When I was a sophomore in high school, I went with the band director’s son and wife to a weekend band clinic a couple of hours away from my South Carolina home. This was the 1950s, when bench seats in cars were common, so we all rode in the front seat. On the way home, Mrs. Mills suggested we stop in a town forty minutes from home to attend church—not an unexpected suggestion in that Bible Belt place and time.
Two and a half years ago, a movement-disorder specialist confirmed my family physician’s judgment that my problems with balance and walking could be early signs of Parkinson’s disease. That’s exactly what they were. I joined one million other Americans living with this illness.
My symptoms, although mild and so far manageable, are nonetheless evident.
As my parents aged, accidents became an integral part of their lives—and mine, as their caregiver. These accidents ranged from falling to losing bladder and bowel control. Each time something happened beyond my parents’ control, they lost a part of themselves—of their sense of independence and adulthood. Perhaps Jacques said it best in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with the final lines of his “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy: “Last scene of all,/That ends this strange eventful history,/Is second childishness and mere oblivion.”