Every Thanksgiving for the last five years, Jake and I have traveled to New England to break bread with some of my extended family. Because individual family members are scattered around the country, it takes awhile to make the rounds, and we only get to see some people once a year.
The drive to New England is a long one, anywhere from nine to thirteen hours, depending on holiday traffic and weather. 489 miles, to be more precise, but since my introduction to multiple sclerosis, it seems a world away.
You know how it is when you only see people once a year. They change; you change. Everyone is older. Sometimes the changes are minor; sometimes they're fairly drastic. Newcomers to the group have only the present day with which to form impressions.
Multiple sclerosis has taken a toll on me, but there are still brief periods of time when my symptoms are 100 percent invisible. What changes would my family see in me? Would they notice how drastically multiple sclerosis has altered me? Would they know the difference between changes due to age and those due to MS? Or would they see me as the energetic MS poster child who proclaims, “I have MS, but MS doesn't have me?”
Does it matter? After all, I'm still me, aren't I? Well, yes and no. The combination of MS and mid-life may have introduced some stumbling blocks into my life, but they have also brought welcome change. I've become comfortable in my own skin, with the brighter outlook and true self-confidence of one who has weathered rough seas.
I was hoping that’s what they would see... not the MS and its ravages on my body... and I got my wish. As it turned out, my MS was not only invisible, but only a minor player to its host as well. It came up in conversation, but remained a mere shadow in the background. We celebrated, laughed, and reminisced to our hearts content.
Looking around at friends and family members, I thought about the major life changes they’ve each encountered in recent years, and I noticed subtle physical changes in them, as they did in me. The fact is, we’re all changing.
The old cliché about not being able to go home again rings true. Even the folks who never leave find themselves in new circumstances... some of their own making, some just as a consequence being human. We lose loved ones and welcome in others. We may not be able to go home again, at least not to the home of a bygone era, but if we bend with the wind, home will find us.
Come to think of it, even if the MS had been raging, the weekend may have held up just as well. Perhaps 489 miles isn't as far away as I thought.
Published On: December 02, 2008