Sometimes you find clarity in a hot tub

by James Macartney

Ahh! It’s the first day I can slip into a hot tub after the docs zapped my heart back into rhythm again. Reflecting on a lifetime of doctors and adventures of heart, I ease back into the tub and surveyed myself—body newly shaven, rings from electrode patches still etched in my skin, body weak, but beating regularly. My book’s coming out. Life is good.

I watch as a grizzled, white bearded bear of a man saunters toward the hot tub, asking if it’s ok to join me and apologizing for being a bit slow. Being a 70+ yr old was more than enough reason to not hop right in from my mind, but he apologizes again with, “I have Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Then he adds, “I spent 10 years in a wheel chair and my legs are still weak.”

As he eases himself into the foaming waters, he smiles brightly, telling me his life history as a logger and brother of a social worker who died of cancer at 62. Turns out he was diagnosed in 1981 and was in a wheel chair until the early 1990s with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, once thought to be a certain death sentence.

Given his smile, bright light in his eyes, I knew already how he might answer my next question. What did he feel about this awful disease, which had derailed his life from being a robust logger to invalid?

“Brought me closer to my family. Gave me an opportunity to travel, see the world. Be with my grandchildren. Only now me and my wife are escaping the little buggers from Kamloops to have a little fun alone.”

Happy smile.

He could just as easily have told me how the disease stole 10 good years from his life—even the last 30 years—or robbed his manhood, ruined his career as a logger.

But he thinks it brought him a gift.

From crisis to creation.

When we parted, he leaned over conspiratorially, and whispered, “You know, don’t you–We are not alone … There’s more than just us here.”

A shy smile, and those sparkling eyes.

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