Monday, December 17, 2018

My left arm is dying

This is the first blog I could have written with one hand tied behind my back. 

Not because it was a breeze or required little agile effort. No, the reason I could have written it with one hand tied behind my back is because Parkinson’s Disease has rendered my left hand virtually useless. It just hangs there, an anatomical ornament dangling from an untrimmed trunk.

When I try and summon the south paw to assist it treats me like it’s one of my daughters when I ask them to fetch Daddy a beer. 

It just pretends it didn’t hear me.

How bad is it?

It’s so bad if I was engaged in a duel, my adversary could stroll up and insert the fatal bullet manually before I could draw my pistol. 

So my dreams of becoming as ambidextrous as Leonardo da Vinci are in the midst of being dashed. The great daVinci (1452-1519) thought using one hand was a gross inefficiency for any two-handed animal. He wasn’t right-handed. He wasn’t left-handed.

He was both handed. 

When he deemed it necessary to indulge his creative side by, say, painting a horse, he would pick up two brushes, one for each hand, and only then turn toward the canvas. With equally bold and confident strokes, he would with his right hand begin painting the horse’s face, with his left the horse’s ass. 

In less than half the time it would take a common and competent painter working with one hand, he’d be done. Che Bello! A lovely horse grazing in a field.

Such devotion to hyper-efficiency has long roiled art historians who are prone to speculating: Should such manic ambidexterity be aspirational? Is technique ever a worthy sacrifice on the altar of artistic efficiency?

Me, I wonder about different stuff. Like what kind of anatomical calculations went through the genius’s mind when he felt like jerking off?

Many friends are suggesting I try a computer dictation option, something I’m reluctant to pursue. Much of my writing to me looks stupid on the screen. How would it sound?

Or what I was wrong? What if my blogs A cappella become such a sensation strangers begin to flock to my office just to hear me orate?

Why, I might have to start wearing pants to work.

I remember from my freelancing days a story about an Indiana woman who overcame being born without arms.

It was a good story, sure, but I was always seeking a lead nugget, a factual firecracker that would electrify the attention of a prospective Enquirer editor. The story said she cooked with her feet, drove a car and was a member of the local bar bowling team. That’s all good.

But buried deep in the story was the line I was seeking: She even typed 30 words a minute — with her feet!

That was my lead: “Armless woman types 30 words a minute — with her feet!” I thought it was money in the bank. So I was surprised when I didn’t hear back from the editor. I called him up.

Didn’t he want me to get on the story?

“No, thanks. We’re not interested.”

You’re not interested? Why not?

“Well, 30 words a minute … That’s not much!”

I’ve sometimes wondered what that old editor would have thought of da Vinci. I suspect he’d have found a way to pooh-pooh it.

Me, I worry about how my affliction will hamper my already woeful productivity. I remember reading Isaac Asimov’s tart reply when asked what he’d would do if told he only had six months to live.

“Type faster,” he said.

My PD has robbed me of that aggressive option and these days my concerns are far more pedestrian. 

Now, I try mightily to not tip over when I tie my shoes or elevate myself from the comfortable recliner. The worst is simply trying to put on my winter coat in any public place. I struggle. I writhe. I look all tangled up.

The one dead arm can make me look like some half-assed Harry Houdini.

I’m becoming very self-conscious. In short I strive to look normal doing simple things that were once, well, second hand.

Yes, a man who once aspired to use his left hand to paint the horse’s ass now struggles to merely avoid looking like one.

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Unknown said...

Sorry to hear the news Chris. You will survive. You must survive. Keep your spirits high and don't ever let it get you down. The brain has a marvelous way of compensating for any physical malady. I should know. I have been suffering with right side paralysis for over five years and have compensated by depending more on my left. Brain cancer is only a bitch if you let it be. Peace my old friend.

Chris Rodell said...

Thank you, my friend. I appreciate the encouragement of a fellow struggler. Peace to you, too. And ...

Merry Christmas!