Heather and I have a lot of reading ahead of us.
OK, that’s not unusual. After all, between us, we have enough books to be the northern annex of the Longmont Library. (“Yeah, that’s history and classic literature in the living room, sci-fi and fantasy in the basement … I’m sorry, crafting and gardening? Upstairs and hang a left.”) But these next few months are going to be different.
For the first time in a while, I’ll be reading out loud to my wife.
We used to do this quite a bit. And, granted, sometimes she still listens in when I’m doing our bedtime reading with our disabled ward Missy. But this time, we’re doing this for exercise as much as recreation. Maybe a few laps with Heather’s beloved Jane Austen, or the calisthenics of Charles Dickens putting us through our paces. Heck, Dave Barry may be warming us up.
At this point, we’re reaching for anything and everything that will cut through the fog.
Regular devotees of this column may remember that Heather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a little more than 14 months ago. As we stumble towards (please!) a new, more effective medicine, there have been a lot of small battles to fight. The moments of weakness. The occasional vertigo and loss of balance. But the most persistent and insidious has been what Heather and others with MS often call the “brain fog.”
MS lives in your brain. And it’s not especially careful with the furniture. It can make someone forgetful, make it hard to focus or concentrate. Heather noticed it creeping in when some of her puzzle games became more difficult and when anything longer than a news article became too much to handle. The woman who had read and loved “War and Peace” couldn’t pick up a novel.
It can be fought – by using patience, by establishing patterns and workarounds, and maybe most of all by keeping the brain active and stimulated. Hence the out-loud reading, which lets us work through at our pace, stop and explain or repeat if necessary, and use multiple senses at once (including my own sense of the theatrical) to hold and keep her attention.
It won’t be easy. We know it’ll take a lot of time and work. The progress may seem minuscule or even invisible more often than not.
But that’s how revolutions work. Whether you’re revolting against Great Britain or your own brain.
This July marks 240 years since we first held “these truths to be self-evident.” But the American Revolution didn’t spring fully formed from the brain of Thomas Jefferson or John Adams. Its success was from more than just an eight-year war or even a summer-long Constitutional Convention. Plenty of movements have declared revolutions, from 18th-century France to modern-day politicians. Most of them fail.
What made ours different – or at least one vital factor in it – is how well-prepared it was.
In a way, the Revolution merely confirmed what the American colonists had spent seven or eight generations learning: that they could govern themselves independently of any outside power. They had been practicing that art for nearly 160 years before Lexington and Concord, learning how to build a society and keep it together, in a land where the mother country was months distant and much indifferent.
They survived. They thrived. And by the time the King and Parliament decided it might be time to tighten the rein, the colonists discovered they didn’t need Britain any more – and hadn’t for some time.
“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced,” Adams once observed. “The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people.”
Now it’s time for revolution to come to a mind again.
We don’t have 160 years to spend. But Heather spent most of her life forging the necessary tools. We’re willing to work as patiently and persistently as we have to, to knock the rust off and make them fit for use again.
I’ll take any excuse to read a good book. And this may be the best of them all.
Nothing could be more self-evident than that.