1.22.2012

Parkinson's Black Cloud

Parkinson's Disease forces a person to face their mortality every day...
Photo Credit:  Salon / Shutterstock
My father had Parkinson's. He was diagnosed with it not long after he retired.  At first, the symptoms were hardly noticeable, and with low doses of medication, didn't affect his daily life much at all.  But as it always does with the disease, it progressed.  Medication dosages increased, and despite them the signs such as decreased speech volume, trembling, and general weakness heightened.  Mom tried not to show it, but she grew angry, taking it very personally.  To her, Parkinson's was a very real enemy, and she resented the fact that just as Dad and her were not only alone, but free to travel and enjoy their golden years, there was a black cloud over them.

In 2001, my sisters and I found out that Parkinson's was taking a heavy toll on both Mom and Dad.  As we brought Dad and Mom came back from New Mexico for good., I didn't know I had so little time left with him.

During the quiet moments when Dad and I were alone, he would share with me what it was like to have hallucinations, a common side effect of his meds.  How, although he knew he was awake and "they weren't really there", he often saw wee, little people sitting on the end of his bed, or climbing up his dresser.  He said it was a surreal experience, something he couldn't explain away.  I asked him how he dealt with it.  "I just watch them, remind myself it's not real."  What else could he do?

Dad had a dignity and pragmatism about his growing frailty.  He cherished Mom while at the same time being very concerned for her, recognizing that the mental health concerns and emotional weakness he had long been aware of, was now growing stronger for her.  He had been shielding her from their consequences as much as she had been helping his due to Parkinson's.  They were a team.

Dad went first, only a few months after their return; in the end, it was his heart that gave out.  Mom went with him that day...but her body held on for another six years.