The Pain of Parkinson’s

The Pain of Parkinson's

At the dedication of the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the picture of the elder Bush in a wheelchair really struck home.

My mom has Parkinson’s Disease and is wheelchair bound.

For a number of years, I have watched (feeling helpless) my mom go from a vibrant person to succumbing to the devastation of this disease of unknown origin.

First, for many years (before we new) was a slowness of gait–with everyone yelling “come on mom, hurry up! Why so slow?”

Then, the uncontrolled shaking, especially of her hands, and deformity of the joints.

Next came the difficulty moving, the shakiness when walking, and the falls–until the time, some nerves were damaged and her foot got turned inward, so she could no longer stand.

Therapy, a walker, and then a wheelchair, and now for most of the day–confined to bed and loss of basic movement that we usually take for granted.

With loss of mobility, came loss of appetite, insomnia, depression, and GI problems.

Despite visits to numerous medical experts–we could only treat the symptoms, but could never keep up somehow with the progression of the illness.

My beautiful mom has suffered terribly, and my dad (despite his own medical challenges and age) has been her caretaker through it all.

Dad has done all the things for a person that can be done–on call every minute–until exhaustion at times. He has been nothing less than heroic in his deeds, dedicated to my mom and doing it with endless love for her–and always remaining (at least outwardly) optimistic and hopeful for both of them.

My mom went to the hospital a week and a half ago and this last week was transferred to a home.

Her eyes show the story of her suffering, and her body is drawn from fighting the illness, yet inside her the intelligence and love–she shows with a mere rise of her eyebrows and smirk–gives me strength.

I love my mom and dad. It is a tough road when age and illness take their toll.

It is scary to think at times what the future holds for each of us and how we will endure in the face of it.

Mom and Dad have suffered in their lives from the holocaust, with seemingly endless hard work trying to make a living, and with debilitating illness.

Their story and lives are a monument of strength and courage, love and devotion, and faith in the Almighty.

Sharing Some Laughter and Happiness

Cherry_blossom

There are some cool articles in Mental Floss (March/April 2012) on laughter and in Harvard Business Review (January 2012) on happiness–hopefully an auspicious sign for us all.

Some things to think about with laughter:

- “Babies laugh 300 times a day, while adults laugh only 20 times.” –  Maybe we all need to be a little more babyish?

- Laughter is “used as a social lubricant; we use it to bond with others.” — This reminds me of something my father always said: “when you are with those you love, the joy is twice the joy and the sorrow half the sorrow.”  In essence then, people help us deal with our emotions and our emotions help us deal with people–we all need one another.

- Laughter is contagious, truly. “Hearing laughter activates the brains premotor cortex. preparing the facial muscles to smile and laugh in kind.”  — What a blessing to laugh and help others laugh as well.

A brief history of happiness:

1776 — U.S. Declaration of Independence declares right to the “pursuit of happiness.”

1926 — “Happy Birthday” song composed.

1963 — Invention of smiley face. :-)

1977 — Introduction of McDonald’s “Happy Meal”.

So it’s only March 14 (National Pi Day 3.14)–and it already warm outside, the beautiful cherry blossoms are in bloom, and there is plenty to feel happy about, laugh at, and be grateful for in this world.

Thank you G-d!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

That Special Cane

Cane_with_mirror_and_horn

After seeing one of my colleagues with this souped-up cane at work this week, I learned that this is the special gift for someone reaching their 50th birthday.

This is not an ordinary bamboo cane as you can see, but one with a rear-view mirror for passing, a honking horn for warning people out of your path, and even a little green change purse for the toll. :-)

While I am no spring chicken anymore, I am still not old enough to receive my special cane–oh shucks!

But this did give me pause to think about what it means as we get older and the weeks and months at work turn into years and decades.

Before we know it, the up-hill climb of life, plateau and eventually heads in the other direction.

It reminds me of whenever someone asks my father how old he is…he flips the numbers–so for example, when he was 72, he would say I “turned” 27 and so on

It’s not easy getting old(er), we all want to be back in our youth or prime of life, which my father calls the time period, “when the world is too small,” and I think what he means is our aspirations are large.

This week at work, I learned that one of my colleagues who retired just a few years ago passed away from one of the horrible “C’s” — it was terrible to hear this.

Moreover, it reminded me of other colleagues who I have seen work hard their whole life, sacrificing and putting off all types of enjoyment, and waiting for that big day when they would retire and then they “could live the good life.”

And one guy, I remember, did retire after putting in his time and within about 3 months, he dropped dead of a massive coronary–I don’t think he even made it with heart beating to the hospital.

Life is too short!  And of course, life is hard–that’s how we are tested and grow–but we can’t wait for the good times. We need to savor every moment of our lives, appreciate our loved ones , and enjoy what we do day-in and day-out.

Else, we may miss the finest times that we have here on earth and then we really will be left holding that special cane and looking back at our lives in the rear-view mirror wondering why we wasted so much precious, precious time.

>Reading is Love

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http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf

What an inspiring story this week about Jim Brozina and his daughter Alice Ozma.

Jim’s wife left him when Alice was ten years old.

And when Alice started 4th grade, Jim (a retired librarian) made a challenge to his daughter to see how many nights they could read together in row–it was a way for them to spend time together and bond.

Well their “Streak” went on and on–for over 3000 nights–almost 9 years–until Alice’s first night at Rutger’s University.

Alice majored–of course–in English Literature.

And she wrote a book called “The Reading Promise” about her dad’s selfless devotion and love to her, reading every night.

I remember as a kid, the commercials encouraging reading–”Reading is Fundamental“.

Now I know that reading is not just fundamental (to learning and growth), but is also a way to love someone.

In the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, how many of us spend the time with our kids–consistently and with the utter devotion that this father did–one chapter a night, every night?

Aside from the lesson of selflessness in this story, I also see in this the message of incremental change and growth–by starting off with just 15 minutes a day and building on this incrementally, Jim and Alice were able to accomplish so much together over the years–in terms of learning and their relationship.

So while, the big blowout moments in life are significant memories for us and very often get a lot of emphasis (i.e. as in “let’s make a memory”), the day-to-day consistent building of relationships and learning, can have a truly larger than life impact over the long-term.

On a more personal note, I remember when I was debating going back to school for my MBA (while working full-time during the day), and my dad encouraged me and told me that the years would come and go regardless, but that if I made the commitment, at the end, I would have something valuable to show for it.

I listened to his advice and went to school at night for what seemed like ages for an MBA and then numerous certifications and other learning opportunities, and I am always glad that I did. Dad was right…the years pass regardless, but your hard work pays off. I will always be grateful to him for that advice and support–love comes in many shapes and sizes.