A Son “Coming to Terms”

Our family has been acquainted with Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease for almost 15 years. Although my husband, David, was not diagnosed until 2001, he had shown symptoms for several years before. As soon as we heard what the neurologist said, I read everything I could get my hands on. I sat and cried one day as I read the advice of one author who said everyone in the family needed to come to terms with the disease. Really? What was that supposed to mean? The definition of come to terms states: “To become resigned or accustomed; to begin to accept and deal with something difficult or unpleasant; to gradually accept a sad situation.”

We quickly discovered each one of us in our family came to terms in different ways. I still hate that phrase. Every day is different, so the terms are different. Who am I kidding? Every hour is different. Who determines the terms? Is there such a thing as term limits in Parkinson’s? Where do we go to read the terms and conditions?

Our son took a speech class in his first year of college in 2011. One assignment was to tell a story. He chose to tell about overcoming a difficult situation. He had plenty of subject matter to write this speech! I recently discovered the hard copy in some of my papers and asked him if he would guest host this blog post. So I’d like to introduce to you, our son, Michael in his own words…

Do you remember when you were young and used to play with Playdoh? You would sit there and have fun molding it and shaping it into different things. Sometimes you would use plastic cookie cutter shapes to turn a rolled out lump of Playdoh into something fun. Well, my life, as well as yours, is like that Playdoh. We have all been molded and shaped into who we are today by external forces that have either positively or negatively impacted us.

Many people around the world have been impacted by different diseases. Some are curable and others terminal. One of the terminal ones is called Parkinson’s Disease and according to the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation “an estimated one million Americans suffer from this disease.” One of those people is my dad. This incurable illness causes him to tremble, to not have full control of his facial muscles, difficulties in speaking and shuffling when he walks. When I was ten years old he was diagnosed and ever since then he has gotten progressively worse. This past decade of my life has taught me a lot of new lessons and I’ve grown a lot.

At first this disease not only began to take parts of my dad away from us but it began to take away our happiness. I was a very sad and angry person back then, wondering why this would happen to my dad. But in the intervening years, I have along with the rest of my family, learned how to cope. I’ve learned how to rely upon an inner strength that has come through a deep inner joy. This gets me through the toughest of times. I now look at what I once thought to be a tragedy to be nothing short of a blessing in disguise. Because of this disease I have gotten to spend a lot of time with my dad. This enabled me to have an extremely close and meaningful relationship with him.

Because this has happened within my formative years, it has and is continuing to have a lasting and profound effect on my life. One of the major things all of this has taught me is extreme patience. It takes much more time for someone with Parkinson’s to do the simplest of tasks. Just standing can take great effort sometimes. So I have learned to be very patient with my dad. I go out of my way to make sure I do not have to rush him unless I absolutely have to. In some instances, not being patient with him and pushing does more harm than good. The pressure and anxiety that is then created causes him to operate at an even slower rate. So if my family and I are going anywhere, the preparation time takes much longer than usual. He needs more time to get ready both physically and mentally.

Obviously no one is perfect and so I have had instances where I have gotten rather frustrated. This happened more often when I was younger but over time I have felt a lot less frustration.  Now in the few moments when I do get frustrated I know how to keep that impatience contained within me while maintaining a positive composure. Because of this patience I’ve developed, my life has completely changed. I don’t often find myself being angry or agitated because I have to wait for something. I know how to enterain myself or keep myself occupied or busy for extended periods of time.

There have been numerous times when my dad has had accidents that could have become a lot worse than they were. In a moment when something has gone wrong and he is in desperate need of help, it is paramount that my mom and I remain level headed and calm. We need to put aside all negative emotions, as well as our own needs so we can fully focus in on the task at hand and problem solve to meet the needs of my dad. If I am not clear headed and calm under the pressure of a potential emergency situation, it could quickly escalate into one. In one particular instance I had to quickly and calmly help when my dad had fallen in the bathroom. He could not get up nor could he move. It was late at night and I was very tired. When I heard him yell, it was as though a switch was flipped inside of me and all tiredness went away.  Adrenaline kicked in. I immediately went to work helping him. I instantly put all apprehension and negativity aside and pulled him up; I helped him into his chair in the other room and got his medicine for him. With each accident that has occurred, I feel as though I have become a calmer, more clear-headed and peaceful.

While it is so sad and unfortunate my dad has Parkinson’s Disease, it has taught me many great things. Remaining calm under pressure and having patience have helped me in many different situations. These have become life-changing qualities for me.

Two years have passed since Michael’s speech. The terms continue to change: We had a year long battle with David’s insurance company. He has had two brain surgeries. He falls more.

We are still coming to terms.

 

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26 Responses to A Son “Coming to Terms”

  1. you have a remarkable son. I liked the way he explained the progression of the disease as well as his and his family’s progression of understanding of the disease. I’m sorry you have had to battle the insurance, that shouldn’t have to happen. This piece is so touching.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you Vickie! The battle with the insurance company helped me discover an ability to effectively fight with words while keeping on the offense! The win was so sweet!!

      So glad you commented!

      Like

  2. What a beautiful post Ruth. Your son’s speech is wonderful – poignant and full of awareness, and honoring of himself and his father. It shines with love.

    I agree that we need a better expression than “coming to terms with.” Rather than focusing on the limitations that seems to encourage, we need a way to invite expansion in. How can we take something that seems limiting and fold it into the bigger wholeness?

    I’m sending love to you and all your family. Navigating on-going challenges is not easy. It asks a lot of us. And I acknowledge and witness that for all of you.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      You’re absolutely right, Deborah, about that expression setting limitations. Through all of this, we have learned that relying on God’s power is much better than trying to come to terms in our own strength.

      Thank you for reading and posting! I have missed all of you in this month’s blog challenge!

      Like

  3. Claudia Swain says:

    Ruth,
    Thanks for sharing this story. I am so happy you have your son. The two of you are remarkable in your faith. I had not known about your husband’s illness. I am praying for all of you as you continue to cope.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thanks so much, Claudia! Our family has experienced an incredible amount of the Lord’s faithfulness. You met Michael in the post. Our daughter, Miriam, was in college when we first received the diagnosis. Even when she was in California she was constantly calling and coming to spend time with David. And we are grateful that she and Michael are able to talk to each other about their Dad!

      So glad to have found you after all those years!

      Like

  4. Lisa Lampkin says:

    Thank you for sharing and please thank Michael for allowing you to share. He is wise beyond his years. What a tender heart he has toward his loved ones! Beverly went on and on, after spending time out there about how wonderful Michael was with David and the situation. Now, I can more clearly imagine why Beverly was impacted so greatly. What a blessing that Michael can see how God uses our struggles to grow us. I love the saying, “God is more concerned about my character than my circumstances.”. We love you all so much!!!

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    • Ruth Packard says:

      I love that quote, Lisa!! Boy, wouldn’t we be in a mess if we let our circumstances stand in the way of discovering what the Lord has to teach us? Oops…got to admit it is not always easy! You and Dan have been a constant strength for us during the journey with Parkinson’s. Thank you!

      Having Beverly come to our home was a dream come true for me! The Lord certainly did gift Bobby with a treasure when He brought Beverly into his life!

      Thank you for posting! We love you…all across the country!!

      Like

  5. What a touching and profound sharing by your son. There’s no doubt his life has been changed drastically because of your family’s circumstances in dealing with Parkinson on a daily basis. It’s wonderful that he’s been able to see the many gifts that it has brought to his young life. Blessings of love, strength, and continued faith for each of you in your family. xoxo

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you, Suzanne for reading and posting! I know from your blog that you are well acquainted with learning and daily experiencing great challenges…each new every day!

      You have greatly enriched my life over the last months. For that, I will always be thankful!

      Like

  6. Beverly Lampkin says:

    How beautiful and moving! Thank you, Michael, for sharing your heart; and thank, you, Ruth, for allowing us all to share in your and your son’s struggles at least through your writings. I know it’s not easy for any of you, including David, but you are all so blessed to have each other. Each of you is a gift from God to the others. I’ve seen firsthand how you respond and cooperate as a team, and it’s a beautiful thing! Love you all! (Any watermelons yet?) P.S. It’s too bad we don’t get a box to check whether we “accept” or “reject” the “terms and conditions” of life like we have to check on many websites, huh?

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Yep! For sure, I would have checked “reject” if we had been given the choice!

      Beverly, it was such a joy to have you here with us, even if it was waaaaaay tooooo short! You need to come back and stay longer! I’m especially thankful you were with Michael during those hours in the ER waiting room. Isn’t the Lord’s provision amazing?!

      David says to let you know he has 29 watermelons! A dozen of them are already about 15 lbs. and that is quite an accomplishment in our chilly Northwest nights. Gotta admit…I pray over that patch!

      I thank the Lord for every remembrance of you and I pray His healing and peace over you, Beverly! Love you so much!

      Like

  7. Susan says:

    Michael, the angry young boy you were could have easily turned into an angry young man. Instead, you grew from the situation with a maturity and grace beyond your years. A hard lesson to learn but life is what we make of it. Blessings to you and your family.

    Ruth, thank you for sharing.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you, Susan! I was so happy to have found Michael’s speech…such a treasured memory. I’ll never forget the night he rehearsed. Each time he would say it, we could watch him literally filling with strength! We all would cry…then wipe the tears…and practice some more. Such a sweet, cathartic time.

      Thank you for stopping by!

      Like

  8. Marilyn says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Coming to terms truly is a day by day journey. And thank you for sharing your son’s wise words. Hearing the stories of others helps each of us come to terms with our own stories. Sending kind and loving thoughts your way.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you, Marilyn. I’ve often thought reading the stories of others puts my own situation into perspective. We consider ourselves blessed despite the circumstances…or I guess I could say we are blessed because of our circumstances!! There comes that perspective concept!

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  9. Barbara Harp says:

    Dearest Friend,
    I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and smiling at the same time. I have learned what strength you have but now I know that your children carry that same gene. You and David have brought two warm and loving children into this world, which is one of God’s greatest gifts to the two of you.

    Michael,
    What you have learned about being strong, patient, and attentive is something every parent hopes that their children will learn and use in their adult years, but you put so much more of yourself into your Dad’s illness…Lots of Love.

    I send my love and prayers to all of you and I think I need to get busy and send some more flowers.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      I’m so happy our ancestry research helped us find our cousinship!! You have continued to uplift us and encourage us in your emails. We have lots more to discover…are you ready?!!

      Thank you for your kind words here! Love to both of you!

      Like

  10. What a wonderful gift you have given us by sharing this. You have raised an amazing son.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you, Michele! Michael and Miriam continue to bless us. We consider it a treasure to have been chosen to be their parents!

      Thanks so much for encouraging me in this whole world of blogging!

      Like

  11. Christie says:

    What a beautiful speech your son wrote, he is wise beyond his years. It seems so unfair that a family going through such a big health challenge has to deal with insurance issues on top of it. You sound like an amazing family, through all of it.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you, Christie! The Lord really gave us the strength and wisdom to fight a major HMO for that year. It was like playing a game of chess. Had we received one more rejection, the state of WA was ready to take over with a lawsuit. I’m so greatful it did not come to that.

      Thank you for reading and posting!

      Like

  12. Thanks to you and your son for sharing this story. My grandpa had Parkinson’s. In his last couple years we were told he also had Alzheimer’s but in his last months learned that he was actually suffering from a type of dementia related to Parkinson’s. I learned what I could in those last few months and was grateful for how my new knowledge of Lewy Body Dementia helped me communicate better with my Gramps. Peace and blessings to you and your family.

    Like

    • Ruth Packard says:

      Thank you so much, Heather. It’s a journey I would have never chosen but it is easier because there are many walking with us!

      Like

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