Thursday, 23 February 2017

Little Big Horn

Yes, it's late. I know it's late. It's been a long day with many miles behind us. That's the way it is today and tomorrow, maximum miles as we head home from what will be a 21 day journey by the time we are done. I don't even feel guilty about writing late. What I do feel is exhaustion.

Once again I have been reminded that, while I may take a vacation from my everyday life, there is no way to take a vacation from ALS. More than once on this trip I have felt the discomforts, the challenges, the failings of my body. More than once on this trip I have felt the need to apologize to David and others, to express repeated thanks to David and others, to rest and stay while David got out and explored. It is the nature of ALS, to take so much and leave so little.

Actually I thought of that today while visiting the Little Big Horn battlefield with David, the site of General Custer's famous last stand. As a child, Custer was presented to me through television and movies as a glorious hero. As an adult I have come to realize what a vain and brutal man he truly was. Like Jesse James, Armstrong Custer was a product of the Civil War, trained to kill whomever he felt was the enemy.

In his time, the white man was to the Indian as ALS is to me, a constant and continual taker, a destroyer of life, steadily diminishing everything. While Native Americans may have destroyed Custer and his small army at the Little Big Horn, in the end the sweep of history and the power of European invasion withered away the Apache, the Sioux, the Crow. In the end, victory in a small battle did not change the broad course of events.

I am here, alone in a battlefield, raising weakened arms in defense of an already destroyed body. I am fighting my last stand, holding my flag aloft against the winds of time, struggling to stay alive while my world disintegrates around me. I wonder if either Sitting Bull or Custer thought about the terms of their battle in this way, that history would, in the end, take them all, Indian and white? As the Native Americans raised arms in defense of their struggling body, did they know that the ultimate battle was already lost? When Custer felt the sting of the killing arrow, did he know that the tide of victory had already turned?

It doesn't really matter, not at all, how I fight my last stand. My death is assured, one way or the other. So instead of worrying about whether or not I win or lose, I will focus on how I fight this battle. The tide of time will sweep over me, no matter. I may be Custer. I may be Sitting Bull. Either way, I am on the field of battle, holding myself upright. That is all that matters.

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