This week’s writing assignment is about an illness or addiction. This is my offering …
It has been said that in the great game of poker we call life there will be those who are consistently dealt lucky cards, and then there will be the rest with losing hands. In the health department, I am one of the lucky ones.
I have always been a very healthy person but in my youth, I secretly envied any classmate who enjoyed the attentions and sympathies caused by some infirmity such as a broken bone. If the infirmity resulted in a hospital stay, I childishly considered it outright exotic.
To voice this out loud would have been considered both stupid and self absorbed – major crimes in my family. When you have three older siblings, being called ‘stupid’ was the ultimate insult and with my mother, being considered ‘self absorbed’ was even worse.
To admit to this childhood folly now sounds quite shallow, but such was the way of my naive youth.
Not only have I been lucky in health, I’ve been remarkably fortunate in avoiding accidents and injury in general, in spite of a sometimes risky lifestyle that has provided ample opportunity to test my luck. While others around me have broken bones and suffered injuries more serious, I’ve been able to simply pick myself up and walk away with only bruises, although I must admit that some of those bruises were quite spectacular. The occasional cracked helmet suggested that a serious head injury was somehow miraculously avoided.
Of course I had the usual childhood ailments of the time – chickenpox, measles, mumps – but even then the symptoms were mild. I’ve been required to wear glasses since I was eleven years old but that hardly qualifies as an illness of any sort and only an affront to my vanity. Then I developed allergies – thankfully nothing life threatening. I am plagued by seasonal allergies and at worst I can say it is only a considerable annoyance. I’m either a sneezing, snot machine or dumb as a doorknob from the mental fog when I’ve taken antihistamines.
As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve come to prize this thing called ‘health’ with shameless pride. I’ve reached that stage in my life when my friends and siblings have begun to experience a variety of health crises from heart problems, cancer scares, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis…. the list goes on and on. It is now a very serious matter. Already too many friends have been lost to poor health.
Conversations with peers have become a catalogue of health complaints and for the most part, I’m an outsider unable to participate – except to voice sympathy and concern. The worst I can say is that I am short for my weight, but whether it is good genes or my active lifestyle, I’ve managed to maintain good health in spite of my girth.
Who knows how long I will be able to enjoy this privilege. As we age, the sins we have heaped on our bodies in the past are bound to catch up with us. Sooner or later, the toll must be paid.
Perhaps it is ironic then that while my own health hasn’t been a source of angst, my life was turned upside down by health scares affecting my children. Our luck – whether good or bad – is not necessarily inheritable. Those who have been lucky in life suffer the greatest pain when they discover that those they love are in fact holding losing hands.
No parent should have to sit in a hospital room listening to a surgeon discuss the complications of their child’s condition and the considerable risks involved. No parent should have to watch helplessly as their child suffers in acute pain. It is like a crushing weight on your chest that makes it hurt to breathe. No parent should then have to experience it with both of their children – at different times, for different reasons. It is with guilt that I feel perhaps the universe seeks balance in all things and that my good fortune needs to be paid for by those I love.
I still count myself extraordinarily fortunate. My children have survived. I pray that these health crises were a one-time dramatic blip in their lives. I can only hope that at their young age, they had used up all the misfortune their lives could deliver and that the next dealt hand will be strong enough for them to stay in the game for a very long time.
There is no doubt in my mind that good health is a precious commodity and not one to be taken lightly – for it can change in a heartbeat.