Birthday Cards and Remembrance

Happy Birthday – and other days

I found this Birthday card that Cheryl gave me for my birthday. On the front is a picture of a couple dancing. They are, perhaps, in their mid-twenties. I believe it was last year but I am not certain, it may have been the year before. In either event it was recent because I am not typically a keeper of cards. Lately however I think I have become one.

This, of course, is not a picture of us but it is how I see her. In my eyes I still see a young woman full of of vim and vigor for life. I think (I know) this is why I kept this particular card. The struggle we have with Parkinson’s disease is multifaceted but it is important, perhaps even demanded, that we do not let that define our relationship and taint our love for each other.

This woman has been my life for 53 years. We met in high school. Eventually got married. Survived college. Had three children with all the struggles that that entails. Partied with friends, celebrated kids birthdays, friends birthdays, family birthdays, played lousy bridge and poker, played good bridge and won at poker, got fat, got skinnier, got the kids through their younger lives and into and through college without major incident, watched as they matured and married and started their families and lives without us, celebrated the birth of grandchildren, celebrated the birthdays of grandchildren, admired how our children parented their kids and loved every minute of it.

Deep breath now – we have this new nuance to our relationship. Occasionally, and I say this with regret, I allow myself to forget that she has PD. I say regret simply because I forget that this nuance, this adjective, this aspect, this aside, this extra descriptor has stolen part of her vigor, not her vim, not her excitement, not her love of the children and grandchildren, not the family and certainly not the friends and friendships. Life is greater than disease. Life is greater than in ability or disability. Life is change and PD is simply another change.

As a man (I will slip into stereotypes here) I have had to adapt and adopt chores that (think stereotype) men do not normally do. This last is not universally true but I was born before the middle of the last century so think Mayberry, think Leave it to Beaver and the Cleavers, maybe even Little House on the Prairie if you are unsure of the vision of manly duties that I was brought up to understand.

A hobby of mine is bread and baking. I have successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully extended that into actual cooking and the making of dinner. Betty Crocker is a friend but can also be a fiend. If you do not believe me, poke around at the website for a bit sign up for the occasional newsletter which becomes the “every fifteen seconds” newsletter. So many recipes, so little time, so many left-overs. Some of what used to be weekend treats have become during the week meals or breakfasts or lunches. It is interesting that Cheryl has kept the “Dinner for Two” cook book all these years. The bindings have fallen apart over time so we (she really) spent some time sliding it into page protectors and into its own three ring binder. The recipes are classics and available on their web space (but do not forget the newsletters filling your inbox.)

Life is full of changes and ever changing. The only constant is change. Buddhists believe this. As I age I am constantly reminded of this and occasionally chagrined. Anger does not come with change but it is easy to be disappointed that certain things that we had hoped would remain “as is” do not. The list is long.

Parkinson’s disease is merely another change. And it sucks!

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