Saturday, December 3, 2011

150 Days to the Trip of a Lifetime

It was 1967. The world exposition was in Montréal. And I was there. I had never been so far away. I knew it was 2700 miles (4300 km) from my home, but it was even further from the cultural cocoon that was my apple orchard upbringing. The train trip took more than three days, an adventure on its own. I was sent as a representative of my Coldstream scout troop to demonstrate scouting skills at the Scout Pavilion for a week with several dozen other boys from across Canada. There, for the first time, the small, naïve, simple, rural world of 15-year-old farm boy collided with the metropolitan sophistication and complexity of a world-class city. It was a game changer.
In 2012, there will be a repeat performance. Not in Montréal, as chic and cultured as that great city may be. No, this time the stakes are higher. But just like I did in those months leading up to Expo 67, I find myself consumed with dreams of drama and adventure, encountering the extraordinary and the unexpected, and meeting people of tragedy and mystery. Instead of countries from around the world going to Montréal, I will be going around the world to 15 different countries. Inevitably, it will be a game changer.
Days flash by like cards shuffled into the deck, never to be seen again. A glimpse, a blink, a breath and they are gone. Memories…yes…but even they often burrow their way quickly into the hidden creases of my mind to find a home amongst so many others.  Weeks, months, and even years, fade into the rearview mirrors of our lives, sometimes with little to distinguish one from another. True, each day holds its treasures if I am careful to search, listen, and wait patiently. But sometimes, whether by plan or serendipity, like permanent marker on a whiteboard, someone or something creates indelible marks on our lives. Out of the ordinary, beyond the mundane, or just being at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time, those times leave us vulnerable, shaken.
Shaken! Literally, that is how Parkinson's disease affects a life. Like an earthquake, it rattles the daily protocol, shatters our plans and perspective and topples all but well-grounded priorities. And struggling through the aftermath of diagnosis you discover what is important: family and friendships that go deeper than disability, plans and purposes that stretch beyond the comfortable, and an awareness of each disappearing day that starts more easily than it ends.

Whether by reason of PD or simply the passage of time, we must see life for what it is: a voyage down a river that picks up speed as it goes. We need not be passive passengers floating mindlessly. We are each given a paddle, and with it we have choices. What shores will we explore? What boats will we hail? Or will we choose to sleep or stare at life from a distance?
150 days from today; May 1, 2012, a new adventure will begin. And in the meantime… Well, I will plan, prepare and pack for the journey. And I will dream of the days ahead.

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