I strive to be a positive person, fall asleep each night reciting the many comforts and the people I am happy to have in my life, take an extra minute each morning before crawling out of bed to say a prayer of thanks.
By noon, I’m frazzled – angry, resentful, frustrated. None of these emotions is productive.
Most of you know my husband is a Vietnam combat vet, a Marine who stepped on a landmine fifty years ago just outside Danang. Jack died that day. Floated into the warm light. He’s been pissed off at the world ever since the medic jerked him back into this world. Over the years, he and I have embraced his need for adrenaline, his hatred of boredom, his itch to keep moving. We’ve traveled the world.
But, age catches us all.
War just keeps on giving.
Agent Orange gifted Jack with diabetes and, recently, with a strange neurological disorder similar to Parkinson’s. But not Parkinson’s. Because if his symptoms are diagnosed as Parkinson’s, well, then the VA must admit these newest health challenges are combat related. Study after study has proven grunts, whose heads were rained upon by the defoliant brought to them by Dow Chemical, have a significantly higher rate of Parkinson’s.
Good ole Uncle Sam.
Whatever the correct diagnoses, we deal with the symptoms.
Jack’s Not-Parkinson’s has stolen his balance, sliced holes in his mental focus, and given him tremors that make eating difficult and buttoning a shirt nearly impossible. He no longer drives. He carries plastic bibs to wear when he eats. He walks with the help of Matilda, his walker. Thin, ever increasing, slices of his memory and reason are slipping away. Most distressing, his personality is changing. In twenty-five years, the man never once raised his voice to me. Now it’s a daily occurrence. The disease has eaten away his independence and that makes him irritable and depressed.
It doesn’t exactly make me a bundle of good cheer either.
As usual, I am in awe of the courage and stubborn strength of will Jack displays in dealing with each new physical and mental challenge. Minute-by-minute, day after day, he pulls up the strength to keep going forward.
One foot in front of the other. He doesn’t have to like it, just do it.
He’s a Marine.
This morning, in the midst of a particularly challenging start to the day, I drove to the local grocer story for half-and-half for my coffee. While checking out, minus caffeine, I found a new question on the credit card reader.
Would you like to donate to help a veteran?
I began to laugh. Laughter turned quickly to tiny, perhaps slightly hysterical, fits of shaking.
The cashier turned the card reader around. Blinked.
“It’s Veteran’s Day.” She smiled stiffly. “So, you don’t want to donate to help a veteran?”
I sucked three deep breathes.
“No.” I smiled. “I believe my husband and I have donated enough.”