Adjusting to life in a wheelchair.
At age 51, TV writer Rucker was struck with a rare neurological and immune disorder called transverse myelitis, which transformed him in the space of an afternoon from a healthy, active man into a paraplegic. The paralysis predictably reordered his priorities, and he believes he’s gotten a premature peak at the fate that awaits other aging boomers, who sooner or later will have to come to grips with a body that fails. Rucker frankly discusses his inability to control his bladder or bowel movements, stating that he never really knew what shame felt like until his first major scatological “accident.” The onset of TM also posed a financial challenge; outfitting a house for a wheelchair is costly, and the author could not devote as much time to work as he had previously. These worries frayed the Ruckers’ marriage, which had been strained well before the onset of TM, but they eventually found their way out of the thicket. Sex, meanwhile, “wasn’t all that big an issue,” he avers. The author declines to provide details about the couple’s “renewed passion,” except to note that it doesn’t rely on any of the less-than-satisfying erectile dysfunction meds that would have “engorged” his penis without providing any sensation: “My engorged friend would function more or less like an inanimate marital device that happened to be attached to my body.” As that passage suggests, there is no sentimentality on offer here. Paralysis isn’t a blessing in disguise, Rucker writes: “It’s not a blessing and there is no disguise.” Yet for all the horrible losses, there were some gains.
Not especially literary, and the occasional stabs at humor fall flat. But compelling nonetheless.