Thursday, September 01, 2011

Like Grandfather, Like Grandson

After several visits to see my physician and quite a few x-rays, blood tests, and questions like, "Does this hurt? Can you bend this back any further? How long has it been doing this" I learned that I have arthritis. This sort of make sense, really: for the last eight months or so, I've noticed a stiffness and soreness in my hands, ankles, knees, elbows, and neck. On my desk I now have three bottles of delightful medication - Flexeril, Ultram (that was the initial prescription and has been replaced by) Nabumetone.

Now, I haven't any idea what this means for me in the longterm except that I can expect the soreness and stiffness to linger, if not worsen. My first concern was that I might eventually lose the ability to play music. While this is a possibility, I suspect, I can still play two days of feis music on the accordion and I wasn't too much worse for the wear afterward. I also realized that I've never been guaranteed another day of playing - I could, after all, get run over by a bus or lose a finger in a freak stapling accident - so I will embrace, albeit a bit stiffly, what I have now and treasure it for as long as possible.

I take great comfort in the words of Jesus to Mary of Magdala: Noli me tangere (in the Vulgate) or "Do not hold on to me." Mary, having suffered the traumatic loss of her Lord, naturally reached out to grasp the Risen One that Easter morning. Her arms, too, ached. Her heart knew the grief that so much feels like fear. Her instinct to horde her Lord is wholly understandable. Yet Jesus is not something to be grasped at or owned. Quite to the contrary! It is the encounter with the Conqueror of Death that etches are heart with an indelible mark, a scar, which feeds our lives and ministries. To be free to live out her discipleship, Mary had to risk letting go of what she loved the most in order to love the most.

I'm not quite ready to let go of music. Though there is a sense that the 'fast fingers' I've always enjoyed will eventually slow down, I know enough to treasure the gift I have now but that, in time, I will be forced to let it go. Were I never to play a note again, God forbid, I would never cease to be a musician, for my heart has long been shaped and contoured by the music I have played and loved for nearly twenty-five years.


Tzipyo said...

Ryan, there is a class of medications known as "biologics," which represent the cutting edge of treatment. These meds. work best if they are begun in the early stages of the disease. They can help avert the typical crippling effects, and any rheumatologist worth his/her salt is conversant with them. I have a dear friend who is a rheumatologist who shakes his head in disbelief when new patients come to him in horrible condition, when earlier correct treatment would have prevented the irreversable symptoms from which they are suffering. Get a good consultation! And good luck.


Matthew Ippel said...


As one who is discerning a Jesuit vocation, I've been struggling with the mobility aspect of your way of life. When you come to a community, like U of D Jesuit, you know that you will most likely not be there forever. And I can only imagine that leaving is one of the hardest parts, as you've developed a love for the mission, the community, the people, etc.

And despite how hard it must be to move on to the next step and move to a new place, new community, your words resonate with me as love of a community, of people, of music, etc. will always be with you no matter what and you are who are you because of your vulnerability and willingness to “fall in love” as Fr. Arrupe, SJ so beautifully said.


Rosevean said...

That's a tough diagnosis for a musician. Thinking of you.

Robin said...

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with RA and started a blog about it; perhaps some of her journey and/or information would be helpful to you:

Bison said...

I just wanted to start off by telling you that I enjoy reading your blog very much.

Regarding your ability to play, don't forget the fact that your influence in music will live on much longer than your ability to play. Think of all the people who have picked up a tin whistle because of your educational videos, or those who strive to one day to play like you. That is the spirit of your music, which you have shared!