Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

  Well, allow me to officially welcome you to 2014. It's kinda funny, it has been 4 years since I received my official diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and 1 year since I began chronicling my life with MS in a blog. To think of the things that I have written, and the things that I have not, it makes me wonder how other people in the world deal with their MS. For me, laughing has always been the best medicine. Of course, I have discovered that with MS, medicine can also be a constant necessity that laughter alone can not cure.
  Since receiving the diagnosis of MS, I realized that I was pretty doomed from birth. After all, my initials are MSA. Granted, that also gave me a reason to be a fireman from birth as the masks that most departments in my area use are MSA breathing apparatus. Hey, told you before, it's a calling, not a job. However, the other day my family and I were at my aunt's house for a visit and she noticed for the first time that my initials were MS and it got a good little chuckle from all of us. I mean, you can't deny it, from the beginning of my life I was doomed to be a fireman who gets MS. Don't need a palm reader for that one, it's right there in the name. Yet, my wife wonders why I desperately want to change my name, which she has continually denied allowing me to do. I have tried telling her that perhaps it is the first step to my cure, take the disease out of my name. For some reason, she doesn't believe me. Well, it was worth a try.
  I have used humor in so many things in my life that I often don't know when something shouldn't be funny. I have laughed at just about everything I can think of. My wife still laughs at me about the time I shot myself in the ass. I will admit, looking back now it is kinda funny. Sure as hell wasn't at the time. I won't get into the entire story here, but will just give you the basics: re-holstering my .357Magnum (no longer have) with the hammer in the engaged position and accidentally pulled the trigger causing the bullet to exit the barrel, go through the holster, down the side of my ass, through my wallet and my pant leg and finally lodge itself into the tile and cement floor where I was located. Again, funny now, not so much then. Just like MS.
  When I look at my life with MS, I realize how many different things I have been able to laugh at now, but was either angry at or embarrassed by when they happened. There have been so many times that I can think of just recently where I have gotten mad or angrily embarrassed at because my MS caused me to not be able to do something or caused my to not do something properly. For instance, just yesterday I dropped the rabbit's litter pan on the floor of the kitchen spilling rabbit poop and dirty litter all over the kitchen floor as my youngest daughter was trying to help me clean it. It wasn't that she caused me to drop it or in any way wasn't helping me, it was just a random spasm in my right hand/arm that caused me to knock the pan out of place whilst we were trying to dump it into the trash can.
  A few weeks ago I was trying to serve some noodles to the kids for dinner and when I was trying to fork them out of the strainer and into bowls another spasm caused me to fling noodles onto the floor. Not just a few noodles, but a fairly large amount. Again, I got upset only because it is embarrassing to allow me to show my weakness in front of my children and their friends. I am not necessarily embarrassed by my disease, in some ways I wear it as a badge as a testament to my years in the fire service (I mean, hey, we all die, either by fire or cancer or something else, why not MS). I am still getting used to being the Daddy that used to be viewed by my children as strong and unbreakable, and now that they know that I am "sick" and that there are just certain things that Daddy can no longer do. That is the most difficult thing that I have ever had to deal with. It is also the one thing that has opened up many different dialogues with my children. Daddy isn't SuperMan.
  No matter the progression level you are at, open dialogue with your friends and loved ones is the hardest and easiest thing that anyone can experience. Many people, myself included, have had the internal debate regarding disclosing the illness to immediate family and close friends. Many more have had the debate when it comes to discussing it with co-workers and employers. For me, I never really disclosed it to my employer, I just took my retirement for "medical reasons" and left it at that. Granted, by that time several of the people that I worked closely with knew exactly what was going on and had helped me keep it "covered" until I chose to leave the fire service, but I pretty much considered those trusted few as family more than co-workers. When it came time for me to tell them, it was the easiest conversation to open, although I was unsure of what their reaction might be. It is the same way when it comes to telling other family members. When you say Cancer, or AIDS, or Diabetes, everyone already has a pretty good idea of what is going on and how things are going to be managed and how the disease is going to progress. With MS, their is almost no standard progression chart that one can follow to know what is next. You may have no symptoms for months or years after the diagnosis, or you may see a constant change in symptoms from small changes to drastic ones. There is no way to tell. This leads many people to be afraid. I promise you, when you start to tell them, the first thing they all will say is, "oh God, I am so sorry." Ok, thanks, but, WHY are YOU sorry? Are you the one that gave it to me? if so, I think that we need to have a loooooong chat...This is usually my reply to people just to throw them off the pity path and give them a moment to realize that I didn't just deliver "bad" news to them, just news that might be good to know. Nothing to be sorry about, just another part of life that is out there to be aware of. Just like I would tell you if there was a hornet's nest above your front door. It doesn't mean that you board the door up and never use it again deciding that you are now going to climb in and out of the dining room window instead. You take that piece of information, and you incorporate it into your already existing knowledge of life. And, if one day you walk out that front door and a hornet stings you, you will be able to go back and remember the day that I told you about the nest being there. It's all just part of life.
  When it comes to New Year's, everyone makes resolutions that may only last a few days or weeks. When it comes to MS, most resolutions are unrealistic vows that we silently make against our disease. Such as, this year I will not let you damage my Myelin. This year I will not have any more relapses. This year I will not lose my balance and fall down the stairs. Ok, the last one is actually a possibility. You can do what I did and move from a house with stairs to a house that is one level. I have kept that silent promise and I no longer fall down the stairs in my house, because there are no stairs. I know, you might consider that cheating, but hey, I never said I wasn't a cheater!
  This New Year's I too have made a few resolutions. I have quit smoking. I know what those of you who know me well enough are thinking, I have made this resolution before and failed after a short period of time (usually less than a week.) Well, this time I truly hope to succeed. I stated taking Chantix about 3 weeks ago. Even though I continued to smoke during the initial weeks of Chantix, I did notice that I had reduced the amount that I was smoking. As of New Year's, I have not smoked an actual cigarette, and have instead been using an electronic cigarette. I have noticed the slight craving in the back of my mind for a real smoke, but I have been able to satisfy my need for something between my fingers and the constant need to puff on something. I know that many of you dirty minded people have a comment that I am sure you would love to insert there, trust me, I would too if I were reading something saying the same thing. Just remember, there is no harm in being a dirty minded bugger, hell, it has given me many opportunities to make others laugh at odd times.
  I have also vowed this year to be a better husband. This vow is even harder than quitting smoking, that I can promise you with 100% certainty. For the last 10 years (almost) that my wife and I have been married, I have been completely blind to how close I have gotten to losing her. Hell, I went with her to the bank to sign paperwork for her bank account, not even putting 2 and 2 together that this was a single account for her. Hmmm, we have always done our banking together, and now she wants her OWN account and didn't want me to have ANY access to it. To any normal person that might have been a red flag. Not to me! Dum de dum dum dum de de. Didn't see anything wrong there. Spending more time at "work". When I would tell her that I loved her more, she wouldn't argue....Hmmm, yet again, SIGN!!! Well, since we have finally laid everything out on the table with each other, although for being a very serious and long overdue conversation, there was a lot of laughter between us both during it, I now know what I have done to cause such a rift between us and am going to work even harder in 2014 to get our love life back to where it was 10 years ago. First things first, I am getting a lot of plastic surgery to make me look 25 again! Ok, that is a joke. Seriously, I don't think there is enough money in Bill Gates bank account to make me look like I did at 25, and if you saw me then you would know that I wasn't any better looking then than I am now so what would be the point. Personally, I think that all of the grey hairs I have, especially those that keep showing up in my beard, make me look much better at 34 than I ever did in my 20s. Like I tell people, its not really grey hair, it is seasoning (ie. salt and pepper) as I am a dish that needed a little more flavor.
  My greatest vow is to be a better father. No matter how many years I live on this earth, or how many "World's Greatest Dad" coffee cups I have (at current count, 0, just FYI) I can always and always will strive to be a better father. It is a goal that never gets old and there really is no way to measure when you have reached the top, thus I will just keep reaching. Granted, my oldest daughter Jennifer is the one I truly wish could benefit from my desire to be a better father, and I really hope that this is the year that her and her mother allow me the chance to enter more and more into their lives. I know that at 15 she really doesn't think that she needs me for anything, except maybe to borrow the car keys, but I am hoping and praying that she will give me the opportunity to redeem myself for my previous failures in fatherhood with her. As for my two youngest, I just want to do whatever makes them happy, smart, and able to assist them in growing up to be the people that they want to be. That is what most parents fail to realize when it comes to raising their children. Most parents want their kids to be the people that they want them to be (as in the parents.) The only way I will ever be happy and truly feel like I have succeeded as a father, is when my child tells me that they are happy with themselves because they are the person that they have always wanted to be. Granted, I hope that who I want them to be, and who they want to be are the same thing, their happiness is and always will be MY happiness.  As you read this, I hope it has made you consider what you plan on achieving this year. I hope that you plan to be a better person than you were in 2013. I hope that you plan to accomplish your goals that you have set forth for yourself regardless of any goals that others have set forth for you. I hope that you plan on loving twice as much this year as you did the last. And I truly hope more than anything that you plan to be twice as happy this year as you were in 2013. After all, our lives are not that different and your happiness could very well be part of my happiness. It's not just our life, but it is something like it.....Happy New Year!

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