I grew up in a little town on Lake Superior. When I was in 7th grade my parents gave me a camera for my birthday. I still have it. It was a little Kodak Pocket Instamatic and it had flash cubes for indoor pictures. I loved it. Ever since that day, I didn’t think anyone could improve on a camera.
Then of course, just a few years ago the digital camera came along and we have the instant gratification of a Poloroid camera without peeling the paper off and, without paying for Poloroid film or for developing rolls or cartridges of film. My husband on the other hand hates digital because I do not print off many of the images. He will love it when he retires next year and I organize his pictures on my laptop. I hope.
Over the years, I’ve loved posing for goofy pictures. I’ve done the dressing up in period costumes several times. I posed with Clare in the mountains in Arizona in front of a sign that said Pine Valley in an homage to our favorite soap “All My Children”. And wedding pictures? I have enough to bore anyone to tears.
Seriously, the day before my own wedding I made a special trip into Madison to pick up film for my own wedding. What was I thinking? Who was I going to be taking pictures of? Myself? I was crazed for the weeks leading up to our wedding. I also paid all of our bills twice and called up the power company and chewed them out for a bill with a negative amount due. The guy was nice and told me what I had done. I admit it, I was stressed and apologized to the guy.
I have albums and boxes of pictures from childhood, high school plays and parades, college football games and my favorite pictures of my family and of course my dear dogs.
Pictures were always fun until you reach that age, when you become self-concious about your looks and perhaps even get teased by an upper classman whose name rhymes with “Ducky Eye” someone who makes you feel very badly and like everyone thinks you’re ugly. Adolescence is awful, but I got through it and when I went away to college, all of that stuff melted away and the older I got, the more I realized that how I looked is not as important as who I am.
I have pictures of the times Angie and I were bored and we would go down to the lake and I would take pictures of rocks, trees, or making Angie lay on a log up at Northland College. Between bossing Angie around and running my sister’s life, I’m surprised I had time to take pictures. I have control issues, can you tell?
Which brings me to the picture that accompanies this story. This is one of my favorite pictures. My sister (in-law, we hate that term) Judy took this picture of me one year when we were in Indiana for the Annual James Dean Run. It’s a car show in James Dean’s hometown Fairmount. The show is the last weekend in September to celebrate his life and career. It’s a wonderful weekend and if you like beautiful rural countryside and cute little town, this is a nice weekend.
The end of September in Indiana is a great time of year. The weather was so beautiful, especially the weekend this picture was taken. It was sunny and warm, that hadn’t been the case in Wisconsin that year. It was some of the nicest weather we had seen all summer.
The dog in the picture, is a Newfoundland named “Teddy”. I just loved this dog and thought he was awesome. It was a beautiful day, the weather was warm and I was having a lot of fun.
The reason this picture is so important to me? I can tell instantly and probably my family can too. Just two weeks after this picture was taken, I felt a sharp pain in my back and a few months later, I went to work for the last time. This picture is what I look like, when I am not in any pain at all. This is a picture of a person without a care in the world, in no pain, working a full time job, taking care of myself and my husband and my home.
Seeing this picture is difficult sometimes when I remember what I used to be like. I remember getting up in the morning without thinking about how much it hurts to get dressed and make the bed. I didn’t have to go to the kitchen and down a handfull of pills with breakfast and I didn’t have to go and sit in a recliner so I could get my legs up and the pressure off of my lower back. I wasn’t lonely, I was able to work and I loved it and was looking forward to receiving my 20 years of service award at work.
That was then and this is now. I use the picture now, because that is my goal. My goal is to return to that life or as close to it as I can possibly get. I’ve tried everything that every doctor has suggested with the exception of having a morphine pump implanted in my body. I’ve had more x-rays, MRI’s and CAT scans than I can count and have been pulled, poked and manipulated by literally dozens of doctors and therapists.
I have days when I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I just want to sit down and cry. But I don’t, I won’t and I will not let my diagnosis be my life. I’m a person, I’m not just a disabled person, I’m not a list of symptoms, I’m a person.
For me, this is like seeing a picture of someone who died. Someone who worked, cooked and cleaned her house and enjoyed going places and didn’t have to be waited on by anybody. I see someone with a goal in life, with friends, with co-workers and doing things for others.
I feel badly that this isn’t me anymore, but the reason I posted this picture here and other places is because deep inside, I’m still here. I know I don’t look like this anymore. This picture was taken only a few years ago, but the gray hair, the weight, the deep circles under my eyes, all of it makes me look older and tired. But that’s OK, because I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere until I figure out how to get back to this person.
I guess this is like the most important “Glad Game” I’ve ever had the opportunity to play. Let’s see “I’m glad I have this pain...because if I didn’t I may never have written these stories and gotten to know all of you. And I would be a very lonely person.”
I can’t look at this picture without saying to myself that I can do this, I can get better and I will. I just have to have faith, a good doctor and a miracle or two. It will happen, it has to.
Thanks for listening.