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Michael J. Fox and Living with Parkinson’s

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:13pm

Michael J. Fox might have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t “have” Michael J. Fox. His two new book titles are Lucky Man and Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. A title says a lot about a person. It’s the summation of the book–obviously. But it’s also a commentary about their life, their journey, and what they believe about the world.

I’ve read both books, and darn, he’s such a likeable guy! Even in his youthful, arrogant, on-top-of-the-world years he was likeable. Even more so now that he’s been tempered by time, marriage, and challenges–his easiness exudes from his voice, his mannerisms, his smile, his insight and his playfulness. If there were ever a spokesperson for a disease, it’s Michael. He doesn’t make you feel sorry for him. He calls to the best in us. And that best aspires to a cure.

My mother had Parkinson’s, and perhaps of the diseases she had, she had “P.D.” the longest. I think it started when she was in her late 70s. She took it pretty well. She didn’t like to talk about it because as she put it, “I don’t want the devil to hear me.” That’s a good way to look at it, I suppose–hey, it kept her from complaining. She continued to live in her own home, drive, play the piano at church, and enjoy life even though the love of her life, my daddy was gone.

I was her right hand gal. Some people would call me her caregiver, but I’m not sure my mother would have cared for that word. I was her daughter. We were family. And this is just what you do. I stood beside her for well over a decade. She held onto my arm. Her feet shuffled. She sweated. Laughed. Made excuses. I waited. Patted her arm and learned to enjoy the weather, the birds, my own breath. It really wasn’t a bad situation for either of us once we learned to just let it happen. I think being a mom of three daughters within 4 1/2 years had taught me an immense amount of patience. I never wanted her to feel embarrased or that I couldn’t wait for her body to “click in.” Even when my head was filled with grocery lists, kid worries, and things only women can fret about, I tried not to let on.

I admired my mother’s tenacity. Her optimism. She held onto her faith and always planned for the future. In that way, my mother and Michael had something in common. He’s in his late 40s, married, has children, writes, speaks, raises money for “P.D.” and is even doing some acting–on the tv show  “Rescue Me.”  Even the tv shows he picks show his slightly rascally style. And what’s amazing is that great smile of his, that oh-so-likeable demeanor is still there. And it trumps Parkinson’s every time.

That’s what I take from this man. No matter what you have, don’t let it have you.

When I think of Michael J. Fox, I think first of his indominatable spirit.

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