Tuesday, September 6, 2016

And Are We Yet Alive?

Older Christian readers will of course recognize the title of this post as a song that used to be printed in many hymnals. This post is not a hymn. It is a snarky reflection on age and health, which some people may consider a depressing read. Depressive readers should skip this post.

The hymn feels appropriate, though, because wotta weekend this has been...for all the members and sponsors of this web site. Both Adayahi and Grandma Bonnie Peters have made tentative efforts not to take retirement seriously, off and on, during the past year, but although neither is even ninety years old yet, both of them are starting to become "old." Yona is starting to act like a person with liver disease, and Lisiwayu is starting to forget things...important things. I hadn't even asked any real-world friends to be part of my weekend "daze," knowing in advance that none of them would be up to it.

I knew in advance that this weekend had no romantic potential either. The people with whom I planned to work are co-workers in open-air markets, not even (yet) what I'd call real friends, the woman closer to "friend" status than the man. It's easier and safer for two people to mind a booth in these markets than for one. Neighborly good will is as far as the relationships go. Romantic prospects, as far as I'm concerned, still depend on a certain man who's been too ill to drive, or even walk any distance, all summer long.

When I signed off on Thursday I was anticipating a strenuous but pleasant "daze" of working three different, crowded open-air markets on one long, hot, humid weekend. That happened, and compared with the long hot spell in August the weekend wasn't even all that hot, but complications set in.

Before the weekend even really got going, my body delivered notice that it's gone through too many of its gluten-type reactions to be considered the healthy body it's been for the past twenty years, any longer.

In addition to the celiac gene, celiacs naturally inherit various other genes that determine which kind of mysterious intractable chronic diseases we develop if we can't, or don't choose to, eliminate wheat gluten from our diet. Schizophrenia is the most melodramatic of these conditions, but it's actually one of the less common, and not one that's appeared in my family. Gastrointestinal diseases are naturally the most common. Then there are at least a couple dozen other possibilities. Thyroid failure is one my mother and some other relatives have struggled with. Although I got a gene for thyroid irregularity from Mother, I also got a gene for faster-than-average thyroid function from Dad--so the most dramatic celiac-related disease condition I've had to deal with is non-typical, hyperthyroid-type cardiac arrhythmia. I get enough exercise, eat enough meals consisting of raw fruit or vegetables only, have always been thin enough, meditate and practice anti-hypertensive habits enough, to be unlikely to develop ordinary cardiovascular disease. That does not mean my heart can't race, skip beats, and "attack" me in other ways, for other reasons...and all weekend it's been doing that. Arrhythmia and angina and scintillating scotomas, all weekend long. I'm still feeling angina pain as I type this. (In a cafe, where sipping coffee is obligatory. If I could go online and sip water, instead, in my own store, I'd do that.)

The common wisdom is, "If you have arrhythmia and angina and scintillating scotomas, you should see a doctor." But why? I already know what they say, especially when they're being shoved through an insurance company's predetermined statistical "process." If by some chance a doctor took the time to tell me more than what every literate person my age already knows about cardiovascular disease, or hand me a prescription for some pill I don't need to curb the ordinary cardiovascular symptoms I don't have, what that doctor would be able to tell me would be "Don't eat wheat."

I already know not to eat wheat. In the natural world that God made I'm very, very good at not eating wheat and staying wonderfully healthy, strong, fit, and well preserved. In this unnatural world that we're allowing the Monsanto corporation to foul up, I'm not able to avoid thousands of things that don't contain wheat but have been contaminated with things that affect me exactly like wheat. Therefore I'm not able to do anything about the arrhythmia and angina and scintillating scotomas. Therefore I see no need to pay a doctor to document that these are things I'm just going to have to live with until we can get glyphosate banned in the United States.

The good (?) news is that the "mini-strokes" and "mini-heart-attacks" celiacs like me have are seldom fatal; some of us live with them for ten or twenty years before having the Real (fatal) Thing.

So I went out to work in the heat and smiled and chatted up people and sold merchandise, but it felt much more strenuous than it has, other weekends. On Friday I'd planned to stay in town, get some store chores done, and then walk home. Instead I asked someone to drive me directly home, where I did a few of the sort of household chores that can be done sitting down, and went to bed early.

Around five o'clock on Saturday morning Irene, the classic calico cat, woke me up with a terrible scream. I couldn't say exactly how it differed from the way she says "Oh, stop!" to a tomcat, or "How dare you even think about that!" to an impudent kitten--but it did. Irene reported for breakfast, but seemed subdued. By dinnertime what would be her right shoulder, if cats properly had shoulders, had swelled and stiffened. Cats can walk and climb quite efficiently on three legs, and Irene was doing that. I couldn't find a wound.

By Sunday, however, as the swelling was starting to subside and Irene had licked away the fur, I could see a clean, deep puncture wound, about the size of one of Gulegi's fangs. Irene was such a docile, well-behaved kitten that she missed out on many of the learning experiences young kittens have...apparently she struck at Gulegi, on Saturday morning, and he struck back. I can't tell whether a bone was cracked, broken, or merely dislocated. Gulegi is a peace-loving, non-venomous snake who has only ever asked to be left alone, but at age fifty (snakes just keep growing) he could crack the bones in a man's hand, easily. It was just Irene's luck that the wound was in between major bloodvessels, so it had swelled shut and hardly bled at all.

Around midday on Sunday I tried to wake myself up by stretching and swinging my arms, and my heart really started acting up. After three terrific slamming thumps it started racing. This has happened to me before, long ago, when I used to eat wheat; I knew to sit down in the shade. If it had been hotter I would have known to go into a tent rather than an open car. As things were I sat down in the open car, watched my shirt vibrate for a few minutes, and meditated myself into "alpha" mode.

Non-writers "visualize" when they try to send messages from their conscious minds to their less conscious body functions. Writers "verbalize." I verbalized the thought, "Heart, you can stop doing this any time you want to, you know. You can stop doing it right now," and immediately my pulse rate returned to normal. Instead a sharpish but not intolerable pain spread across the upper left quadrant of my body. I use meditation for routine pain management, but it's never worked that fast before. I went back to work for the rest of the day.

We were in the Sunday market that officially calls itself the "Indian Mountain Trading Center," which local people just call Pound, after the nearest town. I hadn't been there before. I saw a lot of blue eyes, mostly White and a couple of Black complexions, and full beards, but the displays seemed to be arranged around some sort of Cherokee-inspired theme. From my own assortment of dolls, which looked like America on Sunday morning with an even mix of blond, red, brown, and black hair, all of the dolls that people bought had long, straight black hair and tan faces. People bought all of that type I had. Nobody even looked at a White- or Black-looking doll.

On the way back from Wise County we went into the small but independent city of Norton, where I saw that a place where my Significant Other and I always used to go, when enjoying a day in Norton, had closed...and my emotional "heart" started acting up. For no obvious reason I started fixating on the thought that he was going to die and we were never going to have another day trip to Norton. Tears kept coming to my eyes and, while walking briskly across a parking lot, tear-blinded, I tripped over a rock and fell down.

I'm not sure whether the worst damage done was to my grass-stained clothes or to my vanity. Brittle bones are still a few more years ahead, though inevitable if I keep on having celiac reactions to glyphosate residues and GMO food, since the basic celiac reaction prevents the body from absorbing calcium from food or supplements.

The truly weird part of the weekend came next. It takes about an hour to drive from Norton to Gate City; during that time a white-bearded grandpa type of man expressed normal neighborly concern about the fact that I seemed to be falling apart. I explained that the only man I've seriously considered "dating" during the past ten years is ill and I felt bad about just being in Norton without him. Enough said. Then, approaching my home, we passed one of my relatives. I mentioned that, even at age fifty, in this relative's mind I seemed still to be a young girl he was obliged to protect--that when a paid driver had taken me and a load of merchandise home, a few years ago, this relative had seen that nobody else was at the Cat Sanctuary, so he'd come back up to see the driver safely away from the house! Grandpa type agreed not to try to follow me home...and then as I walked away from the car pool he started carrying on like a teenager after a date, even mentioning birth control.

Birth control? At our age? On a ninety-degree afternoon? Buddy, I said, it's not possible to get much further from a sexy mood than I was, and birth control was the last thing on my mind. My Significant Other has had a "real" stroke, I was in the middle of "one of my less-than-'real'" heart attacks, and now someone else's grandpa wanted to give himself a heart attack in the road. Go home, I said, get out of the sun.

Meanwhile Irene had hobbled out to greet me. She didn't want to be picked up, carried back home, or even stroked the full length of her back, but she couldn't resist the instinct to sniff my hand and try to get me to scratch behind her ears. Obviously I didn't have enough emotional stress going on. I needed more worries from a cat.

Grandpa type didn't give himself a heart attack, nor did he physically molest me in any way, but he was determined to show me that he was capable of acting every bit as stupid as a teenager. Irene stared, nonverbally saying "Oh, is that what male humans look like." It was annoying, disappointing. One would like to think that, after living with his hormones for at least fifty years, even a man would have developed some sense of when to enjoy a hormone surge and when to keep it to himself if he was having one.

Though I suppose...maybe he had. None of our generation is getting younger; precious few of our elders are still alive, and all of us have outlived a few people who were younger than we. Our country is lurching back toward the kind of tyranny our majority ethnic group left Europe to get away from. If we had any savings to retire on, that money's worth less than half what it would have been worth when we were earning it. There are things to be said for the idea that, if we muster up one more teenage-type hormone surge, whether it urges us toward drag racing or crazy sex or competitive junk-food-eating, we should just enjoy writing ourselves off before our bodies become less pleasant to live in than they already are. I couldn't really blame the white-bearded grandpa if he went into Kingsport, found a hooker, and died in her arms.

Irene's wound seems to be healing. I'm feeling more residual muscle cramps than actual pangs of angina, today. This year, even after Duffield Daze, nobody has noticeably mistaken me for a member of the older generation. I feel much more than one week "older" than I felt last week, though.

Now, in just a few hours, I get to find out what further disasters have befallen my blog buddies over the weekend. Not yet, though. I am an old, sick hag, every bit as "old" and sick as I was when I was twenty-eight and couldn't imagine myself ever being forty. Before turning my phone on, I intend to lie down.