I watched so much television as a child it is a wonder I ever learned how to read. Before the Mickey Mouse Club was other children’s programming, such as cartoons, and horror shows like Queen for a Day, which my mother would make me turn off if she found me watching it. But I would be glued to the set for the Mouseketeers. I especially liked the serials, such as Spin and Marty and The Hardy Boys.
But Annette? I was not a fan.
Even at that age, four to about six, I was unimpressed by her 'talent’. To be honest, I really thought she was a wimp.
I never was into the beach blanket movies, I hated the giggly, girly-girl, manipulative behavior they promoted. I never wanted to be that sort of girl. If I couldn’t get a boy with my brains I didn’t want him.
Needless to say, I didn’t get many.
But that was ok. I didn’t want to be Annette. By the sixties I was heavily into the counterculture. (wait a minute, I need to give anyone who knew me then time to laugh). Let me amend that. I was heavily into a suburban, white, Irish Catholic, unbelievably naïve, adolescent girl’s version of the counterculture. I hung out in New York City. But not too late. I went to demonstrations. But only with a friend. I watched depressing movies (Panic in Needle Park was a fav), but I still read Sixteen magazine. I dressed in jeans and cotton peasant blouses. Unless my aunt was treating me to a dress from an exclusive boutique.
My friends and I did actually hang out with drug addicts. Our CYO project was dancing with them at the local mental hospital, like some kind of deranged USO Canteen. I still can’t believe my parents let me do that. Although it did put me off serious drugs forever. When I learned that heroin addiction could cause you to lose your teeth, it was like taking the WCTU Pledge.
So, I had no interest in Annette, except as a vague nostalgic memory. She was a boring goody two shoes.
When she revealed her diagnosis of MS, I had other things on my mind then as well, she still barely registered on my radar. That year, 1993, was the year my husband died. I hadn’t worked in 15 years, I had four children to support and no life insurance. Annette was the least of my worries.
Even when I found out I had MS as well, I did not feel any kinship. I was in the club alright, but the one no one wanted to belong to. MS is funny. Many people assume that just because you have the same illness, you automatically have a bond. People with and without MS assume this. I still felt I had as much in common with Annette as the man in the moon.
But, ironically, her death has linked us. She died of the infamous "Complications of MS". MS does not kill you by itself, it allows one of it's many henchmen to do the dirty work. It could be a systemic bladder infection, paralytic illeus, pneumonia, infected bed sores or any of a slew of other miserable, painful, things that induce gratuitous suffering.
Annette was only 70, twelve years older than I am. Her grandchildren will not know her, she will not see them grow up, graduate from college, start families, all things my kids benefited from, as my grandparents lived till their nineties. With MS, we do not have that gift. We have pain, weakness, disability, limits. I know that may sound like I have a bad attitude, but that is the reality. I do enjoy my life and I am grateful for what I still am able to do. But I hate being the Sick Grandma, the one who can’t run around and play. Sheppy, 6, hugs me gently and pats me like I am breakable. Maddy, 2, is always sticking bits of tape on me to fix my boo-boos. I don’t know my other precious, year old grandson at all, my son declines to include me in their lives. While it is like having my heart wrenched out, I miss them so much, maybe it is better that way.
Now that Annette has died, I finally feel a connection with her and I am so, so sorry for all she lost and all she will miss, for all who loved and will miss her. I am counting on God’s promise that we will all be healed with Him and I like to keep an image of her shaking her cheerful, perky little head and saying, “Oh, no honey, it’s fine!! All better now!” Oh, Annette, I so hope so. That’s the club I want to join. See ‘ya real soon.
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