I Haz Cheez Stix!

It was official. I could not get to sleep. 3:00 A.M. My socks were hopelessly twisted around my ankles, and my feet were cold. Where was that cat who was supposed to keep them warm?

CAUTION! TRUE CONFESSION AHEAD! No, not an etymology lesson. In fact, this caution comes a bit late, since the true confession has already happened: I wear socks to bed. And a tee shirt.  (14-year-old child. Carefree manners.) END TRUE CONFESSION.

I decided the solution was two cheese sticks, fuel for my toes.I stumbled quietly down the hall, checking on aforementioned son, making sure his noise machine (iPod) was still silenced for the night (he likes to turn it on after he knows I’ve gone to bed), taking care not to wake him, the dog, or the assorted cats draped around him, including the traitorous one supposed to be warming my feet.

The cheese sticks were in a monstrously unopened bag fresh from the store, requiring me to manipulate wrong-handed scissors in my half-awake state. These scissors were hard enough to use when I am fully awake. Trying to use them against uncooperative plastic was like trying to force a pill down a cat’s throat.

CAUTION! LEFT-HANDED SCREED AHEAD! The majority of right-handed people do not understand the difficulty that left-handed people have with simple implements such as

scissors, measuring cups, computer mice, car controls, etc. We eventually adapt, but right-handed scissors never become easy. It’s not just a matter of the shape of the handle; it’s also the way the two blades come together SCRRKKKKKKKKKKKkkKKKKKKK

That was my screed being wrenched to a stop by the blog master. Sorry.

So I ate my two cheese sticks and started back to bed.

CAUTION! TRUE CONFESSION AHEAD! Another late confession. We eat those string cheese sticks. They’re good, easy junk food. We got into the habit when we were going to 107 baseball games every week, I mean every month, I mean every season. END TRUE CONFESSION.

I wondered if those cheese sticks would make me thirsty. I decided no.

Hark! What was this ungodly squawk? Could it be the sound of “music” gurgling from my son’s bedside? I tiptoed through the dark of his room, guided only by the green light of his iPod speaker and his fake sleep breathing to turn it off, not noticing the one cat who chose to sleep on the floor, until it let out a shocked shriek, which started a general cat rodeo, with dog as guest star, around me.

Back in the dark hallway, I heard the sound, the offbeat sound a cat makes when it is about to hurl an object of indescribable origin from its bowels into the atmosphere: eh-YUH! eh-YUH! eh-YUH!

My options here were few. I could chase down the cat in the dark and thrust a piece of newspaper under its recoiling chin, hoping to catch whatever repulsive object it was about to offer the world.

Or I could note the cat’s location for cleanup at a later, more light-filled time, if the cat was in an out-of-the-way place.

Or I could just ignore the whole—no, I couldn’t.

eh-YUH! eh-YUH! eh-YUH! I thrust the newspaper under the cat’s chin in time for the final gruesome ack! ack! and….nothing. The cat glared at me and stalked away.

The dog stood at the door hoping I would let her go outside, but I knew this was just a ruse so I would give her a treat. I ignored her and headed back down the hall. My son had cleverly not turned his music on yet.

Perhaps I was having trouble sleeping because I needed more clothing. I decided to add a pair of pajama pants to my nighttime couture. CAUTION! TRUE CONFESSION AHEAD! And this caution comes ahead of the confession. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wear pajama pants without putting on underwear first. END TRUE CONFESSION.

This is where things got interesting. This is where everything about multiple sclerosis, everything about the stroke, everything about rotator cuff surgery and all that physical therapy came together. Right here. In this dark bedroom at 3:15 A.M. with CF asleep five feet away. Right here with this pair of underpants and pajama pants.

CAUTION! TRUE CONFESSION AHEAD! I watch Grey’s Anatomy. END TRUE CONFESSION.

For some reason, I thought of Cristina Yang, one of the doctors on Grey’s Anatomy, and how she has to visualize the surgery she is about to do. So I visualized what I was about to do. Cristina Yang is an actress named Sandra Oh cutting into plastic. I was wobbling on one leg and then the other, groping my way into undies and then pajamas without falling over.

For the uninitiated among you, imagine standing on a large beach ball while doing this. While on a skateboard. That’s not what I visualized. I visualized solid ground. You should add the beach ball. I don’t need to, but you should. Do not add a scalpel.

Now I was thirsty. Back to the kitchen for a bottle of seltzer. Back to the bedroom to sit on the edge of the bed in the darkness to open it, why I do not know, where I cannot see the bubbles over-bubble onto my socked-in feet.

The water felt better in my mouth than on my feet.

CAUTION! TRUE CONFESSION AHEAD! I went to sleep with damp socks and feet. END TRUE CONFESSION.

Notes on Being a Fake

There are three ways to be a Fake:

  1. Unintentional
  2. Egregious
  3. Internally painful

For the purpose of this discussion, we shall dispense with the first two types rather quickly, since it is the third type in which we are principally interested, this being my blog and me being, unfortunately, the third type. Your opinion may vary, in which case you are a second opinion and you may write your own Note on Being a Fake, which you may send to me at your own expense.

Additionally, our discussion will be limited to Fakery as it refers to recovery from a stroke and/or life with M.S. and/or other such life-challenging situations. Fakery outside of this narrow field of health issues will not be considered.

Additionally additionally, I am giving my Observer to these discussions a Fake Name. I had to think for a while to come up with a name not likely to occur in human beings, and finally settled on Nilla, as in ’Nilla Wafers.

The Unintentional Fake
The Unintentional Fake is often not a Fake at all, but appears to be one by being over-enthusiastic about gains in health recovery, such as a gain in ability to walk, or speak, or even recover consciousness. The enthusiasm can be on the part of a patient or a caregiver or a health professional (doctor, nurse, etc.). The enthusiasm is genuine; the over-enthusiasm curdles it.

The Egregious Fake
The Egregious Fake usually has absolutely nothing physically wrong with him or her but wants you to know all about it. His cold is much worse than yours. Her knee is too painful to help carry those boxes into the house. He’s worried about his terrible headache—he’s had it for days. She hasn’t slept for weeks. But wait! Who’s that strolling out of the bookstore carrying an armload of books? Why, it’s your weak-kneed friend! And she’s with her friend who has overcome his intolerance to lactose and is enjoying an ice cream cone! The Egregious Fake is worrisome to be around until you realize that he or she is in fact an Egregious Fake and not For Real.

The Internally Painful Fake
The Internally Painful Fake walks among people every day, and she sees the judgment in Nilla’s eyes. Nilla sees my cane, and her eyes say, “The cane? Are you still using that cane?” Yes, the stroke was nearly two years ago, but I also have M.S., and the combination makes me stagger, makes me weak. It is internally painful for me to admit this, but whenever I leave my house I use a cane. It wards off other people, gives me balance, reminds me to be careful.

The Internally Painful Fake talks with Nilla every day, and she sees the judgment in Nilla’s eyes. She hears my hesitation, and she rushes to fill in the word I cannot find in my aphasic moment. She is thinking, “It’s been almost two years. I thought she was over all of that stroke stuff.” It is internally painful for me to admit this, but when I am speaking there are times when my mind becomes completely void of words and I cannot complete a sentence.

The Internally Painful Fake parks in the disabled parking spot near Nilla very often, and she sees the judgment in Nilla’s eyes. I don’t limp enough for her satisfaction, or use a wheelchair, or have enough missing limbs, or whatever her personal definition of disabled might be. She huffs at me to let me know that she considers me an Egregious Fake (about which see above), about which I consider acting like an Unintentional Fake (about which see above) to prove her wrong, but instead I just wobble normally into the store. It is internally painful for me to admit this, but when I park in a disabled parking spot, I am glad that I will be able to find my car easily afterwards because those lights in the store scramble my brain if I stay longer than 10 minutes.

The Internally Painful Fake is an amalgam of half-started, half-finished, half-baked disabilities. Nothing is right, but nothing is wrong. Doctors examine me and say, “Hmm, that’s not good.” Friends look at me and say, “Hey, you look great!” Family members look at me and say, “Wow, you look wonderful!” It is internally painful for me to admit this, but I feel awful. The truth is there will be effects from the stroke present in me for years to come: how I look, how I feel, how I think, how I act, how I talk.

What’s right? Nothing. That is one truthful answer from the Internally Painful Fake. Another truthful answer would be: I can read again. I can write again. I can usually remember to scribble down notes when I think of something good. I can usually remember to scribble down notes when I remember something important.

What’s wrong? Nothing. That is one truthful answer from the Internally Painful Fake. Another truthful answer would be: my eyes, my ears, my shoulder, my brain, my mood.

What is really wrong, actually, is that the Internally Painful Fake hates being the Internally Painful Fake. I would much rather be the Egregious Fake and have everyone discover my deception so I could just stop it all and go back to riding my bicycle everywhere and playing softball like I used to and taking long walks on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine.

Except now that I am verging on old and decrepit, I probably can’t play softball anyway, and the walks would probably require at least a walking stick, and the bicycle might even require fat tires. We probably need to add a fourth kind of Fake: the Old and Decrepit Fake.