It’s hard to look through the eyes of someone else. Even if that someone is the love of your life that has known you and you have known for over 30 years. It’s even harder the think through their brain. You may think you know what they are thinking, but you never know. Because you love them so much and have lived so much life together, you always wonder.
Two people find each other. They fall in love and they get married. On the wedding day, they make promises to each other. They say to each other that these promises will last as long as they live. After the promises are exchanged, they walk down the aisle and usually go to a large room that has been decorated just for them. They are no longer individuals only. They are also something that is singular in nature. Life begins.
With this basic foundation, their lives are lived. They have some idea how they would like life to go. They make their plan. They soon discover unexpected events change their course. They are forced to go a different way. Sometimes as they travel down the road they choose to go a different way. Because promises were made and distance has been traveled, everyone’s hope is that whatever comes along to cause a change in direction, they will make those changes together. There are changes you choose. There are changes that just happen. There are changes you can anticipate and plan for. There are changes you know are coming but choose to ignore until they happen.
For Marcia and me, Parkinson’s disease is a change that just happened. I don’t know how we could have anticipated it. I don’t know of anything we did to cause it to happen. Because we know we live in a fallen world where people grow old and get sick, we knew there was a good chance that if we lived long enough, something would get one of us. It just happened to be me.
When you are just starting your married life together, your thoughts and actions are filled with jobs, houses, cars, kids, vacations, paying bills, buying musical instruments, going to church and millions of the little moments that come together to make a life. It’s you and your mate, taking on each of those moments as they occur. A partnership. A team. And then you blink. You open your eyes to find that all of your kids are married. You have a grandson and another grandson on the way. Your career is over. You and Marcia are living in a senior citizen community. Just the two of you and a dog. And you have Parkinson’s. Now this is a big change in direction! The world has changed its axis. What use to be up is now down. Almost everything you called your life is now different. The number of things you have been able to do whenever you wanted to do them is getting smaller by the minute. Is that old, shaky man looking back at you in the mirror each morning really you?
But enough about me. How about Marcia! Her world has changed axis also. And I have an idea it’s tougher for her. Yes, l feel it in my skin but she has to watch it happen. It must be like watching your love getting hit by a bus in slow motion. The feeling of helplessness to do anything to prevent it. And at the same time, mourning the loss of a life you were looking forward to. I’m sure she is anticipating the huge challenges she can only imagine, but already seeing a glimpse. Promises…spoken and meant when we were so young and looking forward to life. We never knew that these promises were for today. We would actually have to act on them. My choice would be to release her from those promises, but I need her. I would rather she have the freedom to pursue a life filled with fun and fulfillment. The promise does not allow for that. A side of me wants to go back to that day she made the promise to me and eliminate it from our vows. But another side of me is selfish and glad she is with me on this journey we did not choose.
Parkinson’s is like playing chess with an opponent that keeps changing the rules with each movement of the pieces. And you can’t learn by watching others around you playing chess because their rules are completely different and also changing. Marcia and I don’t know how I will act as the result of Parkinson’s. I can’t warn her that something weird is going to happen because I don’t know that it is. Plus, Marcia has always said she never knows what I will do. She has a hard time figuring out what’s Parkinson’s and what’s just me being me. I tend to do things she doesn’t understand and I have a difficult time trying to explain myself. One day my memory is ok and the next I can’t remember if I took my pills 5 minutes ago. One day I’m an amusing, entertaining person that’s fun to be around. The next, sensitive, cranky, chip on my shoulder looking for a fight.
Unfortunately, as I grew older, Marcia also grew older. I’m an older person with Parkinson’s along with the physical challenges of being older. Marcia is a very attractive older person with less strength and stamina than someone younger, which is normal. But she not only has to deal with the normal challenges of an older person’s life, now add the increased load of making up for my inability to physically work around the house. She also is increasingly having to help me do the simple tasks of life. Taking care of myself. And that will only get worse.
Here we are, two people that love each other deeply. My love for her wishing I had never put her in this situation, wanting somehow to relieve her of this burden. Her love for me, willing to make a promise all those years ago and now choosing to keep it.
I honor you and I thank you with all my heart for the life of joy you have given to me, for your willingness to walk the rest of this journey with me, though you may have to carry me much of the way.