"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death." Shakespeare


I can’t save that which I love; I can but ameliorate the damage for a short time even while knowing that I myself am sometimes the cause of that damage. For instance, no one has hurt Peggy more than I, yet I am the very person most devoted to her welfare. If I have damaged other people less, it was only due to the emotional distance that separated us, for I have often been needy even while taking a hard line. I wish I could have been warmer, more caring, yet I imagined at the time that I had given them all things good, and that it was they who had failed me.

I awakened just now pondering one such instance that has haunted me for 38 years. It concerned a friend who often brought me small gifts. One night, soon after giving me such a gift—I have forgotten what—he said that it would be nice if I sometimes got him something. I became outraged and accused him of only buying things for me so that he might get things in return. I later realized that this was a hard line indeed, but maybe I believed it at the time. As with the form of his gift, my interpretation of his words has been lost; I only remember that he had made me happy with a gift and then taken away my happiness with a complaint. We both could have spoken better, but what haunts me is not the feeling he expressed, which was reasonable, but my response, which was unconscionable. We remained distant for five years, and he died a possible suicide soon after we rekindled our friendship. Long reflection upon incidents that I never imagined I would remember has shown me that, where I was a victim, it was often to my own petulance and obstinance. I didn't realize how soon I would run out of time to grow-up and set things right, or how quickly my life would be littered with corpses for whom my remorse is meaningless.

Last week, I went to a Harvard-trained Korean neurologist who has honors and credentials out the ying-yang. We discussed two issues. One is a hellacious tingling from behind my right shoulder to the thumb of my right hand, and the other is my failing memory. He told me that the tingling originates in my fifth cervical vertebra, which I killed (literally) several years ago while taking Yoga in a failed attempt to alleviate the pain in my shoulders. As for my memory, he said that it isn’t bad enough to be labeled Alzheimer’s, but that it’s bad enough to suggest a 10% chance that it will progress to Alzheimer’s within five years. I reminded myself that pain, stress, depression, and drugs all have an adverse effect upon memory, that some such changes are reversible, and that it’s often unwise to put much stock in a diagnosis that appears to have been hastily made. He ordered an MRI of my neck and drew six vials of blood, half of which were immediately wrapped in tin foil. I won’t see him again for two weeks, but I went online tonight and got the results of the blood tests. One of my abnormal results is rare in the absence of liver disease, but then again, it sometimes indicates a disease of the nervous system or connective tissue. As with spot diagnoses, I know that it’s unwise to put faith into one test once done, yet the result is consistent with my increasing worries about my liver and kidneys due to the years that I’ve taken strong drugs daily for pain. In fact, I am awake now because of pain. The night being half over, I would ordinarily take an Ambien (narcotics keep me awake), and it would enable me to doze in and out a little, but because I’m determined to take fewer drugs, I’m unwilling to allow myself to take anything.

What with these concerns about dementia, liver failure, my customary pain (which, without the pills, seems to be enveloping my entire body), and my more recent tingling, I’m finding it harder than usual to maintain a positive outlook. I regret this for my sake, but also for the sake of those people who care about me, particularly Peggy. Even with all that I’ve gone through, I never lost sight of the fact that I was still able to bring a measure of good to her life, and I worry that this might not continue. If it doesn’t, I would be left without a viable option, a thought that brings me back to where I started this post. Not only can I not save the person I love most; the worst pain she will ever have might befall her because she loves me. I can but do my best to spare her as much of it as possible.

27 comments:

Helen said...

During the years I cared for my mother who suffered with Alzheimer's and Lewy Body dementia, she would look at me and apologize 'for the trouble she was causing.' My heart ached for her pain, never considering it my pain. Peggy would react the same way. Keep the faith, dear Snow, keep the faith.

RE ME: 'reflection upon incidents that I never imagined I would remember has shown me that, where I was a victim, it was often to my own petulance and obstinance' ~~ and MY utter stupidity.

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. This is such a sad and confronting post.
I suspect that Peggy would tell you that the pain that losing you will cause is offset (and more than offset) by the pleasure and benefits that having you in her life has given her.
MS impacts on memory and can cause a form of dementia. Which terrifies me. I cannot do anything about it - which also terrifies me. And each time something I know escapes me my heart lurches.
I hope (so very much) that your new neurologist can give you some relief - from the tingling, the pain and your worry.
Please keep us posted.

PhilipH said...

Such a mournful posting Snowy old bean. Worryingly so.

John Bunyan-ist imo.

'This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.'

Most thinking people encounter this swamp of despair at one (or more) times of their life. Most survive, either alone or with the help of somebody else.

I wish you well, Snowy; I wish you very well.

Stephen Hayes said...

The situation you find yourself in is a nasty one; the realization that you might be bringing pain and suffering to the very person you would spare such traumas. I really don't know what to say. I'm glad you reconnected with the person who might have died a suicide.

The figure in that marvelous Arcimboldo painting--is that symbolic of you?

rhymeswithplague said...

This achingly honest post disturbs me greatly but I cannot quite put my finger on why.

My advice would be to make plans to move to Honolulu immediately. Find a little place by a beach filled with palm trees and spend your remaining days there in the surf with Peggy. The tropical sunshine alone should cheer you up a little bit, and you need cheering up, my friend. Just contemplating such a move should take your mind off your problems long enough to make you stop writing posts that scare your readers.

If you don't move to Honolulu, don't do anything drastic either. Listen to what your doctor has to say. Wait until all of the test results are in. Run off with Peggy for a semi-romantic weekend at a bed-and-breakfast in the mountains. Live life, however much of it is left to you, to the fullest of the ability you do have. Cuddle more; argue less.

lotta joy said...

I spoke with my sister today, concerning traveling home to see her before it's too late. She said she is not up for even a short visit.

Plus, she is afraid that I'm following in her same path, having the same prognosis, and that fear for me, hurts her more than her own demise.

We discussed our lifetime pact: whether it's me, or she, at the end, the other one would hand over the bottle of tranquilizers we have save for "the time", and walk away.

For her loved ones, she is staying vigil as long as she can.

No matter how we plan, we always end up getting skunked.

Winifred said...

I'm sure whatever hurt you've caused her you have made up for it in other ways Snow. She wouldn't still be with you. I think we always focus on what we shouldn't have done, could have done & didn't etc. In my case I call it Catholic guilt.

Mind you getting old a blooming pain! Literally!!!! As they say youth is wasted on the young, yes most of them are as we would say "little wasters".

Take care sunshine, you're in my thoughts & prayers (even if you don't want to be).

kj said...

It's a bad time, snow. I hope everything improves: your pain, your hope, your memory, your confidence. I've found that things can fall apart pretty fully, and I've also found my worse fears can turn out to be false

I admire your concern about pain meds. I hope you find some balance with that that doesn't trouble you. No doubt that has affected your memory , but even there I think it's far better to be present than it is to remember

I am astonished by rhymeswirhplagues' comment. She makes a ton of sense making her point

Give yourself some time to let this depressed state pass on and see someone like me if you need a hand with it. Just a few months ago you were camping and enjoying. Your worries about hurting Peggy will hopefully settle. and you know me snow: see a pain management specialist--usually a physiatrist--if needed to help you figure out your meds

I wonder what Peggy thinks of your current state, not as much concern as you have?

Love
kj

All Consuming said...

T.E.C has written almost exactly the same as my first thoughts were. It's so hard when the dark descends upon us, but for every time you've hurt Peggy, you will have balanced that hurt with love, and I think that most of the hurt was a good while ago, and the love and happiness you bring her all the more every day now. And it is the here and now that is most important. Whilst you cannot change the past, I know it's hard to put aside the wrongs you feel you have done folks who are no longer alive. But you should do. Try and make peace with who you were and who you are now. You did the best that that Snow could then, what he thought was right, now you see things differently because you are a different man. Time changes some of us, and if we're lucky, its a change for the best. So you're lucky, I bet you didn't see the lucky card coming there eh? *laughs. All you can do is make your present life as wonderful as your pain, (both mentally and physically) will allow. Love Peggy as much as you already do and then throw in another couple of shed's worth on top of that. Don't hurt yourself because of the hurt you may have previously caused, because she'll see that, and be sad herself. You're a good man Snow. This is a fact. I only let genuinely good people into my life, and you're on the right side of the door. So I am, as ever completely correct. Love from Me xxx

rhymeswithplague said...

Note to kj: rhymeswithplague is now a she making her point. rhymeswithplague is a he making his point.

We now return you to the program in progress.

possum said...

Dude (if only I could find a way to convey the tone of voice to go with that…)
You have taken many of my thoughts and put them in print… in words my brain could have never organized so well. I hear and feel your pain and wonderment of who you are and have been and of all you have done that was both positive and negative. How scary to find someone else who thinks these thoughts let alone puts them in print. The awareness of these things is depressing, but life is all one great big lesson (in my philosophy) and at least you have figured out a few parts of the puzzle. Best of all you have figured it out while Peggy is here with you. It is never too late to love and to allow yourself to be loved. Loving is all we really need to do in life. Really. And yet it is so hard for so many of us to do. But loving also makes one vulnerable – both the lover and the object of one’s love.
I have stared at this screen for almost a half an hour trying to find the words to match my feelings for what you have said – but I cannot come up with anything that does not sound trite or stupid. Your other readers are far more erudite than I, so I will let them say it for me. Hang in there Snow… the rope is long and your feet are still on the ground.

Charles Gramlich said...

Indeed, the worst pain I've ever felt came from ones I loved, and also from hurting the ones I love.

All Consuming said...

*note to kj - I'm pretty sure rhymeswithplague wears women's underwear at weekends, so don't believe all he says. - *bows and exits sharply stage left.

Strayer said...

We all hurt each other, Snow. We all say things to be hurtful, then regret them later, sometimes years later. I have. As for your tests, lab tests are often not even accurate. Lab results vary greatly dependent on your body's state of hydration and what you've done in the days before the test. I've seen some exposees on TV about lab test results, same blood sent to five labs with five different results.

I'm glad you got a neck MRI because it sure sounds like most of your pain issues come from a neck issue. Peggy loves you or she would be long gone. There's no way to have a friend or even a pet without causing you or them emotional pain, at some point.

kj said...

My apology and I promise you,rwp, I will forever enjoy your sensitivity, wisdom, and humor

You is a fine he and I don't know what became me to think you a she

Love
kj

kj said...

xoxo me too

kj said...

:-)

Sissy said...

Life is what it is and too often I should have bitten my tongue. Pain often brings out the worst in me and I daily ponder an outlet from it all; yet I am still hanging on, hoping for better times. You are very fortunate having your Peggy and she you, so you too "Hang in there" Snow. You are truly appreciated. Know this in your heart. Life IS our learning game, no doubt.

Linda said...

I am in constant pain. I make doctors very angry because I won't take pain meds. I refuse to take sleeping meds too. The thing I take that works miracles is melatonin. Get one with Vit B6. It makes me sleep when I am in pain and I can sleep through the pain. Plus, even better, when I get enough sleep, my memory is better and my pain is less.

I have suffered through terrible thoughtless hurts by my ex-husband preacher. He has infected my children, making them think I say things to get sympathy, to control them when all along he is the one who manipulates.

He always apologized for the horrible hurtful statements about me and to me, saying he only wanted to hurt me, that he did not really mean it. That made his hurtful words and actions even worse to me.

I don't for a minute think you just said things with the intention of ripping her heart out. My ex did, often in the name of Christ.

When I have too little sleep, I ruminate about the ways I could have done things differently. I think that is self-destructive behavior for me and for you. I think she has probably forgiven you or forgotten it all. Maybe you should let those things go.

If I am ever in a really bad mental or physical situation, I have absolutely no qualms about killing myself. I am not there and neither are you. I can stand lots of pain, but going into a nursing home would be something I refuse to experience for long.

Try not to torture yourself at night when you should be sleeping. That is counterproductive for both of us. It is commendable that you can see where you make mistakes and acknowledge it to others. Have you ever tried telling all this to Peggy? She might not want you to worry about this, torturing yourself.

You are a good man. If you still lived in MS and would have it, I would like to meet you and Peggy.

Kerry said...

Worrying about the 10% likelihood of getting Alzheimers is something we probably all have in common. Coming down too hard on your old friend for all the gifts...that was a bit out of line but also not totally unreasonable. Just sayin' don't be so hard on yourself. We all gotta live from day to day the best we can.

Myrna R. said...

I'm always impressed how you process your life. You are a thinking man, rich in emotion and unafraid of self exploration. For some that's the hardest thing to do. Yet, you even share it with us. I can understand how it's hard to stay possitive, especially as your pain increases. Wish I could say something comforting, but what I can say is thank you for your honesty and know that even though I can offer no help, I offer human understanding and caring.

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, my doctor has increased me from 300 mg of Gabapentin twice a day to 400 mg twice a day, and I hardly slept at all last night. Just tossed and turned. Was that a result of the increased dosage? Just wondering.

Snowbrush said...

"I hardly slept at all last night. Just tossed and turned. Was that a result of the increased dosage?"

I gather that you're still in a lot of pain, and I'm very sorry to hear it. I never took Neurontin regularly--like I was supposed to and like you're doing--but only took a relatively high dose at bedtime 2-4 times a week, and it invariably made me sleepy well into the next day. If it normally makes you sleepy, I would attribute its recent failure to do so to an increasing tolerance. I wouldn't expect it to start keeping you awake, but I wouldn't expect it to knock you out anymore either.

I like Neurontin because it works when other things don't, makes me feel pleasantly wasted, and gives me good dreams. Unfortunately, I consider it the most detrimental drug to my memory.

Ambien is pretty good for putting a person to sleep (but not keeping him asleep beyond four hours or so), so if it turns out that you only need something to help you go to sleep occasionally, that might be a good drug for you to take with your Neurontin. You just wouldn't want to take it often enough to become dependent upon it. I, of course, have been there/done that with a few drugs by now, yet I have been fortunate in that the only one that was ever a real bear to give up was Klonopin, and it only because I stayed wide awake for most of four nights, so wired that I couldn't even think about staying in bed.

rhymeswithplague said...

Thanks for the info, Snow. My doctor said the post-herpetic neuralgia that followed the shingles (and feels just like shingles) may last for a year. It's not quite as painful as the shingles, but I definitely know it's there. That's why I was confused by an increase in the medicine when by all rights it should be decreasing. Maybe PHN just stays at one level until it has run its course and then suddenly stops.

I'll keep the Ambien in mind but I don't really want to take it. Don't really want the Gabapentin either but any relief is welcome.

Snowbrush said...

"I don't really want to take it. Don't really want the Gabapentin either..."

No matter what one does in regard to medical care, there is often a downside. For instance, if you don't take drugs for your pain, you will suffer from the effects of stress, sleeplessness, and possibly depression; but if you do take the drugs, any one of them might seriously harm or kill you. I'm in that dilemma in regard to surgery. I can simply live with the pain, or I can take drugs, or I can have still more surgeries. All have their risks; the first two offer no hope of improvement; and while surgery does offer such a hope, many people go through every surgery possible for a given condition, and end up worse or the same. Really, the only certainty that surgery offers--in the U.S. anyway--is that it will cost a whale of a lot of money. I appreciate your desire to avoid taking drugs, but if your doctor is right about your horizon for the pain only being a year, that's not a lot of drugs as drug use goes.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

With great love comes great pain. I don't do well with pain and have isolated myself out of fear. It takes bravery to love! You love Peggy and she loves you!

I wish you good results from your tests.

Robin said...

This post made me feel helpless - because I have no words of wisdom to say to you, someone I love and care deeply about.

All I know is that you and Peggy DO have a true and deep love... if Alzheimer's does rear it's ugly head...Peggy will stand tall and deal with it...she will carry all the love you have given her these years - and not remember what pain you may have caused her.

That being said, Alzheimers may not be lurking in the Shadows.... we are all aging...and with it goes part of our memory (as opposed to our Memories)... I keep you in my heart and say prayers for you...always.....May your pain lessen this week - I want you to be back out in those Mountains - even if it is not overnight camping...

Love to you both - and Brewsky too,

♥ Robin ♥