Sunday, December 23, 2012

Parkinson's Disease: An Unexpected Journey

It was pure fantasy.  Old, almost classical, make-believe worlds populated by strange characters with even stranger names.  And yet it was stuffed full to overflowing with significance, like a stocking hung by the fireplace on Christmas morning.
The story is about an unassuming fellow, who enjoys his books, a warm fire, good food and casual times with friends.  He had lived what we would call a simple, comfortable life in which, apart from a celebration now and then, each day was predictable.  But the unpredictable happened.  Shock, frustration, denial and confusion flooded into this unsuspecting character’s life, and in the process swept away his innocence and uncomplicated existence. 
“The Hobbit” was written by J.R.R. Tolkien 75 years ago.  It has taken Hollywood that long to do justice to its imaginary tale.  Its story is both simple and complex, suitable for children (except the very young or overprotected) and challenging for adults.  It portrays both evil and good, but recognizes the shadow of one in the other.  It shows the wizardly wisdom of Gandalf happily coexisting with simplistic naïveté of Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit.  Courage and camaraderie combine to thwart the seemingly insurmountable destructive powers of darkness and despair.  But it was its subtitle, “An Unexpected Journey”, which led me to conclude this story could be an allegory for life with Parkinson’s disease.

Seven years ago my life was pretty simple.  Staring into the future as far as I could see it all looked predictable, even comfortable.  Little did I know then that my life was about to be figuratively and literally shaken to its very core.  I was totally unprepared and left reeling from the January 19, 2006 diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  Life would never be the same.  The path ahead became unpredictable, leading through fields of false hope, black nights of fear and into narrow tracks in the unknown.  At times I found myself lost and alone in what seemed like a maze of caverns. 
But the truth is that, like Bilbo Baggins, I would never exchange the unexpected journey, with its challenges, friendships and adventure, for a predictable, comfortable, stay-at-home life.  No, despite the many setbacks, I would not give up the invaluable lessons I have learned along the way.  Like Gandalf said when questioned about allowing Bilbo Baggins to come along on such a dangerous journey to challenge such a formidable foe.  Some believe, he said, that “it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” 
Indeed, “it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.  Small acts of kindness and love.”  The power of Parkinson’s disease in my life has been held in check by the small, everyday deeds of my friends and family.  Their reassuring words and simple acts of kindness and love give me courage to continue fighting. 
Whatever your views about Christmas (whether you are the “Happy Holiday” type or something else), there is something compelling about the story.  A baby, gifted to humanity by God yet born to ordinary peasant parents, he was destined to hold evil in check and keep the darkness at bay through sacrificial acts of kindness and love.  Why?  Perhaps because when we are afraid he gives us courage. 
Perhaps you’re a little like me as I anticipate with some trepidation the New Year, 2013.  If you are, maybe reciting words of Bilbo Baggins will give each of us courage as we embark upon the path ahead.  “I am going on an adventure” makes more sense to me than “Auld Lang Syne”.


  1. I have missed your posts since sue and i took off in late september. you see the forest inspite of the trees. i am going to repost this one. may help some find their way through the movie and along the trail of life. Merry Christmas, Bilbo!


  2. Mine as a caregiver adventure, and now about to be doubled with another dementia striken parent, I think I'd forego the adventure if I could. The past year and a half I feel as if I've been living in another world that's not real, after the past week of dealing with a second diagnosis of dementia, more powers of attorney and medical paperwork, it's more like a terrible dream, a nightmare. I've watched my husband cry for the first time that I've known him in 10 1/2 years, I've seen him NOT eat for almost a week, and this from a man who was a food aholic prior to this, and I've seen way too many repercussions of the acts performed before the problem became known.

    So as DINK's blog said recently, it's been hell. You keep the adventure, and I'll ask to go back to the dull, everyday sameness we knew prior to 2010, or even longer maybe prior to 2000.

    However, I do like your attitude, and wish I could get there.