July 7, 2004
"Life on Cripple Creek: Essays on Living with Multiple Sclerosis", by Dean Kramer, Demos Medical, 2003
The first thing to understand about Life on Cripple Creek is that this is not a "disease of the week" weepie in print form, although Dean Kramer takes us on a daily journey with Multiple Sclerosis. Each chapter is a gem of insight, revealing how the obstacles of life can be dealt with using humor, insight and spiritual awareness.
Her ups and downs are part of the disease, and sometimes she can walk and other times she gives in to a wheelchair. As Kramer writes, "While in remission I suffer the delusion that by doing as much as possible today, I can compensate for the day when I am no longer able to do much of anything. I buzz, a demented do-bee, driving myself to exhaustion. I get the groceries in, the laundry done, the clothes folded, the floors vacuumed, the counters wiped down, the dog-yard messes scooped and the toilet bowl cleaned and why? In case I end up in a wheelchair someday."
She takes care of her bees. She goes to music festivals and finds her friends getting empowered by pushing her chair and shouting to people to get out of the way. She goes into a store that promotes itself as "disability-friendly" and finds herself unable to maneuver through the packed aisles. Subsequently Kramer tips the entire bra rack all over herself, when her chair accidentally gets hooked, then backs out bringing down the entire sunglass rack. As she hurriedly exits the store Kramer gets into another disastrous situation. Despite her embarrassment, her story is funny, but she's angry and pulls at your own heartstrings, making you realize how much we take for granted just to buy a bra!
Kramer talks about her mobility and getting used to not controlling how she moves through space. In her words: "I recognize that my probability of falling is greater than average. On any given day, you may find me stumbling and tumbling onto the wood-chipped path to the barn, tripping and flopping into the creek, or overbalancing on my shovel and subsiding into the garden loam. I've grown accustomed to mud and grass stains on my farm clothes and at this point, I'm pretty much able to relax as I fly through the air with the greatest disease."
She also reveals how she has learned to dress depending on what color food she thinks she will spill on her clothes. "One can try to dress for the type of food one anticipates eating (reds and oranges for tomato-based Italian dishes, pale shades for light colored dips and seafood, browns and taupe shades for curries... Chinese cuisine... and for drinking iced coffee."
Dean Kramer writes a monthly column for MSWorld, Inc. also called "Life on Cripple Creek," and has been widely published as an essayist.
Kramerís essays on her relationship to her disease, herself, her women friends, her farm, and to God all make a great read. She has taken to heart the spiritual lessons that can result from coping with a disease.
Her book leaves you feeling lighter, having shared a good laugh with her and deepened your own insight and awareness of life. Highly recommended for all.
Copyright © 2004, Mountain Pride Media