Truly Blessed

ALS patient James Martin shares his journey.

Freedom to Roam

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James Martin
Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My perception of my driving ability no longer accurately reflects my ability to drive perceptively. My reflexes have deteriorated to the point that I elected to discontinue driving last month. In reality I could continue to drive, most likely without incident, but it is best that I not. The gradual degradation of my motor skills is difficult to measure and I fear that an emergency defensive driving maneuver may be met with the rebellion of my motor neurons refusing to answer. It is not worth the risk.

This has been one of the most difficult decisions that I have made. I have been driving for thirty years., from the age of fourteen. In Idaho (when I was a teen) you got your license after ninth grade, but could only drive during daylight until sixteen. Then, as now, that license was a symbol of freedom and independence; symbols that increase with value and appreciation when lost.

There are few things that compare to having your license, especially when you are a guy. Our testosterone infused egos are intertwined with the combination of that license, the power of a car, and the freedom of a tank full of gas. We are free to roam from Bangor to San Diego, Seattle to Miami. And we celebrate that freedom each time we get behind the wheel, even if we are just running out for milk and eggs. But in our minds we know that we could instead make a run for the boarder, the real one, not Taco Bell. That is freedom.

That freedom for me is now a memory; a memory that is teased with each trip as a passenger, taunted with each car commercial. I am no longer in the driver's seat of the car or even my body. I am stuck in the passenger seat, limited to watching the world pass by.

Though I long for control of the wheel, I am free in another respect. I am free to enjoy the view, see the sights and observe things that I have neglected to see when I was micromanaging the course of my journey. In many ways that is more freeing than the freedom I lost. For that freedom, I am truly blessed.

Last updated: 9:25 am Monday, April 29, 2013

James Martin is a former attorney and graduate of Gonzaga University and Marquette Law School. He lives in Spring Prairie near Burlington. He has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He is married with 6 kids. James is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the Gazette staff or management.

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