Ahhh, humans. We have many valuable talents. We have all kinds of attributes that have allowed us to spread across this globe like beet juice on a formica counter. I’m speaking in generalities, of course, but history proves we may be above all else adaptable. Environmental developments, fiscal conditions, biological upheavals…so far we’ve managed to–as a species–pretty much take a licking and keep on ticking. In fact, we’ve flourished. Regardless which rodent started which plague, or how much time and effort we tend to spend trying to dominate or destroy one another, we seem to spend even more time creating our own replacements and perpetuating the family tree. Whether you root for Creationism or Evolution, you have to agree the species has learned to adjust to just about every condition the planet has thrown at us thus far.
But, that’s a generality. That’s taking in the whole of recognized population (I’m in the Evolution Corner, and it’s been quite a long time since I took a legitimate science class so I’m sourcing Wikipedia). Figure more than 100 billion people over the course of a couple hundred thousand years. Now, that’s a lot of people in a relatively short amount of time (again…Evolution Corner). During that little window of Life on Earth it has been far from smooth sailing, but we have managed to endure. Almost in spite of ourselves. Good thing we’re adept at multiplying. Good thing we’re adaptable.
So, you know, 100+ billion people means at least that many freak accidents and unexpected developments. Why else would we have spread so far so fast? Inevitably, movement is an action or reaction. We run to or from some thing or place. We relocate. We change our minds. We change our states of mind. We change our states of being. We adjust to new normals. Big, creative, adaptable brains.
With the whole force and reference of human history behind us, you got to believe that Husband and I know that normal is a relative condition. We’ve both been fortunate in our lives, but neither are strangers to disappointment, disillusionment or unexpected developments. We’ve moved, and we’ve been moved. Nothing unusual here. Nothing to see. Just humans trying to keep on keepin’ on. Two little nubs of leaf on a sprout of a branch of a tree that’s hundreds of thousands of years old.
Because I realize this, I must also realize that there’s a responsibility and opportunity that comes with it. The responsibility to be human, and the opportunity to adapt when unexpected situations arise. Lots of folks do this. I think most of us are aware of the arrangement, but in a sort of detached way. Like paying our income taxes…some carefully plan ahead throughout the course of the year, due diligence and all that, but most of us don’t think about it too much until we’re forced to because the law demands it. When Husband had his freak Man Vs. Curb accident in September ’09, I think we were properly intimidated by what was bound to be a lengthy, extensive, expensive recuperation. First came the triage and emergency care. Then came the reality of the physical adjustments a guy has to go through when 75% of his smile has been busted out of his mouth–sockets shattered, lips cauliflowered, the roof of his mouth and one wrist fractured, opposite thumb splintered. He was a hot mess, but we focused on how lucky we were. He wasn’t paralyzed, for one thing. A co-worker recommended an amazing dentist who in turn sent us to a tremendous oral surgeon. We had awesome friends and family in our corner to help out. Doctors Steinberg and Marcus were quick to assure us that first Morning After that Ryan would be fine. Not to worry. It could all be repaired. “It’s going to take a while,” they said, “but this can be fixed.”
Everybody who’s spent the night in an emergency room with someone they love knows how precious those words are. How they are a lifeboat for whatever composure and rationality may have been stretched to its limit in the chilly beige clutter of an ER examining cube.
Now, almost seventeen months later, the repair to Husband’s top row is almost complete. The bottom, not so much, but two of the forecasted three titanium implants seem to be doing just fine. Another round of bone grafts is setting up like the world’s slowest and weirdest Quik-Rite. Re-doing the third implant is scheduled for summer. Husband has maintained a sense of humor throughout, for the most part, and does the thing that makes him so intensely and beautifully human. He has adapted. He has been flexible. He is an inspiration.
My little leaf branch took its own hit this week. I’ve known, and have discussed here to a semi-vague extent, that something is up with my health. Upsetting, unsettling vertigo. Double vision. MRI. Demyelinating whatnot and a bunch of other things I don’t fully understand. We’ve been waiting and wondering what the final verdict would be after additional blood work and chest x-rays. The neurologist called yesterday morning and said the blood and films were all clear. Everything normal. Based on the MRI, she’s confident with Multiple Sclerosis as the diagnosis. She’s ready to move forward with a drug protocol.
It’s just the MS. Start the drugs.
Now, a large part of me wants badly to curl up in the fetal position and stay there for…oh, say…18 or 19 months, give or take a month. Another part wants to just pretend none of this is happening. The radiologist accidentally spilled some nail polish remover on my scans and WOOPS! Misdiagnosis! It’s all a big crazy mistake! Whew! Aren’t we silly for worrying?
Except, I’m just not quite back to normal. Three and a half months later and–although I’m profoundly better than I was–I am not 100%. I still get moments of whoopsy-daisy-type dizziness, which is annoying, and other moments of just not being able to find a word or phrase that’s right on the tip of my tongue. Which is flat out obnoxious and, frankly, quite scary. Doc says this is likely as good as it will get. Drugs should stop the thing from progressing beyond this point, but they won’t make it go away altogether. It’s not a curable disease. And, with neurological anything it’s always a crapshoot when another unexpected thing could develop. Like the part where the drugs start to damage my liver, or my hypersensitive immune system decides to go on vacation, or depression drives me to take that fetal-position vacation I’m currently just barely holding off. Good times.
I was talking to Husband about this last night. I was trying not to cry. Trying not to feel sorry for myself. And he was making me laugh. He was making fun of bone grafts and egg tooths and so on. I told him I’m sorry these things have happened. That my immune system thinks my central nervous system is the Free Sunday Salad Bar at Ruby Tuesday’s. That everything for the rest of our lives is in jeopardy. Nothing will ever be normal again.
And he said, “No. It won’t. This is just a ‘variation of normalcy’.”
He said that’s what Dr. Markus tells him every time he goes in for a follow up. The implants, the caps and acrylic bridges, the long-term dental prognosis…all just “a variation of normalcy.” Husband said my MS and all its quirky perks are the same thing.
Oh, I laughed and laughed! It’s just too delicious! Just too perfectly and completely the thing that explains how and why we humans are so entirely linked. Because in every case, across the shifting continents and multiple millennia, there’s always a story that’s harder than some and infinitely easier than others. And I believe it’s our responsibility to know that this is never entirely unique. People have been adjusting to surprises and unexpected developments of every conceivable size since before we even agreed the wheel is cool and fire is hot and the world doesn’t end at the edge of the horizon. I believe it’s our responsibility to acknowledge our shared humanity. At the same time, we get the opportunity to adapt. We don’t have to take it. We can curl up in the fetal position. But, you know…it seems like that might not be what comes naturally to us in the long run.
So, Husband and I will continue to do our best to pay homage to humanity. We’ll continue to hold up our little leaves on the branch on the tree. We’ll keep doing our best to adapt. I may be on the wagon and wobbly. He may not have all the teeth he graduated college with. But in the scheme of things…it’s all so much better than it could be. It’s flexible. We’re adjusting. History dictates we owe it to the family.