I have been on a rollercoaster the last few days. January, it will be 2 years ago that I was forced to retire because of Parkinson’s Disease. I was employed by the same real estate investment / development firm for 33 years. When I was hired I was 29 years old. I am now 63. That is a long season. I loved almost every second of my time there. When it became evident that my PD body and brain were no longer up to the task of performing at the level required to do a good job and safety became an issue, I decided I had no choice but to retire. Initially, there was some adjustments to work through. A person can’t do something and have your mind fixed on something for that long and not feel a void. Fortunately, it was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. My PD symptoms were still relatively mild and I was able to find things to occupy my time. It was also kind of novel and nice to not have to wake up and go to work with all the pressure and anxiety that’s a normal part of everyday life, amplified by the challenges of Parkinson’s. The last 2 years have been relatively uneventful, each day staying busy coping with the ever-changing challenges of a life lived with this disease. The last couple of days I have had to deal with some feelings that are new.
The company I had worked for has a Christmas party every year for the company owners and employees. It is always very nice. It has usually been held at a very nice restaurant or at one of the company owners’ homes. Even though I have not worked there for two years, my wife and I were invited to this year’s party. It was held again at a very nice restaurant. We sat at a large table in a cozy corner of the room. Our seating locations were marked by cute cards with our names on them. When everyone arrived, we all sat down and the conversations began. As we all talked, the waiters came around and took our orders. As the conversation continued, the different meal courses were brought out and we talked and ate.
Because Parkinson’s has taken away much of my ability to speak loud enough and enunciate my words correctly, it was a struggle for me to speak so I could be heard and understood. Conversation is also exhausting. As the night progressed, I found myself feeling increasing pain in my back and legs from sitting in an uncomfortable chair for that long of a time.
Every year, one of the owners will stand during the meal and say a few words. They are always kind words about their appreciation for us employees, always mentioning how grateful they are having us on the team. They will usually highlight some accomplishments and successes we had as a company over the preceding year. They have always been very generous with their words of praise and gratitude for us employees. It has always been a very enjoyable evening. That is why I was so surprised by the emotions that I felt during the evening. The best way I can describe what I was feeling was I was mourning. Mourning for my place with these people I had spent so much of my life caring about and for. Mourning the accomplishments and successes the company had achieved and that I had played a part in for so long. Mourning the loss of daily connection and relationship that I no longer had with these people I had spent so much time with. Because I truly loved what I did and was proud of what I had contributed to all our endeavors over the years, I was mourning my loss of connection to something I had been a part of over half my life.
At the end of the evening, I was physically and emotionally spent. With the little strength that remained, I said my goodbyes. It felt like we were saying our final goodbyes.
My wife and I made it to our car. I realized what was probably making things worse was it was time for my 10:00 pills. We got in the car and drove home in silence. I didn’t have the strength to talk and felt to numb to even try to figure out what I was feeling. When we arrived home, I made it to my bedroom, took off my clothes and just fell into bed.
The next morning, I got up and joined my wife in our living room. She had noticed my struggle the night before and asked how I was doing. During the next hour, I was able to explain to her some of my thoughts. She was able to tell me her thoughts and perspective on what I was saying. Thankfully, I was able to work through and understand what I was feeling and why.
She told me it was perfectly natural to feel the loss of something I held so dear as my life’s work. The part of me that felt the loss of connection with the things I had done and the people I had done them with and for was also natural. A time will come when all of them will probably feel the same things. And as far as the work I had done and the things I had built. In 50 years, it will all probably be dust. So just be happy you had this season and go on to the next.
I thank God for a Godly wife with perspective