I have two family gatherings in the next couple of days. I love my family to pieces and adore spending time with them. That’s not the problem. It’s the uninvited guest who always tags along with me that’s giving me palpitations.
MS hisses in my ear, ‘you can’t go, you’ll be too tired, too hot, too tingly, too boring – why don’t you just go back to your sofa, have a nice lie down.’
I am an awkward guest now, like the Mad Aunt everyone knows they have to invite but aren’t quite sure what to do with. Chairs and parasols are rearranged in the garden thanks to heat intolerance, guests look away politely as I spill my drink thanks to dodgy hands and my jokes fall flat as I suddenly can’t remember all-important punchlines thanks to cog fog.
Don’t get me wrong, my family are wonderful, it’s just that MS has driven an invisible wedge between us. Sitting in a dark, shady corner watching everyone else bask in the sun is a metaphor for life with MS.
So, I have some pre-prepared answers ready to lessen the awkwardness and make me appear slightly less tragic:
‘You keep yawning, are we keeping you up?’
– ‘Hell no, was out last night dancing on the tables, fabulous time, wasn’t back til 2 am’
‘Hey, come out into the sun!!’
– ‘S’ok, Vogue said pale is the new tan’
– ‘No worries, it takes skill you know, to trip over a flat surface and I’m the champion’
Good plan, no? My family all know I have MS but I don’t really want to belabour the point, and as most of us with MS know, trying to describe the symptoms is not for party-talk, it’s a full-blown maudlin evening over wine, Pringles, low-burning candles and Edith Piaf in the background. And anyway, I feel awkward enough without wanting everyone else to feel the same way too.
So I will try my hardest. I will take part in pass-the-new-baby-around, but perhaps pass him on a little quicker than the others. I will grip my wine glass with two hands, as if I am drinking from a chalice. I will pinch some ice cubes and surreptitiously pop them down my top. Above all, I will attempt to leave my uninvited guest at the door, just for a while….