Sometimes I forget that now I am not a norm. By that I mean, sometimes I end up drawing attention to myself that I do not mean to draw. Tonight I went into my favorite game store Attactix. Its one of those places that the nerds run to to hide from the high school bully, or the chick with more piercings then skin cells leisurely strolls around in. The owners are warm and vibrant and you never feel pressured to buy something but instead to take your time and look. In fact I often worry for the store's welfare because the owners are so warm and accepting I often think, "Gee I hope they sell something". Of course I buy something every time I walk in the door (sorry Wendy) because there is always something that catches my eye.
But I digress, so let me proceed with the reason behind the title. So I walk into the store, dragging along my right foot a bit and leaning on my cane. It just happens to be the part of the month where my MS decides I really don't need to use that nifty right leg of mine. No big deal, I am getting use to it now. Sometimes I don't move as fast as I would like, sometimes I trip over that perfectly smooth sidewalk, and sometimes I stare at the three flights of stairs to my apartment like they are taunting me, standing at the bottom and gauging what my strength level is at. A lot of times with MS its as much as mental battle as a physical battle. I have gotten use to getting stares when I walk my son to the bus stop. I deal with the looks in the grocery store. When I sometimes fall out of the truck because the steering wheel doesn't fit right and my right leg doesn't negotiate the move, I don't get frazzled when people just stare and move on. But tonight when a few of the folks in the gaming store looked at me like I was a freak, for some reason that bothered me. Here in a house of inequity, where half the patrons spent a part of their childhood in fear of the bully down the street, laughed at by the prissy prom queen types, and alienated for being to smart or to weird, I stand out.
I don't know why the stares bothered me this time. I am not even sure that tonight was any different then other nights at other places. But to me tonight was different. The one spot I felt safe to not stand out besides a hospital and I suddenly felt the burning heat of the spotlight once more. To be fair, the gamers I came to meet were very cordial and polite. I had a lot of fun playing the game with them. But even amongst them the question was asked "So, what's wrong" Suddenly I just wanted to be home around my wife and my kids to go hide in my cave again. I simply said "I have MS" and the guy kind of passively said "oh" and we moved on.
People look at me even weirder when they ask what I do and I say I am medically retired. I use to proudly say I was a disabled veteran, but anymore in Denver that seems to be synonymous with homeless or being a bum. Its funny how we change the way we look at ourselves to avoid the opinions of others. I will be the first to admit I often assume that folks are thinking I'm doing something wrong. At some point a little bit of my self confidence went out the window, maybe its when I lost the ability to walk normal, or string coherent thoughts together in a conversation. Maybe its when most of my friends pulled away from me because I made them uncomfortable by not being healthy. (and if your reading this you know who you are, you stop taking phone calls stopped calling me, but oh if you needed a shoulder to lean on I was the first person you would come to)
I have come to terms with the fact that people just don't want to deal with anything that is scary or unknown. MS is very scary for the people who have it and more so for the people who don't. I actually had a boy at the store ask me if he could catch it from me before he would help me pick up some kitty litter. But there is a positive spin to this. The shop owner Bill at Attactix didn't even blink an eye at me, neither did his wife. The GM as well as the other two gamers didn't blink an eye either. My friend James doesn't do anything less then completely help me (and put up with me) and my family in Indiana only seems to talk about it when I bring it up not because they are avoiding it but because I think they have realized that sometimes I want to talk about things that make me feel anchored to my old self. My wife, between my rotten stomach, being forced to drive everywhere, and having a husband that seems to be asleep more then awake (not really I'm just always TRYING to get some sleep to no avail) and two evil cute children that drive her insane, well between all that the woman should get sainthood. Yes being the odd duck does seem to push most people away, but it also seems to draw the people who really matter, the ones who will stand by you through any diversity closer in. God really does see fit to bless and its not always in the ways we are expecting it to be. Keep your chin up.