Dad Becomes a Naturalist

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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When I was a kid, my dad was always in motion. If he wasn’t hard at work in the office, he was mowing our 10-acre lawn or cleaning the chicken coop. It was only in the evening that I’d finally see him at rest when he’d pop in a video tape to relax and unwind.

Since Parkinson’s invaded his life in 2013, his pace of life has greatly changed.

At first, the change was barely noticeable. He fought to continue living as he had, buzzing around all day long. He had houses to sell and events to attend. But as time progressed, the necessities changed. He began wondering if the stress of selling real estate was worth the reward. Was his well-being worth the money? Could he balance a deal and also his health?

It didn’t take long for him to determine that stress seemed to exacerbate his Parkinson’s symptoms. Although they were still new, his foot seemed to shake more when he was worried about a deal falling through.

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So, he started giving jobs away to younger agents, and then working from home. He began spending time listening to the birds and watching the squirrels. And he grew to love the peace and quiet of his home. In the morning, you could find him sitting on the front porch watching the local squirrel family going about their day.

Eventually, my mom added a few bird feeders to the backyard, allowing my dad to watch the local wildlife from his bedroom.

Then one day, my sister found a piece of bread on the front porch. It looked unassuming in the corner, complete and dignified as it was. But it wasn’t long before she was on the hunt to determine who was feeding the squirrels. Was it my little sister, Margaret, the creature-loving culprit who could commonly be found catching frogs and bugs? Was it one of my brothers, playing a practical joke on the rest of us?

Dad’s eyes glimmered when my sister began her investigation. He didn’t own up to it. But I knew. Who else spends their afternoons on the porch, hoping that the birds and the squirrels are cared for?

It seemed that the slowing of my dad’s pace had brought him a greater sense of awareness about the local wildlife. Out of the blue, Dad was becoming a naturalist, convening with the birds and admiring the bees. Before his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he didn’t have much time to make observations about wildlife. But today, he rocks in his chair and monitors their progress as the season progresses. And I can’t help but smile at the connections that he’s making.

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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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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