My niece and her family will be driving through Virginia soon, and they plan to stop by for a quick visit. When they leave here, they will continue south for a bit to visit the caverns. Their little girls will love that, no doubt.
Funny, I hadn't thought about the caverns for quite some time. A flood of emotions and images from another lifetime, it seems, come back to me now.
It was July 2003, when Jake and I last visited the caverns, with two of the kids. I remember it so clearly because it was the very last thing I ever did before awakening to the fact that my body was under major attack.
In the weeks before that expedition, I had experienced a variety of problems with my right arm. Numbness, tingling, weakness, and general lack of feeling were troubling, but the alarm bells hadn't gone off yet. Carpel tunnel syndrome, or a pinched nerve, I thought. Nothing to be too concerned about. It will pass.
The four of us trekked deep into the caverns, through long narrow passageways, into the cool darkness. Uneven walking surfaces and the steep climb back up were still things I could take for granted. Aside from the distraction of my arm, I admired the natural beauty of the caverns and we all enjoyed the adventure. We posed for the obligatory photos, not realizing that we were capturing more than a moment in time, but the moment. The end of life, part one.
Those cold, dark, winding caverns would come to represent our future, and all the doubts and uncertainties of living with multiple sclerosis. Never again would I nonchalantly enter such a place.
Within days of that outing, the symptoms I had in my arm multiplied, limb by limb. Soon I was unable to walk from room to room in my own home, and our journey through the confusing maze of multiple sclerosis was underway. The beginning of life, part two.
They are two distinct parts. In part one, I wasn't a specimen of perfect health, but I had the confidence of one who could move about as desired. That is not true of part two.
Every now and then I like to think about the caverns -- exciting, mysterious, and eerie. It reminds me of a different time and place, a different part of me. Just as part two came suddenly and without warning, I know that there is always the possibility of part three just around the next bend.
I look at the photos and scan our smiling faces. There was no hint of what was to come. What a great day it was.
Published On: June 25, 2008