Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sometimes Memories Don't Fail Us

I can't remember the last time we had Thanksgiving just as a family. In Hawaii? In Florida? The details escape me. I have some vague childhood recollection of eating turkey and stuffing off of plastic trays in the hospital cafeteria; it was important to Dad to support the folks who had to work there over the holiday. In my memory, he would disappear for a few hours every Thanksgiving and Christmas to make hospital rounds -- but my memory is spotty. Perhaps I just want to think our Thanksgivings were built on an example of service. It's not a bad memory, if I have the indulgence of choosing one.

The train to Norfolk is completely full, every seat. One woman, hefting a frayed red bag down the aisle, surveys the crowd approvingly. "Look at all these people!" she croons. "All these people, and y'all going to see somebody who loves you!" Her bag proceeds her like a circus elephant, swinging. "They gonna feed you and hug you -- ain't nothin' better than that, nothin' better." I catch her eye and smile as she passes. Her bright voice carries back through the car as she continues bestowing 'Happy Thanksgiving's like benedictions. The family next to me is playing cards as the sun stripes the passing river scenery.

Thanksgiving morning, and Dad finds me in the kitchen rifling through the cereal cabinet; he's in uniform, bouncing a bit as he walks. "Do you want to join me?" His voice is quiet so as not to wake the others, but in the same bright tone as the woman from the train. "I'm going to have breakfast in the hospital galley and then make a few rounds." "Sure!" I return the box of cereal to the shelf and close the cabinet. "You know, I was just thinking about that very thing on the train ride down."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

بشكل كبير

So... how do you tell someone in a dating context that you have MS? It's not as if it tends to work itself fluidly into casual conversation ("Sure is cold today... Hey, have I ever told you about my nerve disease?"), but to frame it as a pronouncement ("I have something to tell you: should this relationship progress to the point of marriage, there's a chance that shortly thereafter I will become a blind and incontinent burdensome shell of my former self. Also, I snore.") lends it an air of drama that it doesn't really warrant. A pronouncement seems to demand something from the recipient; or worse, implies that you've reached some gravid point of reckoning in the relationship, whereas maybe he just thought you were hanging out. Timing here seems crucial; sensitivity to context and social cues, a must. Which is why I suspect I'm going to screw it up spectacularly.