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Michael Devlin, Diabetes, Smoking and Inline Skating (Rollerblading)

roadskater's picture

I don't wish to comment on much here about the particular criminal case, but do wish to point to some background on Michael Devlin, who was arrested (as of this writing he has not received his fair trial) for the kidnapping of Shawn Hornbeck and William "Ben" Owenby.

First let me acknowledge the keen perceptions of a very young fellow (and later, the smart, careful work of Officers Gary Wagster and Chris Nelson):

All that changed when fifteen-year-old Mitchell Hults stepped forward with a detailed description of a truck. Mitchell had stepped off the school bus soon after Ben. The high school freshman told investigators that as he got into the Chevy pickup he'd parked near the bus stop that morning, he spotted an aging white Nissan pickup with a camper shell in the middle of the road, as if it were turning around. But as Mitchell approached, the truck aborted the maneuver and headed down the street, he said. Mitchell told investigators that as he pulled into his family's driveway, he saw the truck reverse direction and speed away. 

I know of the case only from one article by Malcolm Gay in the 24 Jan 2007 St. Louis Riverfront Times, called "Monster Next Door?." And I am not writing about the case, but in response to a section in the article that reminded me of the power of exercise and the confluence of loss that can wash us away if not careful, mentioning as it did diabetes, quitting smoking, and at the same time, quitting skating...

Then sometime in 2002, Devlin was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. That was when he quit smoking and gave up inline skating. He also became more withdrawn at work.

"He used to Rollerblade, but then he got diabetes and he couldn't afford another problem with his feet, so he stopped," says Prosperi, adding that Devlin had to have a toe amputated around the time of his diagnosis.

Please don't think I am saying anything forgiving or condemning, as I think those jobs (even when I act otherwise), if done at all, are left to others who are hopefully qualified and of sufficiently higher power than myself, whatever you would like that to mean. Yes. Whatever you would like that to mean.  

After that reminder of my lack of omnipotence and omniscience, I will be brave enough to say I feel that it is best for anyone who can, in my opinion, if it's ok with you, to...

  • not get diabetes in the first place
  • quit smoking when you can
  • not have to quit skating ever

For any who may not know, diabetes affects blood circulation, and it is particularly hard on the feet and eyes. I don't have diabetes, but know people who do. Often being overweight is a contributing factor, and it is a struggle to manage weight because it is a struggle to manage your feet and keep as many toes and as much of the supporting structure of the feet as possible, especially if you don't strictly control your blood sugar levels. This is relatively recent and slowly gained or believed knowledge among diabetics and their support folk, should they be so lucky as to have loved ones.

It is a delicate balance to be able to go cycling, for example, or inline skating, when these activities can be rough on your feet. It is even more important than for the rest of us to gradually increase exercise and to exercise as vigorously as possible without causing injury. But diabetics often don't know they've injured themselves.

Aside from going wacky from low blood sugar or damaging oneself less externally visibly with too high blood sugar, there is at least one other problem. Since diabetics will often lose sensation in the feet, they often will not know they have really done great damage until it is too late. It can be as simple as walking on the beach and getting cut by a seashell and not knowing it for hours, or even days, if you don't do a daily inspection of your feet.

It's easy to go on a trip and perhaps wear dressy and less comfortable or just different shoes, and to walk much more than you usually do, then end up with feet that are black and blue. In a perfect world one would notice. In a perfect world one would never be embarrassed or deny or ignore the warning signs, and immediately tell someone (and have someone to tell) who would patiently and lovingly encourage immediate non-judgmental attention.

That's the perfect world we so seldom know. Ever been in denial? Ever been afraid to admit a mistake, even an innocent one?

As depth perception goes, simple hikes can become a problem, and falls can cause injuries that are slow to heal. It is a huge basket of life changes that will surround you like kudzu if you don't keep that blood sugar number as level as you can. And that is hard. I've seen how hard it is in others' lives.

So perhaps you'll need to shorten that business or vacation trip to see doctors who know you and your feet well, whom you trust with the permanence of foot surgery. And as you lie recovering even after saving your feet, exercise can be further away.

And if hopelessness hits, well we've been there at least in moments, yes?

Me and you and a dog named DABDA (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).

If you get through, depression can be your best friend, as it's the doorway to acceptance of a life including the recognition of loss. If I could just get that door open sometimes! If you do get through, or if you choose to go back from that, well that's a dark place, right?

So many of us feel skating (or cycling or running or skiing or camping or hiking) has saved our lives. I hear it often from others, not just from me. I sometimes say...

  • Skating is the love we've been missing.

I don't know how often that will resonate (rsn8.com) for others. But through all the stages of grief I have skated more than once. Just as I hiked the trails of Mt. Mitchell talking out loud to people not there, I've skated in full conversation with doubts and fears and scary skeletons skating down the hill above and behind me on imaginarealistic wires. But the whirr of wheels had the extra kick of joy I could also see if I hiked many miles, just closer to home and more available each day where I live...with the wind of motion from muscles and hills. 

So I grieve for me when I can't skate, and for anyone who can't or hasn't tried. I grieve for me more when I could skate but don't! Unless I think it is a time for rest, mentally and physically, as I sometimes do.

[I can't resist advice...get a helmet, strap it on, and wrist guards, and wear them, and if you like, knee and elbow pads, and go somewhere really flat and, no, the roads near your house are usually not as flat as you think before booting up inlines the first time.] 

Life can be a downward (or upward, yes) spiral. Hopefully we go up and down the spiral staircase and get what we need on each floor to keep us well, so we don't get stuck in the basement or fall off the roof. Or end up in some beautiful disaster of an Escher etching.

If you have not seen them walking around you, these ghosts of the street, please look. They're searching. There are many spinning down, walking around, looking for a soulgyropush. I hope we help them find it. I hope we can give some just the right push, spin, momentum. I want to help some find it, so they don't topple into taking from others, if that is possible. 

Am I making apologies for what Devlin seems to have done? No. Am I trying to understand? Of course. Would I want to help someone not become like him in these actions? Of course.

I hope someone out there who is just at the end, almost at the end, with just about as much pain as your body can hold, will give skating a try and find a way to keep on pushing. Skating will teach you joy perhaps, love perhaps, pain, why yes! And healing through creativity.

This is why I feel for the skateboarders [those not destroying other people's stuff] hiding in their clothes trying to flip that board and land it to save their lives, long enough to find their soulpath, though it just looks like mindless repetition from the outside, and marks on the pavement to the unaware. Lurking under their hoodies they strive for a moment to break out butterflyskyward when you're not looking! You hear a clomp of a board and they feel a YES! And yes after yes is a path, a way, a life sprouting.

As Henry David Thorough has put it in Walden...

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

Skating, skiing, cycling, boarding, is it not the eternal present that frees us from the past and future, as we glide through time? Perhaps. Or it could be "running away from our problems?" Even if so, it seems to help, like focusing on the stream and the matching the hatch and watching the dry fly and feeling the line and smelling the branches and reading the water and sunlight and the shapes and shadows, moment after moment, as a Linville River Gorge day goes by...ending in smoky campfires of a damp evening dew. The captivating moment that says "now is most definitely enough for now, and why not continue? Yes!"

For me, my skating, roadskating, perhaps even more mindless repetition than the boardkids do, leads to better eating, better sleeping, better breathing, better seeing, better feeling...not every day, not every second, but always eventually...if I can just keep ahead of those dangling demons (minor though they be in brightest sunlight) self-strapped onto my own shoulders some days...which getaway usually happens somewhere one to four hours down the road or trail.

Certainly I'm wishing peace, yes, for everyone. Yes I said everyone. Peace within. And love spinning 'round like a Sundays song.

Yes I'm a fruitcake thick enough to be a doorstop.

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