It happened so gradually that Elizabeth and I hardly knew anything was wrong. She had never been much for physical exercise, but why should a walk up a hill be so difficult?
"C'mon, Mom, you can do it," our two kids said in near-unison. "We'll push."
And with that the three of us got behind her 110-pound, 5'3" frame and gave her the boost she needed.
But as those late-in-the-day foot drags became more frequent, they ceased to be as fun-filled as they were during that vacation in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Back home, the afternoons brought fatigue; she complained about tingling and a constrictive feeling that made her right leg heavy.
Elizabeth had falls, one while standing on a chair to hang a poster in her high school classroom. "I should have been more careful," she said. Still, there seemed to be more to it. And there were times when a careless turn caught her off balance and pitched her to the floor where she stayed until I could help lift her. Once, she spent an afternoon on our closet floor waiting until I returned from work.
By this time she had a diagnosis—multiple sclerosis. "It will only get worse. There's no cure," her doctor said bluntly.
This intruder invaded Elizabeth's body, and by extension, mine. Her disease became my disease and made demands on our relationship we were ill-prepared to manage. As she moved from cane to walker to electric scooter and finally to a powered wheelchair, then lost use of her right hand, I had to adjust my life to fit her needs.1