What is normal?

The other day, all three kids had doctor’s appointments for their yearly checkups.

Biology decided Cindy would accompany Haley to her exam and I would be assigned to the two boys.

The nurse led the boys and I back to a small examination room with a table, which Dylan immediately climbed, crinkled the sanitary paper, and announced it sounds like someone is microwaving popcorn all before the nurse could shut the examination room door.

“Do you have any questions for the doctor?”

I look at the boys. “Any questions?”

Silence. I look at the nurse, “I think we’re good.”

“Great. The doctor will be in soon and please take off all your clothes except your underwear.” She opens the examination door, steps into the hallway, and shuts the door.

Chase announces, “I don’t wear underwear. I’m a man. I wear boxers.”


“Yes, Dylan.”

“Where is mom?”

“She’s with Haley in another room.”


“Because they are going to talk about girl stuff.”

“Like what?”

Chase chimes in, “Boobs. They are going to talk about boobs.”

“Dad, are they going to talk about boobs?”

“They might.”

“Dad, what are we going to talk about?”

Chase chimes in again, “Nuts. We’re going to talk about nuts?”

Dylan thinks. “Really? Are we going to talk about nuts.”


“What does the doctor want to know about my nuts?”

“I don’t know. Maybe like how many you have.”

“Two. I have two nuts.” His little blue eyes widen. “Two nuts is normal, right Dad?”

“Yes, two nuts is normal.”

“Good. I just want normal nuts.”

Chase laughs, shifts his weight on the sanitary paper and says, “I could go for some popcorn.”

As the boys wrestle on the examination room table and the sanitary paper pops, I think about the word normal. Lately, I’ve been secretly wishing, yearning that my brain and body were normal. That my voice and vision were normal. That I only visited the doctor’s office for yearly checkups. And after, the doctor would smile and say, “Everything looks normal.”

Dylan, my 8-year-old son ,wants to be normal and I, his 41-year-old father, desires the same.

In 2013, when I got sick, my normal changed. And over the past eight years, normal is frequently falling. Normal is relying on Clark Able. Normal is taking the ramp instead of the stairs. Normal is avoiding crowds. Normal is writing about my insecurities in the hope it makes others feel more normal.

But what is normal? The desire to be normal, to be accepted, is a comforting theory. A theory we cling to when we’re lost and confused and feeling misunderstood. However, the human experience is too extraordinary the be classified as normal. In fact, our desire to be normal limits our potential. It limits our ability to accept who we are and who we might become. If I’ve learned anything over the last eight years, it’s that I shouldn’t strive to be normal. I should simply strive to be myself.

Chase gives Dylan a wedgie. Dylan screams like he’s dying but rallies and retaliates with an open right hand across Chase’s face. I look up from my phone as my sons wrestle like wild puppies on the examination table. The sanitary paper is balled and torn on the tile floor. I should be a father and step in. Pull them apart. Give them stern warnings. But I don’t.

Because brothers wrestling in their underwear in a doctor’s office, as strange as it sounds, is comfortingly normal.

Be well,


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The Get Up; Part 2


A scene from my first neurology appointment 


Need some encouragement? Some perspective? This hardworking, almost-handsome, suburban soccer dad can help. Subscribe and, like a pizza, get my posts delivered to your door (your email inbox). No spam. Just posts.


Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, and a former award-winning high school English teacher. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents and a beer with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

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