of all those doctors and hospital stays, but as I entered this year I believed I had taken care of all our medical expenses, even though they had eaten up our savings and ran up out credit cards.  Then came February and out of nowhere came new bills for doctor visits last year. Why are they so late in billing, these doctors? They were not huge, totaling about $110, but they came in a month when we had other extra expenses and the high heating bills and then another Endoscopy that assures other bills will come my way, plus a high cost medication to treat an ulcer I have. Suddenly I had $450 of unexpected expenses beyond my income.

The bleakness of February must have worn on me to feel the weight of this. Perhaps worse is the frustration of my body not working as it should. I have grown limited in strength and what I can do physically and also knowing my wife can't become my caretaker, when I am hers. Even more bothersome is I can't seem to think properly anymore; that is, I find it hard to be organized and to write.

I am in a sense empty. My life being is truly in the hands of God. This is not a bad place to be.