Sunday, January 17, 2010

Multiple Sclerosis

When I was a teenager, Annette Funicello scared the crap out of me. It wasn’t the Mickey Mouse Club or those beach movies with Frankie Avalon but seeing her in a wheelchair, crippled by multiple sclerosis. What’s her life, a lingering paralyzed consciousness that ends in death. Contorted arms and legs, sculpted back into fetal position. Then I learn, no one knows how anyone gets it, it just happens. Great. That’s going to happen to me, I told my mom, I’m going to wither away and die young. It’s not going to be you, she said, you’ll be fine. But I didn’t believe her. One day I’d feel tired or lose my balance riding my bike or my throat would feel weird swallowing and I’d say, here it comes. I’d forget about it, see a jar of Skippy and think of Annette Funicello all over again. No college for me, no career or having a family because I’ll be wheelchair bound. You’re being paranoid, mom said. Am I—Lou Gehrig’s disease and muscular dystrophy don’t make me feel this way. It’s a visceral fear, I said, like my mind knows to fear what’s to come. You keep worrying about it, you’ll get it, she said. There’s nothing I can do for you. Her walking away, shutting me up. That’s about when I’d go to my room, read a comic book. Superman, again saving the world from Lex Luthor. I’d glance out the window, see airplane trails slicing up the sky.