Romance vs. reality
By Jennifer Digmann
It was Christmas day, and I sat at the table with my Mom and clumsily clasped my fork between my thumb and index finger.
That piece of peanut butter cheesecake was mocking me.
It was the dessert following our holiday feast, and I lacked the feeling and dexterity in my hands needed to chisel off a bite of the chocolate-covered cheesecake deliciousness. I tried stabbing it, slicing it, and scooping it, but every time I began to bring the bite up to my mouth it would fall off my fork.
I continually struggled, but I was too frustrated (and proud) to ask for help.
My husband, Dan, who had been busy serving the cheesecake to my dad and brother in the living room, eventually joined us at the table. He sat to my right and devoured his dessert while carrying on a conversation with her and me, never once asking if I needed help because he knows better, but my mom didn’t.
“Do you need help with that?” she asked.
“No thanks. I got it,” I assured her.
“But would it be easier if I cut it up for you?”
“No thanks, but would it be easier for you, Mom?”
She smiled and changed the subject, and I continued to stab away at my cheesecake.
Lately the Multiple Sclerosis-induced weakness (http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/multiple-sclerosis#6) in my hands is making it more and more difficult to consistently manage feeding myself. Sure, I can handle most solid foods that I can eat with my fingers, such as chicken nuggets, fresh vegetables or French fries. But throw in dishes like spaghetti, soup or anything I need to cut, like steak or a chicken breast, and I struggle big time.
And this is so very frustrating, so much so that when I’m out to dinner with my girlfriends, for example, I always first scan the menu for food I can eat with my fingers. Unfortunately such a plan doesn’t always work in my favor, and I sometimes go home hungry. Even though I know my friends would do anything to help me, I’m often too embarrassed to ask for help.
I’m starting to wonder why this is. Is it pride? Shame? Me not accepting my MS? Or am I only willing to ask Dan?
Throughout his and my life together – we’ve been married for more than nine years – we have developed a plan: We both know that if I’m facing challenges with my MS, Dan will wait patiently until I ask for help. As much as he may want to step in and do it for me, he will wait. But for as much as I want to accomplish something for myself, I know I need to be willing to ask for his help.
That agreement works for us, so what about my mom? Or my girlfriends? Am I that stubborn?
No. I don’t think that’s it.
The word that keeps crossing my mind is vulnerability. Honestly, who out there enjoys having to ask for help or show any sort of weakness?
Probably no one, right?
But I need to stop thinking like that. I mean, it’s not like my MS is a choice. Sometimes when I get frustrated and have to ask Dan to help me, he will remind me of the time when we had just started dating. It was right after Thanksgiving 2002 and as I was lying in the hospital recovering from an MS exacerbation (http://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/exacerbation-ms-attack#WorseningSymptoms1), Dan fed me pecan pie—one slow delicious bite at a time. And it forever will be one of the most romantic things he ever has done.
Knowing this, he has asked me why it now is no longer romantic when he feeds me. Boy, that’s a good question, but I think it was romantic back then because I was fully capable of feeding myself. Now it’s an unwelcomed reality of life that I never asked for, thanks to Multiple Sclerosis.
This disease has weakened me, yes, that is true. But the fact is, it has also strengthened other parts of my life. And whether it is pecan pie or cheesecake, I need to realize how lucky I am to have people in my life who care about me and are willing to offer their help before I ask for it.
Romantic or not, this is a reality I need to welcome and embrace.