The earth must still be turning.

The solar system’s continued rotation is assured, because my birthday is approaching again. I’ve never been one of those to fret and agonize about getting another year older. I think grey hair is a badge of honor. When I was a kid, the thought of getting stuff was almost more than I could bear. Lists were drawn up and edited. Parties organized with all my friends gathered in the backyard, all for me. I loved the attention, even though I think I was always a little let down the next day when my life was essentially unchanged. I had to go back to school, and do chores, and no one was paying special attention to me any more. The realization that all of that was only for that one day came hard.

Now that I’m older and theoretically wiser, my birthday is quite a bit different. I still wear the grey hair proudly, and I’m always glad to have survived another year on this side of the grass. But when people ask what I want for my birthday, my answer is dramatically different. It used to be that what I wanted was whatever I had been convinced was the Best Thing In The World by the shills who interrupted F-Troop and Gilligan’s Island. Now, if there are “things” I want, I usually just get them for myself. And, frankly, the allure of “things” faded a long time ago. I already have more “things” than I know what to do with, and the shelves at Goodwill hold many of the things I once thought important. So, “What do you want for your birthday,” is a difficult question to answer.

Well, no not really. What I want is very clear to me – it’s the same thing I’ve wanted for the past 10 or so years. The difficulty is in making in known what I want. In some ways, it seems like a simple request, and a painfully obvious one. The things I CAN have I don’t really want, and the one thing I DO want, no one can give me.

I’d like to walk. I’d like to drive a car. I’d like to sleep at night unmedicated. I’d really like to never have to put my ass into another wheelchair or lean on another walker. Etc. My therapist asked me recently if I had found any silver lining in MS. I thought for a moment, and said, flatly, “No.” I would gladly trade any and all of the discoveries I’ve made about human nature or my own nature for the ability to walk unaided.

I read this back to myself, and I cannot escape the fact that it sounds somehow whiney and complainy. It is not meant in any way to suggest that there are not myriad things I am thankful for every day, but that’s a different holiday. For my birthday, like perhaps some of you, the only thing I want is the only thing I can’t have.


Author: stephen

stephen harris is a writer, painter and a photographer who lives with his family in maine.

One thought on “The earth must still be turning.”

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