Today is, in a lot of ways like a birthday. It was ten years ago* I left the ranks of the able bodied, and became one of the disabled. I didn’t know it at the time. When Col. Modnragon tapped me on the shoulders, and looked me over it was more like someone grading a side of beef. The diagnosis was impersonal, “you have Reiter’s Syndrome. The treatment you have is inadequate. I’m going to increase your indocin to 50mg, three times a day, and you need to come back in two weeks”.
It was said the same way he’d have told someone they had the flu, or a case of the clap. No big deal.
I can remember the date not because it was obviously life-changing, but because I got a shower*.
It was life changing, but fat lot I knew it at the time.
These days, I ache. Mostly in little ways. I am pretty good about knowing when I need to take what drugs. Things like sprains heal more slowly. Repetitive motions lead to pain more easily. Some of this might be plain old age, but some of it (as the check I get from the VA every month reminds me) is because I am disabled. I’ve become used to it (if far from resigned). In a few years it will be a quarter of my life I’ve been disabled.
I recall, in college (a couple of lifetimes ago), a slogan to the effect, “Disabled, the only minority everyone can join.” I’m lucky (in some ways), that my disability is (so far) invisible. I know what I can’t do, but to look at me you’d think I was still at least as hale and fit as anyone.
I’m rambling. This is a bit of maundering reflection. When disability activists refer to the, “temporarily able bodied”, I hide a wry grin. I was a soldier. Being disabled was something we thought about a lot. I know a lot of soldiers who are disabled; training accidents, combat injuries, etc. I can’t think of a single PT test I took where someone wasn’t sidelined for one event or another because of disability (both temporary, and permanent).
But an arthritis? Never crossed my mind.
Things like the ache in my ankle… how much of that is because of the break 2 ½ years ago (I still have the bruises), and how much is because my joints don’t heal as well as they used to?
I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to die sooner either (heart troubles are one of the less common side effects. Yes, I see a cardiologist. I’m told my tricuspids are “like an anatomy textbook”)
What do I want to say? I don’t know. I enjoy what I can do. I regret the things I’ve lost. That’s part of life. I guess I’ve lost some things sooner than most, but thems the the breaks.
All in all, I guess it’s just that we take some passages of time as being more important than others. This birthday, this year, matters no more, nor less, than my calendric one, though it’s a more “milestone” year than turning 46 feels to be.
This is what I looked like.
*12 June, 2003 was the first honest to goodness shower I’d had since 28 Mar. It was memorable. I also recall taking a nap in a ditch at the side of the road while a platoon of tanks moved out to their part of the perimeter for a stand of guard duty, and the 101st band doing a show; probably related to the Army B-day which is 14 June, 1775; making it the Senior Service in the US.