Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Day I Discovered My Mom Had Given Me Syphilis

Through the years, my bestie!
With 25 glorious years of wedded bliss in the time capsule of love, my wife and I enjoyed a day off, taking in the bucolic charm of Weston, Missouri.  My bride sat cozied up beside me when my phone rang.

This is Clark Smith.

Hello Mr. Smith, my name is Dwayne, I’m with the Wyandotte County Health Department. Mr. Smith, you recently took a blood test?


Mr. Smith, you have tested positive for syphilis.

I’m a writer.  I have NO words to describe the ten thousand thoughts that raced through my head in a psychic lightning bolt.  I twisted in the agony of consequence, questions, arguments, denials, and the ugly, cold dispassion of scientific truth.

But, But, But… I’ve never, how could I, when did I, ...Wyandotte County… why are you calling me?  I live in Johnson County.

Yes, Mr. Smith, our county health department handles all sexually transmitted disease reports for a seven-county area.

What test did I ever take that turned up positive for syphilis?

Apparently your Ear, Nose & Throat doctor ordered it.

Yes, I have an inner-ear disease!  How does that relate to syphilis.

I don’t know, sir, you’ll have to ask your doctor.

Dang straight!  (I'm pretty sure that's how I phrased it.)

I hung up the phone and feebly began trying to offer my wife of a quarter century a plausible “explanation” for the conversation I’d just had.  We kept our plans to finish our anniversary date with dinner with the family.  Not even Stroud’s fried chicken could keep my mind off the fact that I was now living with syphilis.

It was a long weekend before I could get my hands around the neck of my ENT... I mean get an appointment.  

What the heck are you doing, Doc?  You tested me for syphilis?
Some things are not, cannot, MUST NOT
ever be true, right Mom?

Yes, Méniére’s Disease can be caused by syphilis, it’s a routine screening we do.

Routine to you!  And I continued my protest.  

It’s i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e that I have syphilis… knowing all the while that doctors hear this “not me” speech constantly.

Well, Clark, I don’t want to cast any aspersions on your mother, but it is possible that your mother could have passed it along to you in utero

NO, IT’S NOT!!!  Of all things, THAT is NOT possible!  (Those of you who know my mom are laughing at the gross absurdity of the doc’s suggestion.)

Well, let’s order a more rigorous test and see what it shows.


… park that for a moment …

Joseph was down in his woodshop by the Nazareth town mill.  The cell phone in his overalls vibrated, lit up, and showed an incoming call from Palestine Parenthood clinic.

Hello, this is Joe the Carpenter.

Joe, this is Mary.

Are you ok, Mary?  Is everything ok?

Well, yes, I’m ok Joe, but I have something to tell you.  Joe... I’m pregnant.

…after the sound of carpenter’s tools hitting the floor, there was a long silence on the other end of the line…

Pregnant!  Mary, how can you be pregnant?  You never, I mean, I never, I mean, we... never… that's i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e!

I know, Joe, I know.

So how in God’s name are your pregnant?

Yes, Joe.

Yeswhat!?!?!?  Joe screeched, reaching the end of his human patience.

Yes, Joe, in the name and glory of God, I’m going to bear a son – His Son.

…phone hits the floor…

Face to face, impossible questions and incredulous answers soon followed.  Imagine how hard it was for Mary to believe that an angel was actually standing in front of her, a virgin, announcing her pregnancy.  Imagine how hard it was for Joseph, who had honored his fiancé’s virginity, to hear that he would not be the father of their first child.

I know 0.1% of what that is like.  The impossible can be true.

The story of Christmas, the story of Jesus, the story of Joseph and Mary is the story of all of us… it is the story of faith.  What did Mary say when she was confronted with the most alarming, shameful, and disturbing news of her life?

“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord;
may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

When God speaks and when you accept His word before you ever see how it “all works out for good”, that is faith.  Later, Jesus honored her, not for birthing Him, but for having the faith to accept and obey the difficult word of the Lord.  (Read this post for a unique, Follow Illustrated spin on that story.)

My story?… oh heck… Doc ordered that more thorough test and I passed it with flying colors.  Turns out I have an “antigen” or something that is too tall for standard size syphilis screens.  What I  don't have is syphilis... I SWEAR I DON'T!!!

I’m thrilled to tell you that, as hard as it was for her to sit through those anxious days of uncertainty, my dear wife (whose first name is also Mary) never doubted me, never threw a pot, never ran crying to her mother, never spat, “How dare you!”

Christmas is a marvelous time of music and light, of joy and love shared generously.  I beg you to never forget that the story of Christmas is the same story as the other 364 days of the year – faith drives out fear.  Faith drives out fear.

I wish you a very Mary Christmas!

Clark H Smith

1 comment:

  1. Bwah haha haha! I know your mother and I am laughing hysterically at the gross absurdity of the suggestion.

    I love how you tie in everyday life to the good word.