Warning: Excessive Marvel references ahead.
This is not the story I wanted to write today. I planned on sharing something emotional and joyful. It was going to be a bigger piece, and I looked forward to a long stretch of appointment-free hours to get it done. However, ALS doesn’t care about plans. Like Loki in “The Avengers,” it lives for chaos.
When I got out of bed, it was like stumbling onto the Helicarrier when Thor and the Hulk used it as an arena. The stress had my heart racing and made my speech even messier than usual. Evan was marching around the apartment on the phone trying to get an explanation for an unexpected and rather staggering medical bill. My theory is that marching keeps his energy up during marathon conversations about insurance and durable medical equipment – not naturally thrilling topics. Laura was on the phone at the table hunting down the right type of medical mattress for the hospital bed being donated to me (!!!!). I settled in beside her and she started spooning yogurt and pills into my mouth while on hold. Things must have been going well for her since she still in Bruce Banner mode. God help whoever tried to blow her off; she’s secretly the Hulk, and she’s on my side. Between her fierceness and Evan’s Captain America-esque determination, I felt plenty loved.
I also felt useless.
We finished with the pills, and Laura took the dishes to the sink. Then, as she dialed another number, she slid a piece of paper my way with notes about what she learned so far to catch me up. She went into her room to continue her work, and Evan parked himself next to me, hanging up and diving straight into a summary of where he was in his investigation. I made some notes about emails I could be writing to help, and noticed my voice getting stronger. His phone rang, he kissed my head, and he was off.
Laura’s door flew open at that moment. She raced to the table, skidding across the floor in her rush to get more scratch paper. I laughed hard, and she struggled to remain calm and polite to whoever was on the other end. Business now; laughter later.
Good caregivers can make people with ALS feel like Helicarrier leader and superhero guide Nick Fury. We can’t always speak or even hold a pen to write a phone number. If we are having a really bad day, yeah, we might be wearing an eye patch. Our minds are still sharp, though. There are days when we need rest, but there are also days when we like commanding the Helicarrier by pitching in, being informed, sharing our opinions.
We are grateful to the caregivers who know how to let us take back some control, the ones who remember that every now and then, even the weakest among us likes to stand at the helm, if only to remember how it felt to fly.