April 13, 2015: Attraction Attention

~by Louis Templeman

I was directed to take a short walk down the hallway so the neurologist could point out to the intern the indicators in my halting gait. I didn’t know I had a halting gate. Evidently, I do.

As I returned to the two doctors one was pointing at my left side and the other was nodding. I realized I was now an object to study. I could be a show-and-tell lesson presented to some medical society. It was just one more experience that is working to develop my new self-identify. My world is changing. My abilities are changing.

Last month I visited a house with a friend. He is a handyman. He wanted me to paint a little room for his customer. I show up to make the estimate with a notebook and a pen. There was no counter or table I could use so I tried to hold the pad in my left hand as I took notes. It would have been easier to write in a dump truck with worn out shocks speeding down a dirt road. The best I could do was to make barely readable scribble that would have to be transcribed within an hour while my memory was fresh.

I saw my prospective customer watching me take notes – totally unintelligible to her. I imagined her thinking, “How is this gimp with palsy going to manage a paint brush or a ladder?” I was wondering the same thing. If I get this job, I thought, it may well be my last.

She must have objectified me even as the doctors did. I am becoming something to stare at.

While in a waiting room in a professional building a woman sat against the wall to my left talking loudly into her cell phone. She may have been younger than me. Was much heavier and was wearing very frumpy, mismatched faded very comfortable shorts and sweatshirt. Her old, worn shower shoes needed an immediate retread. They barely held on to her feet.

She broke away from her call so she could shout out to me, “What that is; your hand shaking like that?” I told her I’d just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. “Oh my god!” she moaned in sympathy. “Hope that’s not what I have?” She showed me her little finger on her left hand. It had a slight tremble. “I can’t make it stop.”

This woman in the waiting room had no filter between her brain and her mouth. I imagine that is one issue she is working on with her therapist. In her childish abruptness I believe she said what many people think when they see my left hand, “What the hell! Better him than me.” It is indeed a drag. I could do without it.

I can’t let it get me down. I have to reframe these experiences. Am I to frame these moments in self-pity or annoyance? Those emotions certainly come and may even be appropriate but they are dangerous seeds. Allowing those emotions to remain and occupy my mind will, over time, do damage to my personality. I have heard it said (St. Augustine, I believe) that we cannot prevent birds from flying overhead but we can prevent them from roosting in our hair.

Anything out of the ordinary will attract attention. I can thank God that this condition is not common. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I am also thankful that this condition makes me more aware of how disabilities feel. Perhaps, I can pray more and better and even become more empathetic.

My faith teaches me that all things work together for the good, especially for those who lean into hope mercy and grace – the fruit of God’s will. This is the mental medicine I will use along with the prescriptions the neurologist gives me.

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

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