Preacher Solomon experimented with life. “And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:17). I sometimes wonder if Solomon was having a bad day when he wrote Ecclesiastes. He uses the word vanity sixty-five times in his treatise and concludes with these uplifting words, “Vanity of vanities . . . All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:8) Happily, for his readers, Solomon does share some helpful nuggets of wisdom from his journey. One such insight, there are seasons to life. Pete Seeger popularized this axiom from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 when he composed the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” back in the days of my childhood. Solomon’s discovery poses an important question. How does one discern the season?
Adapting is also a seasonal challenge, “There is a season to adapt to change and a season to resist change.” The theme for the summer 2019 issue of Oregon Humanities is “Adapt.” I appreciate this magazine as it provides a contemporary perspective on Oregon’s history and culture. Each installment of the magazine includes an invitation from the editorial staff for readers to submit a post related to the theme for the forthcoming issue. The editors chose to include my submission for the summer issue. What follows is an updated edit of my submitted text.
Seven days after my second birthday, my parents noticed that I kept falling while attempting to walk the hallway of our home. Soon my body was paralyzed by polio. Doctors said that I would never sit up. After a short time, I was able to sit up. The doctors then said I would never walk again. I was stricken six months and one day after American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk made a startling announcement on a national radio show. Dr. Salk claimed he had successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis.
Most of my body recovered rather quickly from the paralysis except for my right leg. I could learn to walk again by adapting to a metal brace. The prescribed orthotic surrounded my torso and extended from my armpits down my right leg to an attached shoe. My challenge was to adapt to a new way of walking. One day my parents were visiting friends who had a daughter about my age. They noticed that I was trying to walk by pushing her doll carriage. Soon after that visit, I sat in an office with my parents across the desk from a gentleman. Behind us were windows that opened onto a factory floor where glossy children’s tricycles, wagons, and other mobility toys were being manufactured. My parents persuaded this gentleman to build for me a one-of-a-kind mobility device which would help me adapt to my new way of walking. This company designed a unique carriage designed to affirm my masculinity. The body of the metal carriage was about 16 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 8 inches deep. It featured large rear wheels and smaller front wheels that swiveled to make steering easier. Mounted to the front of this one-of-a-kind wagon was a wooden cutout of a horse’s head. Attached weights underneath the carriage enabled me to lean on the handle as I walked and not be in danger of tipping over my unique horse wagon.
Fast-forward a few years, and I’m once again with my parents sitting across a desk from a gentleman. He was an authority figure in the public school system. Our city was blessed to have a separate school for “crippled” children. It was the expectation that I would attend that specialized school. My parents had a different idea. Mom and dad lobbied this public school official, asking that the public school system change and allow their “crippled” child to enroll. This gentleman agreed, the system adapted, and I attended.
—Rev. Gary Mccreith, Lakeview
Living life is art. Discerning seasons is an art form. Truth, wisdom, and the inspiration of God’s Spirit are dance partners in creating the choreography of our lives. Change is relentless and adapting a continual challenge. We resist change because we fear a loss in the transition. There may be a loss, but more often than not, the good will be replaced by the better, sometimes even the best.
Now besides dealing with the aftermath of polio, I face the compound challenges posed by an aging body. “Aging gracefully” is touted as a virtue. The Summer 2019 issue of Oregon Humanities magazine includes prose by Josephine Cooper. Josephine admits to being in her seventies. In her article, Senior Dance Night, (p.37), she writes, “People talk about aging gracefully, which suggests that you adapt easily to many peculiar and annoying bodily changes. For me, aging is like being a teenager in reverse. My body feels unfamiliar and awkward; however, this time, I do not suffer from an abundance of hormones—I suffer instead from the lack of them.”
The truth is that my body is aging. Members of the medical community have imparted wisdom. The Spirit inspires me to respond appropriately. My new season of adaptation is underway. This season includes an enhanced and expanded exercise regimen, a lighter carbon fiber orthotic, and the use of ancillary crutches instead of a cane. With practice and additional strength building, ancillary crutches are to yield to forearm crutches. It sometimes feels like I am regressing. It may appear to others that I am regressing. I prefer to think; I am aging gracefully. These new adaptations are being choreographed to decrease physical stress and to improve my quality of life.