On my dad’s 70th birthday, I reflect on his tenacity and fortitude

A daughter admires her father's response to Parkinson's challenges

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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“Wow, look at that walk,” my older sister says with a smile. Dad is making his way across the living room in preparation for his birthday party. His steps are fluid and unbroken. It’s a sight that we savor. I love to see my dad unencumbered by his Parkinson’s symptoms — even if it’s just for a while.

Ordinarily, Dad muscles his way through his symptoms in the morning. It isn’t until early afternoon that he takes his medication to prepare for the day. This often means that he experiences pretty fierce tremors while his mind wakes up. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing him that way. So witnessing his seamless steps brings relief that we didn’t know we needed.

Dad smiles in response to my sister’s comment, as if to acknowledge that he’s still strong. He’s still independent. And he isn’t planning to let anything take that away from him — not even Parkinson’s disease.

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Later that day, my mom pulls me aside in the kitchen. She wants to know if I’ve witnessed a decline in my dad. But the truth is that ever since he had deep brain stimulation surgery, I’ve thought of him as being resolute and confident. But I also understand Mom’s anxiety regarding the loss of his abilities.

She mentions that she’s noticed a shift in his acceptance of using certain tools, such as a walker. Naturally, she wonders if that change is because Dad’s Parkinson’s symptoms are worsening.

I don’t live with him, so I’m not privy to the same information as her, but as far as I can tell, Dad seems like his normal self. I’m curious to know how he perceives himself. I find it hard to ask, though, and the words always remain stuck in my throat.

On the evening of his 70th birthday party, I asked him a different question. I wanted to know what it feels like to be “old.” He laughed at the inquiry, knowing I was just teasing. His response was that it’s tough, and he doubts he’ll be around for another decade.

I’m more optimistic about that, so I responded, “You’ve been saying that for years.”

I see the determination on my dad’s face when he confronts a challenge. And I think it’s that aspect of his personality that will keep him with us. He’s too stubborn. And for that, I’m so grateful.

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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