“Some researchers theorize that MS develops because a person is born with a genetic predisposition to react to some environmental agent that, upon exposure, triggers an immune-mediated response.” – National MS Society
William (Bill) Kalbach Jones was my great grandfather and he had Multiple Sclerosis. He was a civilian working in the Puget Sound Navel Shipyard as an Aeronautics Allowance Specialist. After my grandmother passed away we found a folder of letters he had written. The letters were years of personal correspondence from Bill to his colleague Elwood. Elwood was a Captain in the United States Navy stationed on the East coast. The letters start in 1953 and continue through 1959. They wrote as often as they could although there are plenty of gaps.
Bill spent most of his time talking shop. He loved his job and he was really good at it. There was plenty of drama in the 1950’s. Scattered through the letters are paragraphs about his waining health and his chatty teenage daughter(my grandmother). It’s hard to believe I can read through his account of MS. His case was very progressive. He used a wheelchair and typed every letter with the index finger on his left hand. That is some serious hunting and pecking.
He tried every treatment that offered any hope of slowing the progression. Starting with the standard treatments then moved to experimental ones and finally ending with religion. He didn’t talk about MS all that often, he never wanted to complain. He was a tough S.O.B. that did what he could to live a happy life with his family.
It’s hard to describe what these letters mean to me. One day I hope to put together a book of these letters to share with others.
But I am not going to rest in any such possibilities now in respect to my own effort to lick this health problem of mine. To slack off now would mean a measure of defeat in fighting my way. I guide my everyday action not by what I think I can do but what must be done. Just going up the stairs to bed every night is a tough bit of work, yet I do it. Sure it’s difficult , but if you do it because it must be done and forget how hard it is, it usually gets done. It is like working each day. I could develop a genuine aversion to it and get a medical retirement easily — but who would pay the grocery bill? I work every day not because i can force myself to overcome the obstacles of ill health — what’s that anyway? — but because I must work so I can eat.
photos from Meghann Prouse Indie Photographer’s 5 minute project.
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