Before ALS I would get up and chase it off with the flick of my hand. In fact I had been the vanguard for Dee long before we dated. I remember warning certain guys who I considered unworthy of her to watch their behavior on their dates (a fact that she may be learning just now). As young high school students, alcohol filled pool parties resulted in a bikini clad Deanna requiring my protection and self-restraint. The first being on the last day of ninth grade when all of our friends and us got drunk on vodka and hung out in our friends Jacuzzi for the afternoon. I had been in love with her for years and we found ourselves sitting on a couch by ourselves. She was clearly in a vulnerable position and at one point told me she loved me. My heart lifted and I was overcome with joy. That is until I heard the next sentence. "I’m glad were such good friends!" Dammit! Stuck in the friend zone! Later that summer, at another pool party, I heard Dee yelling and I looked over to see a football teammate trying to tear her bikini top off of her. I immediately stepped forward and released his grip from her and placed him in a headlock. Then, I slammed his head through a wall before I threw him out the front door. For the remainder of the football season he was reminded of his mistake every time we lined up against each other. (I was harder on him than my opponents). I always had a protective eye on her through high school up until we fell in love in college. After that she would say how she was so happy that she had a big guy to protect her. Little did she know for how long I had already been that guy.
After we were married I was still that guy but my protective duties had car and home repair added to them along with pest elimination duties. When the kids arrived my duties increased even more. I didn’t feel the need to protect her from other men anymore because we had become a team by then. Jackie had become our primary focus and we took very good care of that one. We were "free range" parents. We would let her roam farther than other kids (always within eye site) and let her try things that only older kids on the playground did. She had mastered the big kids slide before she was two. I would become nervous as she climbed the ladder and would stand behind her but she would just push me away before continuing up. I believe we made her the confident and self-reliant woman she is today because of the long leash we gave her. The same goes for Alex. He is fearless! Though they are still afraid of bugs to this day.
Then Deanna’s cancer hit us! Our second pregnancy had gone awry and life slapped us in the face. She spent five months in chemo and another year in remission before life seemed to get back to normal. During her treatment, I failed miserably to protect her. I failed to give her the physical and emotional support she needed. Dee had begun having panic attacks since before the chemo ended which lasted for many years after. I was not emotionally mature enough to deal with these attacks so I coasted along killing the occasional bug to prove my manhood. About a year after the "all-clear" from cancer our marriage was in crisis. I had stopped being a protector and leader of my family. During this time, Dee had begun to change her lifestyle with diet, yoga, meditation and reading. I was seeing my girl-wife becoming the woman she is now. I realized I needed to step up if I was going to remain her husband. One evening, I told her about all of the mistakes I had made and I’m sure she had a few more to add to the list. I became a born-again husband after that. We were a team again. I even took a weekend long meditation classes together with her. I changed professions which reduced my stress levels, making me more focused on my family. I was able to take the lead with our kids’ athletics by coaching while Dee would teach them how to deal with life, especially their father’s over competitiveness. About this time, as household bug eliminator, I began picking up the bugs who would wander into our home accidentally and setting them outside to live their lives. Except cockroaches and black widows, crunch!
Things were good until ALS came to stay. First robbing me of my ability to handle bugs. Then sapping me of my muscles and strength. Once I pictured myself as the protector of my pack but now I see three superheroes in capes with Dee out front, enveloping a frail body in a wheelchair. Frail but strong willed. Our family is stronger than ever! But they are still afraid of bugs.
When Kristen, the nurse, was finished both she and Dee went in to check if I needed any prescriptions refilled, leaving me outside with the grasshopper. I hadn’t seen it on the chair yet so I spun around and locked eyes with my wife’s tormentor. We sized each other up for a minute before I set my plan in action. I then raised my footplates to their highest point like a valiant knight raising his lance against his opponent, like Don Quixote fighting wind mills. With a puff on my wheelchair’s straw controller I urged my mighty steed forward at a fast paced .2 miles per hour in the direction of my nemesis. In what seemed like mere seconds I struck the cushion of the chair and vanquished the beast to a nearby bush. As I proudly backed my steed away from the carnage of the battle, Deanna came out to see what all of the commotion was about. I have vanquished your grasshopper, I said proudly to my Queen. Looking pleased with her knight in shining wheelchair, she rewarded me handsomely for my brave action as only my Queen can.
It felt good being the one who got rid of the scary bug again. I’m just glad he didn’t fly at me and land on my face. I’m too weak to scream like a little girl anymore!