Yesterday I received a sad letter from the man who tunes our piano. A snail mail letter – not a Face Book announcement – that he has had to retire early given a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, only six months ago.
This dreadful disease takes away a person’s muscular capacity slowly and relentlessly to the stage where they can no longer swallow or breathe. They can even choke on their own saliva. And it’s one of those dreadful hereditary conditions it seems where the diagnosis of one member in your family can signal the possibility that others might be similarly inflicted.
Which brings me to heredity, and the degree to which we carry our parents’ legacies in our genes.
I’ve always been wary of the idea that something you cop is purely the result of heredity. What you cop in your genes that is, with some exceptions, Motor Neurone Disease for one.
Take a look at my family’s inheritance for instance. Alcoholism and heart disease and a propensity towards sluggish bowels. Beyond the physical, some of the accompanying behaviours, must be learned.
One of my sisters told me the other day she thought she might have had a prolapse. That’s one of the ailments that stays with me since I was a child simply because I could not and still do not understand it.
My mother once received a letter from Holland from her cousin who had suffered a prolapse on the dance floor.
Something in the words ‘prolapse on the dance floor’ led me to believe that my second cousin’s insides had fallen out onto the parquetry. I could see them there in my imagination so many red jewels sparkling on the dance floor.
I did not take the fantasy further but if I try now I can see my cousin scoop up her insides under her skirt and flee for the toilet.
What then? Call for an ambulance. No spilled blood, no membranes burst or ruptured, only the presence of internal organs now externalised like bunches of purple grapes interspersed with blue veins and throbbing like a heart.
I have feared for a prolapse ever since. But people tell me it’s not such a big deal though it can interfere with your capacity to hold off the need to pee.
Is this a sign of aging, this preoccupation with a failing body? Perhaps it’s not just aging, maybe more a case of ignorance.
I could find out more about the true nature of a prolapse but for the time I prefer my imaginary rendering. It has so much more promise.