Saturday, July 05, 2008

Trapped in Douglas, Arizona

Last weekend just about killed me. Here are my musings about the experience before I roll up my sleeves and settle back into my regular blogging schedule

Chaos with ColorAs I return to a semblance of normality with my life, I can see that many things have remained unchecked on my To Do List of Doom. There's a novel I'm supposed to be working on, the web site I'm supposed to be redesigning, and not to mention a blog I'm supposed to be posting regularly on. In fact, I'm supposed to have written this incredibly insightful article about my findings during the month of May as I observed my ADHD self react while I worked on limited goals. As months go, May was pretty good. June wasn't so bad either. The problem was that I was too busy working on my discoveries to take time to write about them, then I became very busy with family.

Maybe that is why I was initially less than thrilled about attending my youngest brother's wedding last weekend. I was itching to get back to Me Time and my family was still demanding We Time. However, family is important, especially little brothers' weddings, so I was committed to be supportive. After all, how often does one attend their sixth brother's first wedding?

At the edge of the United States looking into Mexico
I spent the Independence Day weekend in Douglas, Arizona where my youngest brother's wife was born and raised. Douglas is a sleepy border town far down south on the edge of Arizona and Mexico. The town is seeped in Mexican culture and driving into it feels like traveling back in time. There seemed to be at least seven churches for every member of the community. I counted. That number was matched in magnitude only by the larger number of boutique shops, all of which were closed. There was also a 24 hour Walmart Super Center, curiously located right at the U.S./Mexico border gate. The Walmart might explain why all the boutiques were closed. At any rate, at night people would gather in the Walmart parking lot and chat after the bars had closed. Even with the ginormous empty parking lot, there was a small town feel in the air.

Despite the prevalent Mexican culture due to Douglas' close proximity to sister city Agua Prieta, and the deep Mexican roots of the community, the denizens of Douglas usually spoke in English. I also noted how patriotic the town folk were on Independence Day as they marched down the main street during the extremely small parade or gathered in the city park later that night to play baseball and horseshoes while awaiting the fireworks. I encountered no hostile Reconquista-types demanding the immediate annexation of the U.S., but instead dealt with warm and friendly people who took pride in their American citizenship. The experience was very pleasant. Certain conservative talk radio hosts are certain to find these facts confusing.

My 'favorite' hotel supplied towelYou might wonder how such a bucolic experience could be so bad. Well, you didn't stay at the lovely Gadsden Hotel. In it's day I'm sure that it was quite opulent. There was a high vaulted ceiling with ornamental frillery, large columns, a grand staircase. and a chip in the stairs where Pancho Villa's horse reportedly made its mark on history. Pancho Villa's ghost was said to still haunt the hotel on the fourth floor and the basement. None of this made much of a difference for me on floor three, unfortunately. There my wife and I had soiled towels, a toilet that leaked when we flushed, a slippery tub with chipped paint and fixtures that were new when Pancho Villa wore diapers, an air conditioner that kept the room at a balmy 79°F, and a bed that seemed determined to repel me onto the floor.

This experience was made worse by a terrible mistake on my part. In a cloud of ADHD brilliance, I left my CPAP at home. I never travel anywhere without it because I have severe sleep apnea, which means I stop breathing every 45 seconds during the night. My throat closes, I make odd whistling sounds, then I gasp awake only to instantly fall back asleep and repeat the cycle. Until I discovered the CPAP I was in danger of heart failure. So there I was, sweltering at 79°F (my brain melts at 80°F) on a bed that was trying to pitch me off while I suffocated repeatedly. I couldn't make a single morning activity the entire weekend due to the fact that I had been transformed into something from out of Night of the Living Dead.

Weddings are supposed to be a time of joy and union, but the weekend I spent in Douglas, Arizona pushed the limits of my patience and endurance instead. While I struggled with the Bates Hotel, heat, and all my disabilities made worse by lack of oxygen and sleep, my brother's blushing bride organized a lovely and detailed wedding — a highly planned event unlike any wedding I've ever attended. My days were chock full of wedding activities — all day long — on the hour. I felt as if I had enlisted in some sort of wedding boot camp. It couldn't have been more hostile to ADHD if she had looked up Hallowell and Ratey's Diagnostic Criteria for ADD in Adults and targeted each one specifically.

With all the parties and dinners and rehearsals and preparations, I suppose I could consider myself lucky because I missed most of them. Yet I didn't feel that way. I had come all that distance to celebrate my brother's wedding, not lie twitching in a manky hotel room. I was determined to get out and join the family.

Blurry BouquetFortunately for me, through the love and support of my family I made it through the ceremony. Unfortunately, much of it felt like torture. I couldn't understand the priest's English because of his thick French/African accent. The ceremony was unlike any Catholic ceremony I had ever attended. I didn't feel like I was in a different culture; I felt like I was in a different dimension. In addition, I was exhausted and hot and on the verge of ticking. A brother's hand on my back during the wedding ceremony helped keep me grounded. After the wedding we stood in the blazing, 96°F southern border sun for photo ops. Love for family kept me going when I would normally have bolted for the comfort, quiet, and cool of my home.

There were many highlights for me during my stay in Douglas, but overall I was disappointed. Sometimes optimism can't thwart the effects of disabilities. No amount of good cheer could help me breath easier. The less I slept, the more neurologically I was off, the less I was able to participate. Although I revived after the wedding reception and enjoyed myself dancing with my girls, overall the weekend passed by in a blur. I'll even have to reread the book I supposedly read since I can't remember any of it.

The weekend's influence reached out into the following week after I returned home as I spent it ticking and twitching despite sleeping every night with a CPAP. However, optimism has kept my spirits up. I haven't sunk into Depression or spent the week whinging and complaining. This was my fault, not Douglas, Arizona's. Besides, I don't have it as bad as my wife. She came home from Douglas with a staff infection on her mouth that makes her look like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. I blame Pancho Villa.

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