Thursday, March 30, 2006
Nip, Tuck, Inject
I know discretion is important but I’m going to go out on a limb here and fess up that all of the women in my immediate family have had some form of plastic surgery. Leslie had her nose fixed in high school, I had fat sucked out of me after college and my mom has, well, she’s been refreshed a little here and there. None of us are overly vain but when the opportunity arose to go under the knife and fix some flaws, we each jumped.
My dad, on the other hand, hasn’t been the subject of nipping and tucking. His nose is large with a bump but he wears it well with glasses. Sure, he has love handles but you’re talking about a man who uses a walker to move between point A and point B. People are too focused on the metal contraption he leans on to notice his love handles.
The most superficial thing my dad does is go to a dermatologist. A common phenomenon with Multiple Sclerosis is that you start to develop ancillary health problems. Something about your immune system being weakened and thereby inviting other illnesses to contribute to the medical mayhem. Apparently it isn’t bad enough to struggle with walking and talking like a normal person. Let’s tack on some other health complications like a gluten allergy and this fascinating occurrence of facial pores randomly inverting. To the average person, you’d never really notice a few inside out pores. Sort of the same way you can't always tell if a sock is right side in. But the average person doesn’t wake up every morning, stand in front of the mirror and have my dad’s face staring back at them. He just didn’t want to live with it any more so he started seeing a dermatologist.
Today, my dad is getting Botox injections. Not because he’s bothered by unsightly smile lines or a wrinkled brow. Recent studies have found that injecting Botox directly into the muscles of MS patients can help improve their walking efforts. A side effect of this messy disease dominated by muffled messages between the brain and the muscles is extreme stiffness. When first trying to get a diagnosis, my dad walked like he’d just gotten off a horse. Very John Wayne but also very awkward seeing we don’t live in a shit-kicker type of town. His knees just wouldn’t bend properly. Now they don’t bend at all unless two hands are being used to force them into a flex position. You try it. Tense your quad and calf and then try walking.
A physiatrist a cousin knows thought Botox would be worth trying. After reviewing useless data from my dad's charts at his neurologist's office, one conclusion was drawn. If his muscles could just relax, he’d walk better. He might even be able to walk without a walker. This sounds so praise-the-lord-I’m-healed. But when the prognosis is a teensy bit favorable, you put Jerry Falwell judgment aside and sign up for the procedure.
I heard the back door at the office open and could tell from the amount of time it took for it to click closed, my dad was back from his injections. I turned in my chair and for the briefest moment hoped a miracle had happened. Maybe I'd see him walking upright and at the pace of an able bodied person. He was instead struggling to get the walker around while clutching the worn handle of a canvas bag.
“So, how do you feel?” I asked as I strolled over to relieve him of the beat up tote in his right hand.
“Feel??? How do I look???” he replied, lifting his head so the fluorescent light could cascade down upon his face. I noticed an inverted pore on his forehead.
“Refreshed! Like you just got back from a vacation. How long will it take until you can resume your lifelong dream of throwing a javelin at the next Olympics?”
“They said I should be able to rollerblade by week's end. Actually, I might be able to see a difference in a few days. If it works. It’ll take a little longer, however, for the unsightly crow’s feet around my eyes to disappear."
I carried his bag to his cluttered desk and rested it against a filing cabinet next to his chair. When I returned to the hall, my dad was a mere three feet from where I'd left him a moment earlier. He was shuffling toward his office. As I passed by his stilted and sluggish frame, I quietly sent up a prayer to the God I’m not even sure exists and asked for this to work. For the love of fucking God, cut this crippled, gluten-intolerant man with inverted-pores a goddamn break already.