Scurvy Pirates Are Attacking The Ship!!

October 17, 2007 at 8:58 pm (Uncategorized)

Thanks to Paul, Barb, Kendra, both Carols, Cathy, Martha, and Edwin for your kind and supportive comments last week. I’ve been having a tough time, and your varied insights as parents and sarcoidosis survivors, along with your encouragement to keep writing, mean a lot to me and helped me through a crummy few days.

On one of those crummy mornings, Andrew spent most of breakfast time making a particularly ugly face. He had contorted his facial muscles into an expression that contained aspects of a sneer, a grimace, a scowl, and a frown. “What are you doing with your face?” I asked, somehow refraining myself from warning him that it might get stuck that way. “Oh, I’m practicing being grumpy for Halloween,” he said, quite cheerfully, as he instantly relaxed his face back into its normal, cute visage. “As you know, pirates are extra grumpy,” he added.

I didn’t think there could be anything cuter than a three-year old beginning his sentences with dependent clauses like “as you know” (sometimes he sounds like a college student with a lisp) until he tried on his Halloween pirate costume. Truthfully, he wasn’t much interested in the silky black jacket with billowing sleeves, or the tights black pants embossed with skulls and crossbones. He refused to try on the earring, and was lukewarm about the pirate’s hat. What he loved was the eye patch, the plastic “pirate cutlass,” and most especially, the “pirate pistol,” which is nothing more than a cheap toy gun embossed with antique-looking plastic filigree.

He cried desperately when I made him take off the costume and, even worse, relinquish the pirate pistol. My fear was that he would wear the outfit constantly, break the gun, and eventually lose all interest in piracy by the time Halloween rolls around– and then demand a new, and more esoteric costume. So I told him the Halloween witch would keep his pirate costume (and his pirate pistol) until it was time for him to wear it. He then made a grumpy face that outdid his morning’s efforts. This is, after all, the same Halloween witch that flew in on her broom last year and confiscated about fourteen of the six hundred pounds of candy he got in exchange for what has proved to be a lead-painted James from the Thomas the Tank Engine set. Last year we told him the Halloween witch gave his extra candy to boys and girls who had been too sick to go out trick-or-treating. The candy for train trade was dubious at the time and became even more so when a few months later we had to send lead-coated James back to China as part of a massive product recall. Come to think of it, if he actually had a college student’s vocabulary, he’d supplement those dependent clauses with some spice and call her the Halloween bitch instead. What nerve, taking his candy, his costume, and then trying to buy his sympathies with a poisonous toy! Jay and I fully acknowledge that Andrew will probably spend many hours working out his Halloween b/witch issues in therapy. But fortunately, by the next morning, Andrew seemed to have forgiven his parents and the Halloween b/witch for holding his costume. The therapy will come into the picture much later, when he hits his forties and has a midlife crisis involving some combination of an elderly woman, a broomstick, and free trade agreements with China.

Unlike my son, I haven’t had to practice being grumpy. It’s been coming to me quite naturally. Although I haven’t lost any candy, I have given up even more mobility. As expected, the orthopedist sent me home on Friday in a cast. Jay convinced me to choose day-glo orange from the eleven available cast colors. “Andrew will love it,” Jay said. “It’s perfect for Halloween.” That it is. It’s also blindingly visible. If I could actually walk more than a few feet in it, I’d be perfectly safe out hunting, or jogging at night, or even lost at sea. As it is, I just get inquisited about my injury. I can’t even blame people for being nosy since I have the equivalent of a neon sign on my leg. But Andrew does like it. Or maybe he’s just reassured by its brightness and is certain the Halloween witch can now find our house and return his pirate pistol with my leg serving as a beacon in the night.

The cast, in itself, isn’t that bad. Yes, I have to swath my leg in garbage bags and then duct tape the garbage bags to my skin before I can take a shower. Yes, my foot has begun to hurt exponentially more inside the cast. Yes, watching me walk up and down the stairs of our three-story house is a comical sight. And yes, my foot is beginning to smell a bit, shall we say, sour. That’s all manageable. What is less manageable is the orthopedist’s assessment that I likely have not one, but two, broken bones in my foot. “Fine,” I told myself with this news. “I’ll call it two for the price of one.” But then the doctor went on to explain that the second potential fracture—the fifth metatarsal on the outside of my foot—is notoriously slow to heal since the area gets so little blood flow. Typically, surgery is in order. “But there would have to be a lot of arm twisting for me to operate on you,” the doctor said—citing my susceptibility to infection, my slow healing, and the fact that the sarcoidosis granulomae infiltrate scar tissue and bone breaks as reasons to be cautious of cutting me open. His strategy is to keep the cast on for a while and monitor both areas on my foot in a couple of weeks using bone scans. This means more watching and waiting and testing—the life of a sarcoidosis patient.

If you had spent the evening after my visit to the orthopedist’s at our house, you would have thought that I was the Halloween b/witch and that you’d better keep a fast grip on any pirate pistols or candy you happened to have. I was upset by the thought of my bones literally breaking beneath me. It’s bad enough to have this disease, but the double indignity of having the treatment (prednisone) erode my bones until they are fracturing felt like too much to bear. A little while after we came home from the doctor, Jay asked me to do something simple, and I responded as though I was the woman on the broom. “I’ve just had really bad news,” I said in a tone that melded fury and self-pity. “I think I have the right to be depressed about it.” True to my word, I was depressed and morose about it all that evening—and most of the next day. I sulked about the dinner Jay made, resented feeling like I should help with the dishes, and was generally unpleasant to be around.

Finally, I just got sick of myself. My foot continued to ache. The cast continued to bother me. My bones remained broken. But making everyone around me miserable wouldn’t unbreak the bones or magically cure them. I could act like someone just gave my extra candy away, or I could rise to a new challenge. I won’t say I was the paradigm of cheer the rest of the weekend, but I did do a better job of coping with the latest setback. I try and remind myself that my feeling that sarcoidosis has maliciously invaded my body, one organ at a time, much like pirates scurry over the sides of a ship, is just that—a feeling. It’s no more real than the Halloween witch. I have an illness, not a curse. The disease doesn’t have a malevolent mind of its own. Like Andrew, I need to ride out the weird disappearances of certain pleasures in my life, and like him, I’ll need to have faith that they’ll return. After all, my neon orange cast can light their way.

1 Comment

  1. Paul said,

    Arrrh me hearty. Aaaaarh Captin Orange Pegleg, I’m not so sure sarc is not a curse aaarh. Ye need to be hangin tight to the aaaarh yardarm so ye can weather the aaaarh storm. Aaaarrrrh treasure can be found under the aaarh sign of the M&M. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRHHHHHHHHHH.


    PS watch out here comes James. His brakes are on fire. . . . He’s off the line , quick fetch the breakdown train.

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