My Mystery Diagnosis, Faith and Forgiveness

There was no lightening or thunderbolt or exact period of time or date but it came on very gradually—so gradually that I actually did not even notice the change in my body.

I was still an avid runner living in Augusta in 2011. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we all have 20/20, but at the time, I couldn’t even fathom that something devastating was brewing. Looking back, I remember running my regular 6-10 mile route when I began to “trip.” At first I attributed this to just being clumsy, which I never was before. It is amazing how the human mind can deny and deny something that is so obviously wrong. Running, previously my most enjoyable past time, began to be fraught with anxiety about whether or not I would trip and fall. Each time I ventured out, I would lecture myself on “lifting my right foot up.” When I did trip, I would chide myself by saying, “What’s wrong with you—PICK UP YOUR FOOT, IDIOT?” But invariably no matter how much I tried, my right foot would not lift far enough off the ground, resulting in tripping. One day, after a very frustrating and anxiety-ridden run, I checked the tread of my sneakers and I saw that the toe of the right sneaker was almost completely worn down, while the left sneaker was fine. Yet I still thought I was merely clumsy. A few days before Thanksgiving, I went to Kroger to buy food for a dish and took a huge fall in the parking lot, spilling my grocery bag. I quickly got up and tried to figure out what had happened. Apparently while getting to my car, my right foot did not clear the curb—more like dragged—and down I went. Fortunately or unfortunately I seemed to be walking normally so this pattern continued until August 2012.

As an obsessive runner I had multiple knee surgeries over the years for a ripped meniscus. In August 2012, I underwent one more surgery on my damaged right knee. I had every confidence that I would recover as I had before, although I was told I should not run anymore. I accepted that and I was just grateful that finally I would be pain free. However, my knee never got better and continued to be so painful where I could walk only with a marked limp. I tried all kinds of shots in my knee but it would not heal properly.

In addition, for a while I had bad lumber pain, especially in the morning. I thought I just needed a new mattress and, no matter how many mattresses I tried (I drove the mattress store employees crazy) my low back pain persisted. But it was not only lumbar pain—my whole body hurt and my toes were numb. I went to my internist, and after doing a cursory exam he concluded that I didn’t have any disc involvement and put me on an anti-inflammatory medication. I asked him if I should at least get an MRI, and he rejected that idea due to the cost. I emphasized to him that MY WHOLE BODY ACHED, but nothing was ordered. I finally decided that I would “self-refer” to a neurosurgeon. I went to the Neuroscience facility on Steven’s Creek Road and saw Dr. B, an osteopath, the first person before referral to a surgeon. He ordered a lumber MRI and it revealed spinal stenosis, pretty common in someone my age. We decided on a course of epidural steroid injections, which proved to be mildly successful for about a week. Then after two courses of this treatment, the pain returned and he finally referred me to one of the neurosurgeons (Dr. S) in that practice. My surgery was scheduled for Election Day 2012 and I had high hopes of becoming pain free again. At that time I was a massage therapist, and it was very difficult to practice my occupation and bend over, trying to relieve others’ pain, when my back was killing me. I went home from the hospital the next day with a plan to do lots of walking and get myself back on track for a quick recovery. However that was not the way it played out. Within a week, I was having balance trouble and within two weeks I was reluctantly using a cane to get around. My right knee was just as painful as ever and I could not walk without a limp and cane. I began to have nerve pain that I almost could not identify because I had never experienced that before. I frantically searched the Internet for some type of explanation and came up with “failed back surgery” as the culprit because I read story after story of patients who never recovered from lumbar surgery.

Now my 4 month long nightmare began in earnest. I went back to the Neuroscience practice and spoke with the surgeon’s very unsympathetic physician’s assistant who said, “give it time” and that the “nerve root needed to heal.” So, I tried to do just that, but instead of seeing improvement, my symptoms became worse and worse. At this point, I had severe burning and tingling nerve pain from my waist to my toes. I had a mysterious pressure on my abdomen and back whenever I stood which was relieved only when I sat or lay down. My right leg was cold to the touch, beginning to atrophy, and I could not lift it properly, much less walk without a cane. What made this so nightmarish was that NOBODY BELIEVED ME. Each time I went in for a check up, I was told over and over, “Well, this is so unusual. We’ve never seen this before”, as if it must be psychosomatic in nature—that was the implication. In the meantime, I was so debilitated at this point that I had to keep crutches and a cane by my bed so I could get into the bathroom at night. I actually drove, but with my heart in my mouth because my right leg, which was partially paralyzed, didn’t function properly. I had so many close calls that I knew God had to be traveling with me each time I ventured out. I had to lift my leg up with my hands to get it in the car and my biggest fear was that I would kill a person or family while driving. When I went shopping I would try to park as close as I could to the store, sometimes abandoning my mission because it was too far to walk. Everything that we take for granted was an effort and it gave me a great appreciation for what disabled people deal with on a regular basis. I asked the physician’s assistant if she could take pity on me and write a note for me to get a disabled car tag, but she refused stating, “Those are only given to people who are totally paralyzed” which is untrue. I ended up getting one from my orthopedist instead.

I went in for another LUMBER MRI because they wanted to see if the surgical site gave them any clues, which it didn’t. I was suffering, both physically and psychologically and I began to lose hope. But I soldered on and each day I would wake up with HOPE that maybe the nerve root was finally healing and maybe, just maybe, I could at least walk a little better. Some days I would fool myself into believing that there was a tiny bit of improvement and my mood would be bolstered. But that positive mood was dashed the next day when, upon waking, it became apparent that I was not any better, and in fact, probably worse. We all know that HOPE is everything, and I had none. So, at this point, I began to consider suicide every morning, even planning the method. I believe that what kept me going was that I employed a 12 step program tool of thinking in terms of “one day at a time.” I would think, “OK, whatever you want to do, you can put this off until tomorrow” and that kept me going in the world for another day. On days that I was so depressed, I would force myself to go to the gym, and although I didn’t go into the regular gym because I was embarrassed by my debilitated state, I went to the disabled pool. It was there that I would find some gratitude because, although here I was, withered polio-like leg, ambling into the pool with the use of my cane, I saw people far worse than me—quadriplegics with happy expressions in the pool. I saw wheelchair-bound people and said, “Thank You God.”

I continued going to the Neuroscience practice for checkups, only to be shuffled back and forth to various departments. All the while, they were baffled by my deteriorated state. One day they decided to perform an EMG and I was so hopeful that finally they would find the reason for my crippling condition. It was New Years Eve of 2012 when, while sitting in my car, I received a call from the nurse stating that, “The EMG showed nothing but an old radiculopathy.” In English—nothing new and nothing that would account for my deterioration. That day was significant in that I just sat there, totally numb and disbelieving, my last hope dashed, and thought that I could not bring myself to go on in the world. A friend of mine happened to see me, and asked if I was OK and suggested we go to Starbucks, which saved me for another day.

The next person to see me at that practice was the pain management doctor who gave me the news in an abrupt manner, that he could not help me. He prescribed Lyrica and Neurontin for nerve pain, but all it did was cause me to fall because it made my muscles weak, so I stopped that immediately. I was so angry at his lack of empathy and bad bedside manner but it turned out to be the best thing that happened because he referred me back to the original doctor, going full circle. Dr. B, the osteopath, sat and actually thought about what might be going on and what my options were. He treated me as a person and his kind, thoughtful manner was appreciated. The new plan was to embark on yet another course of epidural steroid injections, but suddenly a thought occurred to him—what if we order a thoracic MRI? After the MRI I went back to his office with no expectations, but maybe a little hope. As soon as he pulled up the MRI on the screen, his eyes lit up because the MRI revealed a small benign tumor (meningioma) pressing on T3 of the spinal cord. Boom—my world exploded in a good way. He excitedly said, “Here’s your problem. This meningioma is pressing on T3, causing all your symptoms.” It was as if God came down from the heavens and blessed me—I was so ecstatic that words cannot describe it. I am brought to tears when I think of that moment. He quickly referred me back to the original surgeon, Dr. S, who was shocked and humbled. I actually did not want to use the same surgeon, but I realized she knew my case, and I could get this done very soon. Just prior to surgery I discovered an article from a Japanese case study that said, “If a patient is not recovering from lumber surgery, the surgeon should consider the possibility of a thoracic meningioma.” I sure wish I had seen that article months before, but at least it was finally correctly diagnosed. The spinal surgery, scheduled for a week later, was rough but successful. Right out of the recovery room, I clearly remember me lifting my right leg, unaided, and being elated. After a hard 5 days in the hospital, in severe pain, I was released. A home care nurse was ordered for 2 weeks and I dismissed her after a week. My walker went into the garage along with my cane and crutches. I am athletic and I began to recover so quickly due to my previous good shape and I began going to the gym again. I had to be careful that nobody slapped me on my back for a while, which would send me to the moon but other than that, it was fine. My damaged knee began to heal, and my atrophied and cold right leg began to warm and plump out, looking normal again. Here’s the thing, I was bitter at first for all the doctors who I felt failed me starting initially with my internist and I even considered hiring a lawyer to sue. But, I then began to think about gratitude and forgiveness and by the grace of God, a solution to my suffering was found. I began to think that maybe my travails helped me be more empathetic to the disabled, an experience I never would have had otherwise. On March 1st it will be 4 years since I got my life back. But, each time I perform an otherwise unremarkable feat such as walking briskly across the room, or climbing stairs unaided, I am in awe. Sometimes I am merely in Walmart and I marvel at how fast I can walk, or in an airport, briskly passing people on the way to my connection. It is amazing and miraculous and I will never stop being grateful.

Misfit

I am a misfit. I do not fit into any particular group, nor do I even try anymore. I have never been a “click” person, preferring to be a loner, unless someone wants to engage me on a one-on-one basis. I really don’t like people all that much, although there are exceptions.

Growing up in Manhattan, I went to Stuyvesant Day Camp, out in Staten Island. Each day I would leave my house, stand on the corner of 14th Street and Avenue A with my canteen and lunch and wait for the bus to pick me up. Since all the counselors were liberal hippy types we’d sing Negro Spirituals all the way there.

I was always the person who somehow attracted the outcast, or oddball (you know that person that everyone basically rolls their eyes at, or ridicules behind their back). Although I was never the object of derision, the groups I was associated with engaged in it. All through my life, starting in day camp, I was somehow a person who the misfits looked to. I never understood why and whenever the poor person who was bullied by the popular kids, befriended me, I wanted to say to them, “Why me? Please leave me alone.” I believe that, although I didn’t speak up, I never took part in the actual bullying and what they saw was a person who was different from the others in the group—someone with a certain amount of, not only compassion but empathy. I believe I didn’t just feel sorry for them, I identified with them because I also felt like an outcast. I truly understood their plight, not because I was the nerd, but I was an outcast masquerading as “normal.” I just wanted to fit in. As children, any kid who is not white bread, any kid who is different, is in for a heartbreaking childhood.

When I was about 11 and in day camp, there was a girl named Lorelei who was the object of cruel jokes, mostly because she was different—a very free spirit—and did not wear undies. That was noted when we changed into our clothes after swimming and she was relentlessly teased by the other girls. Sadly one of the mothers even wrote a song about her that became a chant every day. Since I did not sing the song nor did I take part in the jokes, she gravitated to me. One day she asked me over to her house for a sleepover, which was mortifying to me. I didn’t want anyone to know lest I become the object of the popular girls’ wrath. I put her off for as long as I could and asked my mom who said, “Just go over there. It will be nice.” I was hoping she would tell me not to go, but she didn’t so I bit the bullet and said I would go. She was SO happy that she had a “friend” but I wanted to keep it a secret. The day came for my sleepover and I reluctantly went over with my mom. I discovered that Lorelei was very wealthy and lived in a gorgeous townhome in Manhattan. Her dad, an older gentleman with gray hair, was a widow so she had no mother to pattern her behavior after. He also walked with leg braces and was very debilitated, but very nice. I think he was over the moon that his daughter actually had a friend over for a sleepover. I was determined not to have a good time and kept wanting to call my mom to pick me up, but I figured I’d stick it out. But something interesting happened that evening—I began to actually enjoy myself. Lorelei was actually a fun person and I have a good memory of playing with her parakeet, putting him under the cover and watching him burrow himself out. In spite of myself, and against all odds, I gave in and laughed and enjoyed the night. I remember thinking, “Ok, I’ll go over and get it over with. Then I will make an excuse and never come back.” So, although I had a good time, I still figured this was a one-time thing. Then, the inevitable question was asked, “Can you come over again next week?” I wanted to say NO, but I just couldn’t hurt her feelings so I agreed. Again, the next time I went over, I had a fun time. But, somehow the popular girls got wind of my fraternizing with the enemy and their rebuke was swift. My friend Denise said, “You know if you continue to be friends with her, you will not have any more friends.” At that point I decided not to listen to her and basically ignored her warning. I don’t know what would’ve happened in the future, but I never had to make that decision. The problem was solved because one day Lorelei stopped coming to the day camp, and I literally never knew what became of her. But that taught me a lesson that you shouldn’t be so quick to try to fit in. As the years have gone by, and as I have gotten older, I don’t care anymore about fitting in or being popular. I am who I am, and I am not a social butterfly—I often have to force myself to be in groups and interact. Do I care?—sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t.

Picking Our Families

If only we could pick our families. We could go online to a dedicated site named Design Your Family or Pick Your Family, and plug in specific criteria such as physical characteristics, temperament, personality, interests, etc. There would be almost unlimited choices and we could mix and match until we achieved the perfect combination of traits that would satisfy us.

The possibilities would be endless—parents, siblings, children, spouses, and maybe even friends too. For those who are not computer savvy, Walmart would offer a specific department where there would be a Kiosk. If you did not want to use the Kiosk, you could just find a limited selection on the wall being sold at a discount. Here you would have instant gratification and pay right then and there and take your new family home with you. But, the problem is what do you do with the old models—the parents, siblings, kids, spouses who drive you crazy? I guess you could trade them in for newer, more efficient models—with energy ratings. You can take your old husband who never satisfies you, trade him in, and depending upon how much you want to spend, can purchase the model guaranteed to induce an orgasm every time. No more family resentments, squabbles, or problem children either—all that would be replaced with a blank slate for you to muck up all over again. The beauty of this is that you can trade in your family members again and again so you never have unresolved lingering issues; just trade them in and start from scratch. This service can be expanded to EBay as well. But, an issue is what would happen to the models that don’t get sold, like those poor sweet lonely Christmas trees that are still waiting for a home by Christmas Eve. Where do they go? It is so sad to see them crying out, “Please BUY ME, PLEASE,” and you know they are unwanted.

Maybe that is what would happen to these discarded family members. And how about me—what happens if I get traded in? We’d all live in fear that we’d be sold in Walmart for a discount. Am I so perfect that my family would want to keep me; I think not? The more I consider the logistics and consequences, the more this idea needs more work and may have to be shelved, but can be revisited in the future. So, for now, I guess I will muddle through with the family God has given me. But maybe I need to get in on the ground floor of this innovation before Amazon picks it up and Jeff Bezos makes even more millions on my idea.

Dream within a Dream

Someone just sat on the edge of my bed. I know this because I can feel the depression of the mattress but I don’t know who it could be considering I am alone. I am paralyzed by fear and afraid to open my eyes because I just know it is a ghost—a friendly ghost, like Casper I hope. But I am also incapable of moving my limbs as if I am pinned down and I have a sense of helplessness. This is so vivid that it almost seems real, but it is a dream—a dream that I want desperately to wake up from.

Then, as if by magic I am awake and not afraid at all. I am with a friend, telling her of my harrowing experience with the supernatural being in my house. But this is different—somehow I innately know that I am actually still dreaming, although in this dream, the fear is gone and I feel serene.

Suddenly I am aware of a newfound power where I can control the course and temperament of my dream and I can have anything I want in this alternate reality. What a freeing feeling I have, for in this dream, I get to have do-overs—my son is mentally healthy, I am happily married, and I am young again. I can fly if I want, why not, this is my dream—in my new world anything is possible. I have no more money issues. I am enjoying the best day of my life and I can summon up friends and loved ones who have passed over. I am outside in a beautiful field taking pictures that automatically transform into gorgeous images right in front of me. I am having the best food and sex ever and know this is the way it will remain. I am joyous and free, oh yes, I am happy for once.

But then the theme of the dream dramatically changes, as if something ominous and vile is inserting itself into my perfect dream. The dream is gradually becoming dark again, and I am hearing thunder in the distance. My brain desperately wants me to continue dreaming but it is no use—the booming thunderclaps become louder and louder, making it impossible to maintain my sleep. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I am thrust into total consciousness. I lay there, realizing that I am now awake, seeing the lit up room from the lightning bolts. It is morning and I reluctantly get out of bed with a heavy heart. The depression is palpable because this time I know for sure, I am back in the real world and my lovely dream is over. I desperately want to return to the utopia of my subconscious—maybe I can go back tonight, but I know it is gone and reality is back.

Someone I Used to Know

I dive in after my little boy who has fallen into the ocean, frantically calling out to him, “Baby, baby, where are you?” I spot him underwater, slowly sinking, and I swim toward him, extending my hand, “Baby, baby, grab my hand. PLEASE GRAB MY HAND!” He stretches his arm out toward me but doesn’t quite reach me and continues his slow motion descent further and further down. I call out to him again, “Baby, PLEASE GRAB MY HAND”, and he makes one last try, and almost makes it but just as his fingertips barely touch mine, he slips away. As I watch helplessly as he descends deeper and deeper into the ocean depths, a sense of hopelessness and total remorse engulfs me, realizing that I can never save him. Then I wake up.

I am attached to my son. I am he and he is me—we are one and we always were. We are attached surely as if our livers, or lungs, or hearts were in the same body. I feel him and I cannot separate myself. I know for sure that I will not survive if one day I get the phone call that I have been dreading for so many years. I will cease to exist, if not physically, but spiritually—my soul will surely die and time will stop. I wonder why God puts people in the world for suffering while others live a charmed life. I go through each day, trying to become a “Lasagna noodle” and I am sometimes successful. But, alas, that serene state never lasts because I cannot get the vision out of my mind of my child, being shunned by everyone, alone, and looking like the Unabomber, hoody, sunglasses, and surgical mask, trying to navigate the world—running from all the entities chasing and trying to kill him.

Mental illness has taken his soul just as if he were a victim of a Body Snatcher—for he kind of resembles himself, but his essence is gone. He has become “someone I used to know” but don’t anymore. I can fool myself on some days and sometimes when I am at Church I can pretend in my daydream that he is sitting right beside me, worshipping God and feeling the rhythmic beat of the Christian Rock band. I can daydream that he is OK now and that he is back in his right mind. A sense of peace and serenity surrounds me and for a short period of time I can actually believe that anything is possible and I have hope again. But then reality creeps back into my world and I know I am powerless.

Today I have come to the realization that I can never save my boy—only God can. Unlike when he was a baby, he is a grown man and I have no control in his life. Although I had that dream so long ago, I can still remember it because it never felt like an actual dream—more like a premonition. I can pray and hope that one-day the stars and the moon will align and somehow he will be saved. But realistically I do not feel that will ever happen although I still hold out hope; when you lose hope that is the end and I am not ready to accept that yet.

August

Wherever I am, when I hear that familiar rattling sound coming from the trees every August the old childhood memory is evoked. I am a girl, living on the main floor in Stuyvesant Town right near the many trees that surround my window. That shaking, rattle snake sound at the end of August signals an end to the carefree days of tops in the playground; getting up early to play all day; running races and being champ; going out after dinner. Although still hot in August, seemingly overnight, the steamy days are replaced with that distinct smell and slight coolness that signals Fall is coming. The days are noticeably shorter and school is on the horizon.

Testimony

This is my Testimony that I wrote a number of months ago. It has actually been 3 years and 4 months since my surgery but I wanted to post this because I had not done so before:

Recently, I started thinking that almost 2 years ago I had a life changing surgery. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was actually almost 3 years. I couldn’t believe that time had just slipped by so quickly. So, on March 1st 2016 it will be 3 years since I was released from a living hell of a crippling illness. Everyone knows HOPE is everything, but sometimes no matter how you look at it, HOPE seems to be nowhere. After having lower back surgery, I inexplicably began to have trouble walking. I had a severely dropped foot, constant nerve pain, and a partially paralyzed leg. HOPE began to slip away after exhausting all tests and follow up MRIs, even 2nd opinions, only to be told, “We just don’t understand what is wrong with you. We have never seen something like this before.” Each morning I would awake with hope that a miracle happened and somehow I was getting better. But as soon as the realization came that nothing had changed and I was even worse, an incredible despair and hopelessness would engulf me. There were so many days that I wanted to just give up but I kept saying, “Maybe things will be better tomorrow. If you are thinking of offing yourself, put it off until tomorrow and see.” By employing that tactic, I managed to stay in this world to see a miracle happen. I have no doubt that this miracle was from my persistence and constantly not taking NO for an answer, a doctor who actually sat down to think about my symptoms, and God. I don’t think I would have gotten better if all of these factors were not aligned. By God’s grace one of my doctors ordered another MRI and found the culprit, a benign spinal tumor compressing a portion of my thoracic spine. Faith is a beautiful thing and when life is going well, it is easy to have it. The true test of faith is when life is life—when you feel that all hope is gone and you cannot see your way out. So many people are waiting for a white light and burning bush to prove the existence of God, when He is there all along. I believe my horrendous experience was necessary to bring me to my knees and start believing. I do not think this was an accident and that there are no coincidences in God’s world. God was working in my life for a long time before I noticed it, even meeting Joyce and Bill, who introduced me to their church. If my son had not had the breakdown, I never would’ve met them. I think God was patiently waiting for me, only I needed the experiences I endured to discover Him. I still pray and pray for my boy, and sometimes, when I am in a bad space, I wonder if God is really listening. Then I remember I must have faith, which equals hope, which equals life. I do not know what the future holds, and I must remember that I am not in charge. It is when I turn things over to Him that I achieve that elusive gift of peace and serenity that I am constantly seeking.

Jane – A tribute

Dear Jane,

It is Friday night and I keep thinking I’m going to pick up the phone and give you a call. You are one of the only people who understand about my son’s difficulties because you have been through it too. You are my go-to person for life’s injustices, life’s tragedies, life’s funny moments and I can talk to you about anything on earth and you to me. I’ve been there through all your hospitalizations, through your difficulties with your family, and you have been there for me in kind. Yesterday I pulled out my old wedding album so I could remember you as the maid of honor, happy, young, and vibrant. It is so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I will not see you again, except in Heaven, God willing.

We were good friends when we were teens up until our thirties but, as life took us in different directions, we somehow lost contact. We reconnected and again lost contact—this time I was sure our friendship had run it’s course. But one day, out of the blue, you called me and as if no time had passed at all, our bond was still strong and became stronger in the years that followed. I have shared so much of my travails about my child, my inexplicable crippling illness and subsequent recovery upon discovery of the cause (a benign spinal tumor), my ups and downs with my son, and everything in between. Sometimes I would call you and we’d have a marathon talking session about everything, including movies, Stuyvesant Town, old shows, friends, medical issues, family, politics—-you name it, we talked about it. You have been one of my greatest support systems and I feel that I filled that role for you too. I honestly don’t know what I am going to do without you.

To say I was shocked to learn of you passing was the understatement of the year. The last time I spoke with you, you said, “Call me anytime.” So, last Friday night I called to get my weekly dose of love, friendship, laughter, and wisdom from you. When you didn’t pick up I left a message. Three days later I called again, and again, and again, for days and days. At first I was annoyed, then I thought that maybe you were in the hospital again, although you had been doing very well lately. Everything seemed under control with your MS, which was in remission, and your diabetes, which didn’t seem to be an issue. I had no reason to believe that a tragedy had occurred. In my heart of hearts I was frightened and would not even entertain the idea that you had passed away. It was unfathomable to me so I dismissed it for days. But, yesterday something told me to call your brother’s number, which you had given me a few years back just in case. When I spoke with your sister in law, and she said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Jane passed away”, it felt like there was an explosion in my chest, and a punch to my gut—then the tears and disbelief came.

Jane, you had a very hard life, and a lonely existence up in Lockport, with no real support system. But you became a strong advocate for yourself and still managed to accept some of the seemingly unfair blows life dealt you with characteristic grace and dignity. About a year ago you said you were sitting on the couch watching TV when you saw your mom in the dining area. I asked if you were asleep and you said, “No, that was her.” I asked if you were scared at all and you said, “No.” I believe that your mom appeared to let you know you were loved and she was waiting for you to come over soon. I do not know the exact cause of your demise, but I suspect that it was peaceful, in your sleep. Although I am grieving this loss, I am happy for you at the same time, because at long last you are loved in a way you were not in this physical life. You are, as I write this, in God’s loving arms and with your mom. Your body is healed from your MS and you have no more physical or emotional pain—nobody can hurt you now. You are walking, running and laughing freely and finally at peace. I know you are looking down on me now and thinking of all we shared and how we could sometimes find humor in the strangest places. I prayed to God last night that you appear in my dreams to let me know you are indeed OK. But, I somehow know that you are. Sweet dreams in eternity. You will never be forgotten. Godspeed. Call me anytime!

Love Marilyn

Little Desk

Little Desk

The room is so bare now, except for that little lonely desk.
That desk is old and worn with nicks and imperfections, but with a new finish, it has new life.
That sad little desk sat, unused, in the closet for 16 months gathering dust.
That little desk has been through so much, but it is still standing.
That little desk sits all alone and forgotten in that empty room.
That little desk was about to be sent to the dump or Salvation Army, but it is still fighting to be useful.

A house is not always a home if there is no love.
This house has ghosts—memories that linger in every room—ghosts of an ex-husband, ex-lover, and son.
This house collects pieces of each person—games, tennis rackets, pool sticks, clothes and toiletries, and sadness and loss.
That little desk stands alone in that little room waiting to be loved.

Luck

Luck can be either good or bad and sometimes you can put a spin on something that starts out as horrible luck but becomes good luck. A perfect example of that is being in a catastrophic car accident, but surviving. It was unlucky that you were in an accident, but lucky that you survived. Sometimes something unlucky can result in meeting the love of your life. If you had not been there or gone through what you did, if you had not been in that hospital, or that building, then you would not have been in that exact place at the right time. You’ve heard of the wrong place at the wrong time but there is also the right place at the right time. Maybe one day you decided to just go another direction on your way to work and avoided getting killed. Maybe you woke up late one morning and missed your flight, only to discover later in the day that that was really the luckiest thing that could’ve happened to you because you missed the crash. I was sure lucky that I decided to go on vacation during the 9/11 tragedy since I worked there. Luck and bad luck are fluid—they are constantly changing because what you consider to be an unlucky event may turn out to be the luckiest day of your life. But is it really luck or divine intervention? It all depends on what one believes but I like to think that all good luck is a blessing and something to be thankful for. Then there are some people who always seem to be lucky, or so you think.

You know those people—the ones who are lucky in love, winning money, or great job. You get those people who win the lottery more than once but can’t handle the consequences and responsibilities of having more money than they are equipped to handle. They change, start living above their limits, destroy relationships and end up broke, and alone. I do believe that luck is not just some random thing—you make your own luck. I hear people described as lucky when they win an award, but in reality they have been working hard to earn that reward. That is not luck—that is skill, talent, and tenacity. To me, pure luck is when you have done nothing to earn your good fortune—lottery, horse racing, or betting on anything. But there are also many people who chase luck as in the case of compulsive gamblers.

My Dad was a person who believed in luck so much that he would spend most every Saturday at the “track” betting on the horses at either of the two racetracks around the NYC area: Aqueduct (the big A) or Belmont. Sometimes he was lucky and would come home as the jubilant big shot, ushering my brother, mom and I out the door to a nice steakhouse. But those were bittersweet memories because even as we were enjoying our night out, I knew that the next weekend could be a totally different scenario. I could never predict what type of mood he would come home in because it all depended on his luck that day. Oftentimes on Saturday evenings, after losing his shirt at the track, he would come home drunk, belligerent, and looking for an argument—it was always a roller coaster. My Dad’s quest for luck sometimes resulted in me, a little girl at the time, fielding phone calls from creditors and telling them my dad was not home when he was standing right near me. I became a liar because of my dad’s unlucky forays into the world of horse racing. My Dad’s obsession with hitting it big required him to have two jobs to support us. Luckily (or rather smartly) my mom held the family together with her job as a legal secretary. I so vividly remember hearing my parents arguing about money through the thin wall of our bedroom at night when my dad came home from his second job. Unfortunately those arguments laid the groundwork for my lifelong phobia of never having enough money and going broke. But it also made me the fiscally responsible person that I am today although I still struggle with a fear of “losing it all”.

The sad part of all this was that no matter how much money my dad won on any given day, he would throw it all back the next week in pursuit of hitting the big one. My parents were always one step away from divorce, but as was the case in those days they just stayed together. Even when my dad no longer went to the track to bet, NYC came up with a new way for people to feed their obsession—it was called OTB (off-track betting) and he just walked down the street to place his bets. Sometimes you have to practice acceptance and just stop fighting and in my mom’s later years that is what she did. She knew she could never change him and just stopped trying.