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#21 Dysfunction

11% of Michigan’s bridges are structurally deficient. 1,240 of 11,284 are under threat to collapse or otherwise destruct at any given time. 7% of bridges in the U.S. fall into this category. In West Virginia, it’s north of 20%. Texas has the lower risk, percentage-wise, with only 1.4% of its 55,175 bridges on the brink of destruction. (1)

Today is mother’s day, which as you might suspect falls squarely into the “trigger” camp. With no mother, grandmother or child to speak of, I’ve learned the best way to deal with the onslaught of advertisements, sales, specials, brunches and lunches is to take a page from the old Timothy Leery playbook: turn on, tune in, drop out. On this day I plan for a quiet morning in, far away from the chattering mothers and daughters and sons swarming the restaurants of Ann Arbor, the families in the parks, the units spilling out of churches. I avoid the ever-perfect posts on social media, the public displays of affection, the proclamations to mothers we’ve loved, challenged, fought with, under appreciated and taken for granted throughout the peaks and valleys of our lives. I embrace the things that bring me happiness and honor my mother’s memory: a sunshine day, a good book on the front porch, a laugh with an old friend, a home filled with Bob Seger, Stevie Nicks, Burton Cummings, Roy Orbison and of course, our buddy Rod.

And while Leery’s preachings were highly controversial, I kind of dig the underlying meanings:

'Turn on' meant become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them.

'Tune in' meant interact harmoniously with the world around you.

'Drop out' suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments.

I read about the bridge debacle while sipping my morning coffee. The kitchen fills up with early daylight; the dog finds solace in his square of sunshine on the tile. I wonder whether the health of a state’s infrastructure correlates in any way with the health of its people. One might assume that decaying bridges and crumbling roads would be more heavily concentrated in the north, where harsh winters and hot, humid summers cause the materials to expand and contract. Looking at the map laid out in the article, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The risks are spread across the country, in varying regions and topographies and climates. Some states appear to be more readily ignored, likely a product of poor administration, poor funding, and poor industry. It seems doubtful West Virginia would have been left to deteriorate like this during the boom town days of the coal industry. I saw a special on 60 Minutes once that talked about how areas of Appalachia don’t have access to internet services; they are literally kept off the grid. And how does this all play into the physical, financial and emotional health of the people who live there?

I continue to spiral like this for some time until I get at what’s ultimately bothering me, which is this: why is my body healthy, while my mother’s wasn’t? Why do my synapses fire as they should; why are my nerve endings not deadened; why does my brain communicate along neural networks in the proper manner, with directives resulting in actions? Move left hand, raise right arm, kick right foot, walk to and hug your daughter? Of all the millions of tiny things that can go wrong with the mind and body, why is my infrastructure firing on all cylinders while hers was structurally deficient?

It will take time, money and Herculean strength to even being to address our crumbling bridges, roads, railways and buildings. It will take much longer to make advances in disease research and prevention, and we may never see a “cure” for MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and many of the cruelest afflictions known to man. This is not to say we should proceed without hope; in fact, quite the opposite. Hope, perseverance and a relentless focus on bettering the future will unite us. I will continue to donate to the National MS Society in hopes of advancements that will slow disease progression; I will continue to advocate for the cause. As I sit here today with survivor guilt, hiding from the world and its mothers, I make this promise to myself.

In the weak spots we find strength to move forward.

1. AARP bulletin, April 2022, pg. 44, Source: American road and transportation builders association analysis of federal data

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