By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
My left hand had been shaking for some time, over a year or so. Dr. Chris Cordima, one of the most decent of men, treated it weekly, as if it were carpel tunnel syndrome; an easy guess given my daily residence at the computer keyboard and my duties as CEO at Worldprofit.com.
His treatments were intermittently productive; my hand, and it was principally my right hand and wrist which were affected, getting a bit better, never (yet) so very much worse.
Then one day, as frustrated as I was by treatments which didn't improve, rather offering hope that grew thinner and thinner, never a cure, at best a frustrating palliative , Chris raised the inevitable words; neurologist, specialist, tests. It was no longer his problem; he had done his best, but it was not good enough.
Thus it began... and I was soon on my way to a rendezvous with destiny, or at least the first part of destiny's decisions for this date: December 19, 2006.
My appointment at Faulkner Hospital was early in a very busy day where I had people to meet, places to go. I was clipped, focused on the day ahead, no time, no worries for yet another doctor's sure-to-be inconclusive opinion. However man proposes, God disposes.
I arrived on time, was directed to a nondescript cubicle where lives are shifted and redirected, and told to walk down the corridor and walk back. Nothing more, that was all. On the basis of this single "test" my fate was determined...
The physician, for no doubt there was some license on the wall asserting as much, spit out words indicating a new era was at hand; a very different era from the one about to expire. And so the daunting words came, Parkinson's Disease and all the fixings that would distinguish me within the next five years or less, blindness, general paralysis of hands and arms and legs with tremoring to rock the Richter Scale. In short the very and complete implosion and rebirth of this Jeffrey Ladd Lant, as some lesser being of
acute helplessness and fatuity, a being I had never known, could not imagine, come to spread dismay and change everything, immediately and for worse.
It is time for music, thrilling, powerful music that challenges the greatest and most inimical of "truths" and screams for the will to win oneself back, whatever its flaws and imperfections. "God, give me me and the chance to save myself, not a miracle, but a chance". And for this we need Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto Number 2 (1897). It is the music of defiance, of prayer, of determination and resolution, of soft reflection, and of a love that will find a way to persevere. Yes, it is all there in its inimitable colors, a nucleus of possibilities and dreams that can inspire and must come true.
In Just 5 Minutes.
The man in his white coat and licensed arrogance and condescension had done his joyful damndest, and I shall go to my grave believing this little man, this messenger of pain enjoyed his grievous news and its impact, not a whisper of humanity in look, delivery, touch. Only fact so casual to him, so acrid, so bitter to me.
"Would you like another opinion?" Would I?
Aime Joseph was waiting for me, but the transformation process had already begun from the man he had delivered to the one he was taking back. After such grim minutes whatever happens one is never the same again, and there must be sadness in this, profound and enduring.
I remember sitting quiet and pensive in the back of the cab, but even now I did not forget my manners. As he sped along the Jamaica Way filled with people who did not know and would not care, I was heading home to my safest place, now threatened, now shrouded. "I'm sorry to be so quiet, but I have some important news to consider." And so Aime Joseph and his dear wife entered my life, to enhance that life, and keep the demons that will come -- that have come already -- at bay. Thus was the second portion of this momentous day set in place, for it is nothing less than the truth that God moves in mysterious ways... He had me, so He gave me Janissaries so I could fight and win against the greatest of odds, with valor, grace, and good heart.
"Live in 20 minutes".
Worldprofit, Inc. is a most unusual company, not least because my two partners George Kosch and Sandi Hunter are Canadian, whilst I am a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam. They contact me only when the matter is important, and I like to think I do the same. Our roots grow deep, but we need not say so or wonder. We are tenacious one with the others, and that is sufficient. And so I did not tell them the elements of this tale... until now. They are learning it as you do. There was no need to say more before..
My head was in my hands, my thoughts full of rage and self pity. But God was not ready for this. We were far from that failing of the light that Dylan Thomas raged against, and which comforted POM in her turbulent struggles, her despair, and despondence that withered all.
Now I, too, would "rage, rage", giving no quarter, asking for none; beaten back now and again, forced to give way inch by inch, but only by force. I might die but even en route to oblivion I would live, I would give, I would laugh, and I would love. Such was the Credo I made with myself, and I have kept this faith day by day, yes, I have kept it. Thus certainly I continue without either regret or recrimination.
"What's a Live Business Center anyway?
George told me to rush out and get webcam and head set, and for the last time I ran,
for mad dashery and irresponsible capers are the first things Parkinson's strips away. But this day I ran to Radio Shack and ran back, installing these crucial tools, too, all in just 20 minutes. "The last of life for which the first was made." I had just seconds to go before the LBC was officially opened: Worldprofit, Inc.sailing into her next incarnation.
This occurred when George and Sandi were golfing in Mexico, leaving me firm instructions: If there were any questions or perplexities I was to email George who would solve them while waiting to tee off, for, yes, GK was living by that old USMC adage, "The difficult...." Very Gary
Within just 60 seconds.
It didn't even take a minute before the LBC was packed with people from around the world; people, often desperately, needing help with the creation, growth, and development of their home-based business. And there was just one Monitor, me!, to assist them in their dozens, then in just minutes, in their hundreds and hundreds. I had no time for inward self reflection and the luxuries of despair. I was alive! I was helping people who needed the help. I was in the game, perhaps to lose, perhaps to win... and this was the best deal of all in those few days before Christmas and all the days thereafter.
Dr. Bonnie Hersch, hope.
The objective had changed, was very different now; not just about making the oodles of money I spent with joyous alacrity, always aware that however much was needed would be there, the produce of fertile mind and constant application. Now the focus was not on living well, opulently, the "Wow Factor" in every view, but on just plain living, now the sine qua non of absolutely everything.
Here's where Dr. Hersh stepped in, "You'll like her," Dr.Zorn said, and I do. For one thing she told me the physician who had made the original diagnosis was notorious for injuring his male patients, happily delivering pain, not just fact. Some time later, his door open, he delivered in my perfect hearing a diagnosis almost exactly the same to a handsome patient in his salad days. I wanted to rush across the thin strip of corridor and tell the fellow to escape before the evil sorcerer blighted his life forever. But, of course, I did nothing, and despised myself, for evil rendering me discrete which is just another word for coward.
Let me tell you a bit about Dr. Hersh, for though I am her senior by twenty years or so, packing my own Doctorate, I never venture to call her "Bonnie". She constantly runs behind, her dance card full of movers and shakers who come for betterment but get more than that, hope being the primary medicament of all.
In pursuit of this necessary drug of hope, she invited me to participate in a drug trial organized by a major Belgian pharmaceutical company. The goal was nothing short of obliterating the tremoring and its related deleterious effects. For participating I was to receive a life time's supply of what I wanted most of all: normality, the thing so prized, desired and profoundly prayed for when lost.
Perfect again, for a minute.
My condition was perfect for what they wanted, and so I signed the hundreds of documents which absolved them of every responsibility, no matter what they did to me. Normality was worth the risk, all the risks, and no one wanted a most successful outcome than I did... what's more for weeks it looked like my heart felt dream, the most zealous of my life, would come true, for after all...
"When you wish upon a star/ Makes no difference who you are/
Anything your heart desires/ Will come to you"...yes, no difference... "If your heart is in your dream/ No request is too extreme." (from Walt Disney's "Pinocchio", written and composed by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline for the 1940 film).
Each week, they upped the dosage of this extremely powerful and expensive drug, and each week I improved, less shaking, more hope; I could see the future, recapturing my lithe and agile self.
Then one never-to-be-forgotten day my hand was perfect as the day I was born. I was myself again... and for the first time in months truly happy and grateful. "Like a bolt out of the blue/ Suddenly, it comes to you/ When you wish upon a star/ Your dreams come true." As mine surely had.
"Is she menacing?"
As if I didn't have enough on my plate, I was in the middle of a ridiculously expensive remodeling with a contractor who drank, whored, and lied like a trooper, all the while gulping my resources as if there was no tomorrow. He was a proven parasite and my escalating blood sugar (for let us not forget the diabetes I harbored) proved it. My home, packed with the artifacts which if not priceless were most assuredly pricey, was a study in dust covers.
It was late afternoon, and I knew immediately something was wrong, terribly wrong, menacing, foreboding. There was evil present, and it had settled everywhere in my hitherto joyous precincts, the whole now writhing, a scene of unexampled fright and terror.
The first thing I particularly noticed was a headless woman in the Red Drawing Room, her displaced head in hand. She was sinuous, twisting, a macabre picture of seductive undulation. As I looked at her, she stared at me with what nefarious schemes I could only imagine. I called Dr. Hersh at once. My life was about to take another notable turn.
For the music for this change, add the deep and unsettling theme from Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 masterpiece, "The Birds".
"Is she menacing you?" Dr. Hersh asked, the anxious word "yet" hanging in the air. Here's where my precise use of language became invaluable, for over the next several weeks as the potent drug slowly waned, I described what was happening, clearly, precisely, with clinical exactitude, right up to and including the unforgiving days when monsters seen only by me, kept a paw on my shoulder during my daily on air program.
I could see the monster, the monster could see me and the audience, but the audience saw only me. Thus, I lived a dark parallel existence in which I was the focus of creatures who wished me no good, especially at night when my bed chamber was filled with creatures creeping closer, minute by minute, malice their agenda.
My home was alive with movement, my brain supplying the lurid, unthinkable, grotesque images; the drug designed to ameliorate and cure, now destroying my equanimity, a fearsome thing controlling me, awesome in its power, intimidating, replacing hope with despair. And I dared tell no one but Dr. Hersh and the drug company which begged me to continue the study into which they had invested so much; the study which she had removed me from at once... in so doing she took care of the immediate problem... but broke my heart... for with my withdrawal went any chance that I would ever be normal again. And this was bitter, so awfully bitter... I can only hope Jiminy Cricket is right:
"Fate is kind/ She brings to those who love/ The sweet fulfillment of/
Their secret longing." From his lips....
Then through the open shutters, framing the deep, deep green of this perfect day, this perfect evening came divine song, "Casta Diva", composed in 1830 by Vincenzo Bellini; most famously rendered by Maria Callas (1923-1977), who in comforting dreamscape came to me to sooth everything acrid, desolate, daunting, and corrosive.
Note by pleading note the power of this supplication filled the Red Drawing Room, bathing my sleeping form in the most resilient of sentiments, hope, sweet hope, hope enough for the whole world and one more."Casta Diva, Virtuous Goddess, accept my ardent plea for this noble prince now sore oppressed, troubled of mind and spirit. Hear me Virtuous Goddess/ covering with silver/ these sacred ancient plants. Hear me that he may yet live and his worthy endeavors prosper. Hear me!"
So I awoke by soft stages, humbled by the sound, the pure and true sound rising for me to the great Cosmos beyond. and I found myself on prayerful knee in earnest beseeching, arrogantly repulsed in happier days, humbly offered now in these sadder hours.
"Ah, come back again as you were then/ then when I gave you my heart/ Ah, come back to me."
"Your Excellency, wake up. Today is your special day."
It was Max, of course, essential, anticipating, affectionate, the best of creatures, who so many years ago had called to me from Calliope on Brattle Street. I thought I had rescued him, but it was very much the reverse.
"Sir, I have taken the liberty of picking up these notes off the floor in the Blue Room. They look important."
"Out of the tree of life..." (Quoted from Sinatra's version of "The Best Is Yet To Come"; ) composed by Cy Coleman in 1969).
It is 12:52 p.m. I have been up for hours and hours. I demolish a colon and fret. I add a semi-colon... and fret. Today is the day. I have been through this 19 times before and 19 times I've grabbed the brass ring from the painted ponies that go up and down. Today is no different. I am giving birth again after the again and again and again that's gone before and may well come again after today.
This is good, all good. It is, after all, "a real good bet, the best is yet to come." Yes, it's all good. I've had my way with the wayward words and the refractory subjects. I've caressed these pages... I've made these pages a slick of tears so that there was no escape until your heart was touched and your vision changed.
I've stopped along this so often, so difficult way when I saw, sometimes misplaced for decades, a pair of mischievous eyes that once upon a time, I loved to distraction, beyond reason, beyond even desire itself.
"The best is yet to come, and won't it be fine."
When Gibbon finished "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (1787)... he went into the chill evening air falling to his knees to sob. He had given birth to a masterpiece whilst knowing he could never produce such an astonishing opus again that would change the world... and he never did.
David McCullough sat at his well littered desk and wept over the body of the late John Adams, just killed by McCullough's unerring thrust. He felt as if he had killed his best friend... and he had.
"Wait till you see that sunshine place."
The shutters are all open, the green, green outside enhancing the brilliance of The Red Drawing Room within. Max' work. I always know when he and his genius have been at work. There is then not only the spectacular. There is the humane, delicate and refined, things the more valued because so rare.
"We are stepping out, mon prince."
Max stands before me, my battered Harvard cap in one hand, my unscarred, unused cane in the other. It is a moment of the utmost importance. I have not left the house in weeks, terrified of what another fall could mean. But Max, loving Max understands that being a self-incarcerated prisoner, no matter how comfortable and gilded the jail just won't do. It is a moment of supremest decision, and the tension is palpable.
"The thousand mile journey starts with a single step.
Who nimbly roamed the ancient isles of the Aegean in search of adventures and Odysseus, one bold, audacious step before the next?
Who stepped lively and with determined purpose through the corridors of power in a hundred jurisdictions, astonishing even himself, an agile empire the result?
A step can lead to all this and more, but it may also lead to an eternity of sickening descent, into impenetrable darkness and unease that becomes fearful disorientation and unwonted panic, dark and uncontrolled.
This is the moment immediate reality becomes the stuff shaping all the future and all the denizens of my observant establishment know it... and waft hope my way. And so I, the boy, the man, who trusts with the greatest difficulty is forced to trust now.
It is Sinatra, "We've only tasted the wine/We're going to drain that cup dry."
Thus I take the step, small, uncertain, in anxiety...but achieved, amongst the greatest achievements of my life of achievements. "Lean on me, mon Prince, lean on me." And I do... with doubt, with grave uncertainly, with just fragile conviction, but I do, I do... and this is everything. "You think you've flown before, but you ain't left the ground."
But now I am, each step however small fueling the next...and I am surrounded by joy, growing confidence, and the love which eclipses all.
Sinatra can do this. He is, after all, the Prince of Impertinence, iconoclastic, take no prisoners, do it my way guy. He could be -- and often was -- insolent, impudent, a master of the smirk and the put-down.
The timid world looked to him in longing, because for just a moment they, too, wanted to do what they wanted, critics be damned, elusive truth the grand goal, but so rarely achieved.
Sinatra shouts at me, "Do it! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! Live life no matter how much or how little you have." "You think you've seen the sun, but you ain't seen it shine"... and you insist upon seeing it shine, whatever the cost.
Then he turns to the assembled company and flips the unmistakable bird, but whether at anyone in particular, or at the world in general, at what has gone before or what is now on its way, no one can say and even that most perfect courtier Sir Max gives way to a broad (but quickly suppressed) smile of the "thatsa my boy" variety.
With that Max in full regalia, holding the emblem of the Prince and his Principality of Tornavan, black, orange, and white with but a single word "CREDO" under a princely crown, claps his paws three times, instantly gathering the full attention of the distinguished company.
"Your Majesties, Your Imperial and Royal Highnesses, Your Graces, Milords, Ladies, and Gentlemen All, I give you the undoubted Prince of this realm."
"Three cheers for the Prince".
And with that the music of Giocomo Meyerbeer rises rhythmic, regal, imperial. It is the Torch Dance No. 3 in C-minor (1856), a dance which only princes may walk.
"The people are waiting, mon Prince. Reign for them and reign happy. Here is the secret"...whereupon Max hands me a golden box.... then its key. There are two words engraved on it, "Credo" and "Veritas." It is locked.
Then the kiss of loyalty, fidelity, and love, left, right, left.
It is a new beginning... and I embrace it, for even life encumbered and difficult is life, and that is the most important thing of all.
Thus, the Prince took up his cane and took the first step, strenuous, arduous, uncertain, essential, for from this single step all else must and would ensue. He would walk, and he would walk the Torch Dance, too, in all its intricate figures of dazzling fire. Fall or falter, he was a Prince and this royal walk was his birthright, and as he walked, the brilliant lights went on in the Green Room, in the Blue Room, in the Red Drawing Room, "Fiat Lux", each one a summons to the world in acute need and growing desolation.
Thus take heed. Whatever your condition or status, this light is for us all, and so he progressed, humbled but determined, love his constant companion, though he might not always know it.
But the good people of Tornavan and everywhere else on Earth determined the Prince would know it. In a moment their collective good wishes began to rise high and ardent, "Ease on down, ease on down the road/ Come on, ease on down the road/ Don't you carry nothing/ That might be a load", and Prince Jeffrey knew for a certainty that he had everything he needed in a single phrase whispered in his ear by the Wiz (1978).
"Don't you give up walkin'/ 'Cause you gave up shoes, no." And he stood suddenly at his full height again, bathed in the pure light emanating from the Red Drawing Room, and he raised his cane, a moment ago a tool of subservience and diminution, now one of defiance and life enhancement, and heard himself say what he had never said or even thought before, "I love you. I love you all." With this, there wasn't an eye still dry or a heart untouched, such was the undoubted power of unbridled affection and joy, and it all happened here. I was there. Max. Credo.
June 1, 2015 in the Blue Room.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.