It was a silent crash again, just like the first time. I was rocked by a computer crash a couple of decades ago. This time I could read the signs; I knew it was coming. But there’s something so radical about a computer crash that the silence is not normal. The machine ought to growl or bark as it chews up years of memory, so the yelling of the user will not be so stark.
Those of us who have been diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) are philosophical about this kind of thing, learning as we do that the joys and debits we save may erase themselves, every trophy a potential atrophy.
All diseases are bullies. Like the armed bullies in current headlines, they remind us that all of our plans are subject to change. A crash could even be for my own good, an intervention by a sort of angelic editor--admittedly a rare description of an editor. Such a supereditor, coming out of his or her (its?) black hole to screen the product, glancing at the million words I wrote for periodicals, books and letters, scrunches a blue pencil through every line. Words a writer inspires an editor retires.
Much of the stuff that was wiped out on my senior computer is still available on the laptop I’m using now, and I think more is stashed away in backup. I’ll check it out. MSA lets me think about one thing at a time, although I still walk and eschew puns at the same time. But it takes me two hours to watch “60 Minutes.”
About this time of the year, when Chicago gets its first snowfall of the season, I have in recent years begun my production of Christmas cards. MSA and its co-conspirator, Arthritis, ruled out handmade holiday cards even before the crash. I believe in Santa Claus as first among seasonal apps, and I wish you a Merry Christmas. Christ gives meaning to everything, even including MSA. Christ gives power to prayer.
This was not always my view. When I was 6, in the second year of the Great Depression, I was shocked to find that Santa had gone wild. His idea of Christmas presents was some new union suits, knickers, long johns with flaps, and a nightgown. I met Santa at the church Christmas celebration, and was reassured when he gave each kid an orange and the thin curlicue candy I still associate with Christmas trees. I did not recognize Santa, who was my costumed grandpa stuffed with a secret pillow.
Nobody, not even Google, knew anything about MSA in those days. Nobody knows enough about it today, but a cure is evolving from research. Pam Bower, Vera James, Philip Fortier, Larry Kellerman and others have generated support for research via The MSA Coalition. I’m one of many who value the work of the volunteers and the professionals who are going to find a cure for the disease I call MSA, or Honey I Shrunk the Brain.
There’s nothing like an incurable, progressive disease to stir thoughts about the dependency of everything that lives. Not a person, not a plant or an insect probing a plant, not even the wind or the water, has a life independent of all life. Anxious patients and generous caregivers tend to ponder, to meditate on, the purpose of the living, loving Eternal.