As I round the corner of my 66th revolution around the sun, I still feel like a teen-aged, loafer-wearing Holden Caulfield. I can connect to the insecurities of my youth as well as to the dreams I had for a future, tempered only by the range of my imagination, certainly not by any limitations fate might have in store for me.
I have many wonderful memories of my youth, college, starting a dental practice, getting married and becoming a parent, and of my incredible friends, family, and community — all the parts of life that many fortunate people have (minus, perhaps, the dental practice). I continue to feel fortunate because giants of friends continue beyond expectations to visit whether in person or by email, drone, or just to forward jokes, articles, or pictures. They help bring the outside in. These memories of times past and new memories being created daily, sustain me. We never know what we are capable of until we are confronted with an improbable situation. We all carry our own bags of cement. I didn’t choose to have this disease, but with strength I have the ability to continue to live life to the utmost.
I recently saw a picture of me and to my surprise I resembled a turtle in a shell (alas, not a ninja). And although I feel normal on the inside, it was obvious that externally I had changed significantly: my physique (I like using that word) was bloated (I don’t like using that one); I had a tube in my throat, gauze around my windpipe, my hair and beard had turned to grey and I had many more laugh lines than I remembered. One advantage of ALS is that it’s hard to be vain! Of course, as I’ve said many times before, life doesn’t stop with illness, even ALS, it just changes. And one’s changing appearance is really the least of it.
Back in the day, pre-ALS, I had been a swimmer. It was my great joy to plunge into Buzzard’s Bay evenings and weekend afternoons and take a solitary swim for well over an hour. I was the weird guy out there, competing, not always successfully, with the jellyfish, for my little bit of heaven in the sea. Those days are gone, but my devotion to swimming has been transformed into a cause of far more importance than my own personal enjoyment.
David’s Old Silver Swim, this year planned for Saturday, August 12th, is my way to try to give back to Compassionate Care ALS, the organization that enabled me to keep going even after the lost, hopeless and frightened feeling that an ALS diagnosis brings. CCALS provided practical help and expertise, they problem-solved problems before I even acknowledged I had them. They were and are the lifeline that enables me to thrive while living with ALS. And I really mean thrive. In my head I can do everything you can do: dance, sing, drive around in a vintage Olds convertible, sink a fifty foot putt, and even grow fabulous tasting beefsteak tomatoes. Ron Hoffman, the man at the helm of CCALS, was the calm at the center of the storm that meant the end of life as I had known it and the start of my new life that I am living now to the fullest, living large and swinging for the fences, albeit metaphorically.
CCALS has provided care for over 1500 ALS families since it’s inception and our dollars make an enormous impact. Last year, with the immense generosity of people from all walks of life, we raised an astonishing $70,000 for CCALS. This year we want to do even better – $100,000 and counting.
I have said that we were striving for the Swim to grow in size to compete with the Tour de France, but now I’m thinking even bigger: the Super Bowl, the Oscars (without the Best Picture glitch), hey, maybe the World Cup. I know, it’s silly, but goals are what we set, dreams of achieving them are what keep us going.
– David Garber