Christmas hung in the air, smelling faintly of cheese platters and wine. Dad and I had decided to attend a Rock Steady Boxing Christmas party. On the way over, he joked that it would “be a quick Christmas party because everyone’s drugs [would] wear off in a few hours.”
His attitude amazed me, as always. He isn’t one to complain. He’s much more likely to count his blessings and to be excited about the prospect of introducing me to his friends.
We arrived early and watched green tablecloths making waves in the air while being molded onto the table. I wasn’t sure what was stirring in my dad, but I got the sense that he liked being among people who understood him. No one asked him why he didn’t intend to stay for more than two hours. If he couldn’t eat right away, it was quietly understood that he was timing his medications. And no one batted an eye if he suddenly found himself stuck to the ground.
The power of community
Seeing my dad interact with the Rock Steady Boxing community surprised me. He had withdrawn from some social circles when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but this barrier seemed to dissipate when we walked into the gym. Everyone knows and loves him. And he smiled in return, eyes twinkling like they do when he’s showing you that he cares about you (or that he is up to no good).
And it wasn’t just his friends who seemed excited to see him. The gym owner was nearly bouncing off the walls when people started to trickle into the gym. His passion and excitement resounded throughout the hall. Working with Parkinson’s patients is clearly a passion of his. He cares for the people as much as he cares about boxing. And his volunteers are equally loving.
By the time everyone arrived, piles of food were overflowing on the table. You could see character in the dishes. Dad’s Polish friend is famous for his perogi. We brought my mom’s classic cheese ball. The table was diverse, like the people who surrounded it.
Parkinson’s disease and shyness
Everyone seemed a little bit shy as Christmas cheer bubbled in the gym. Maybe it’s because Parkinson’s targets your vocal cords and speaking becomes a little harder as the disease progresses. But Dad introduced me to everyone in the room, and it was obvious that he’s surrounded by a powerful crew.
We walked around the gym. Dad punched every bag and showed me what some of the classes look like. I wondered if I might be able to volunteer at a gym that’s close to my home.
Between plates of food, Dad shared an interesting fact about everyone in the room. It’s clear that he greatly respects his peers. And I suspect that the love and respect are mutual.
Earlier in the week, Dad had taken me to a boxing class. Before each class, everyone gathers in a circle and shares a little bit about themselves and what they’re going through. It’s no wonder how the shared struggle promotes empathy and love. Dad joked that the girls talk a lot more than the boys. But everyone has something of value to share. And they do!
While Parkinson’s disease is cruel and grueling in so many ways, sometimes it has the capacity to bond us, too. And I can’t help but wonder if the illness has the capacity to bring as much positivity as destruction. Whatever the case may be, it gives me hope and courage to see my dad at home among a crew that understands him.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.