'Who wants to live to be a hundred?' the old joke goes. The answer? 'A ninety-nine year old.'
We all know we're not going to live forever, but somehow we manage to kick that knowledge of certain death into the long grass. We don't think about it. Nah. Not happening. Death's not for us.
We've been grappling with recognition of our mortality quite a lot, here in the McKay household, this last year or so. Keith has been gradually losing motor power in his legs, starting at the feet. Tripping has led to him badly breaking his shoulder then his wrist, and he's had several 'lucky' falls where all he suffered was cuts and bruising. And shock.
He's now been diagnosed with motor neuron disease and is virtually housebound. This calls for a process of adjustment, as you can imagine.
|Carol and Keith circa 1978|
Now his diagnosis is official, the help he's had - we've had - has been incredible. He's been assigned a specialist nurse who has visited us at home twice, now, and must surely have a magic wand up her sleeve, since she's instigated and coordinated all sorts of support services, putting us in touch with patient and carer support groups, occupational health and orthotics services to help with physical aids in the home and to support Keith's mobility. She's even told us about things like MND Scotland's advocacy services, and their voice recording facility in case the future sees him losing his voice. Keith's signed up to take part in lots of ongoing research projects, too. And last week, only nine days after the specialist nurse's second visit, two lovely men from Mobility Scotland delivered and set up a riser-recliner chair which is making Keith feel like a king on his throne! All this free of charge. The commitment of our National Health Service workers and the generosity of people make me want to cry with gratitude.
MND Scotland is a super charity. So when our daughter Liane chose to fundraise for them by running the 10K in the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow on 1 October 2023, we were delighted. We were then astounded by how kind and giving people were, supporting her efforts with their donations and encouraging words. Thank you to all those people! And thank you Liane - and Stew, who ran alongside her. She raised over £1,300! Phenomenal. And her hair is still dyed in those MND Scotland colours.
|Liane after running 10k to raise funds for MND Scotland on 1 October 2023|
All the members of our family have rallied round. It's wonderful to be bolstered by their love and practical support.
As for Keith and I - we've been strangely inspired creatively by this physical and emotional challenge. Keith, for example, has had one of his artworks selected for an exhibition called 'Graphos: International Exhibition of Asemic Writing' in Buenos Aires - yes, Buenos Aires! - from 1 - 18 November 2023, which is a phenomenal achievement.
|Graphos exhibition featuring art by Keith McKay|
And I've been writing poems - I can't help it - as I wrestle with the surging emotional response to seeing the man I love so physically challenged. I'm trying to compile a themed poetry pamphlet on the subject. One of these poems appeared this week in Poetry Scotland #106.
|My poem 'Ventimiglia Blanket' in Poetry Scotland #106|
And my poem 'Walking on Sand', which is also about coming to terms with Keith's condition, was awarded first prize in the Scottish Association of Writers' James Muir Poetry Competition in October 2023, judged by Alison Chisholm.
Life can be brutally hard, but it goes on, and there are always blessings. As MND Scotland say, 'Make Time Count'.