Over the weekend I had my 59th birthday. My ever-sentimental husband of 31 years gave me a most remarkable present. He had recently been to the dentist, and gifted me with his used gold crown. He shared with me that 1. I could have it made into a piece of jewelry. 2. gold is now $900 an once. I offered to sell it back to him.
Since collecting fabulous birthday swag does not seem to be my lot, I realized that the real joy of aging occurred two weeks ago when I worked with the Hemophilia Foundation of Oregon. I started out as a hemophilia social worker at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center in 1977.
We had a drug rep who was in his early thirties. He had one knee that he could barely bend and not only did he have a major gait abnormality, but he had to delicately lower and raise himself in and out of chairs. This was a painful process to watch because one of his elbows stuck out at a bizarrely unnatural angle. Everyone in the clinic, including the clerks, knew that his guy had hemophilic induced joint disease.
One day, this drug rep asked to see me in private. We closed the door of my office and he said, “I want your word that you won’t share this information with anyone.” I agreed and he said, “I have hemophilia.” I looked at him and said, “And I will share something very personal with you about myself. I’m fat.” He looked a little stunned. I continued and said, “We all know you have hemophilia because of your joint disease. What can I help you with?” It’s not only the Emporor who has no clothes. Well, he wanted me to get his nephews into summer camp. Easily done.
Fast forward 35 years. Every child I worked with from those days has died of AIDS. And now there is a new generation of young men and boys with hemophilia. At the retreat in Portland, there were 4 young men on the board of the Hemophilia Foundation of Oregan. They were all born in the last 32 years. Two had hemophilia and two didn’t. I couldn’t tell who was who. They were all self-assured, living normal lives, volunteering, studying, working, one raising a family. That is the joy of perspective. Real progress. And worth a trip to the bathroom for a bit of a cry.
And perhaps next year, Frank will lose another crown and I’ll have earrings. However, I’m not sure this will signify progress.
Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP 59 and loving it.