April is a lot of things. It’s the beginning of Spring, where flowers start to awaken from hibernation, where the sun lingers for a little longer, low and big in the sky. A time to start planning those camping trips and bbq hangouts. April is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. A time for reflection of winter months past, a time for moving forward.
April is also Parkinson’s awareness month, and last April is when my Dad lost his long battle with this horrible disease.
As with most degenerative illnesses, the fight with Parkinson’s is not pretty. It is not dignified, it is not easy. The fight with Parkinson’s is extremely slow and drawn out. It is painful. Painful for the individual suffering, but also painful for their loved ones to helplessly watch.
My Dad fought valiantly. He suffered through the pain with pride and with as much dignity as he could muster.
Sure, he was unable to write, read or walk due to his severe tremors. Sure, he was being fed through his stomach for the last two years of his life, unable to eat or drink anything by mouth. Sure, he had been in and out of ICU countless times, intubated and unable to communicate. But my Dad was, and still is, the strongest man I know. He held on as long as he could, he endured the pain, the life lacking in quality, for his family. He hung around to know that we would be okay once he was gone. My Dad was a fighter.
It is hard to believe that a year has passed.
A year since I spent two weeks in and out of the hospital and ICU, walking around like a zombie, exhausted with worry.
A year since I whispered my last good-byes in my Dad’s unresponsive ears. That I held his hand tightly and let the tears stream down my face, soaking the sheets of the hospital bed, as his heart slowed and then stopped.
A year since I walked around in a daze as I helped plan funeral arrangements and politely acknowledged condolences I didn’t really hear.
A year since I spent most nights for the better part of a month crying myself to sleep. A whole year.
I dream about him still. He’s alive and we’re doing things we used to do together. We’re at our favorite restaurants. We’re in Santa Cruz walking the Warf listening to the sea lions. We’re on the Boardwalk. We smile at each other and we don’t say a word. I’m terrified to say anything, as if a single sound from my lips would somehow break the spell and he would vanish.
Secretly I know I’m dreaming. There is this nagging voice in the back of my head that whispers the evil truth, “He’s dead Rebecca. This isn’t real”. I quiet that voice. I ignore it. I go along pretending because I don’t want it to end. I don’t want my Daddy to disappear again. To be dead.
April is a lot of things.
This April I am remembering how my Dad strongly fought Parkinson’s with all he had, for as long as he could.
By the end of this April, in his honor and memory, I will be introducing my first print to the shop. A John Wayne quote, because yes, my Dad loved a good John Wayne movie, but more importantly because my Dad was a cowboy, in every dignified and strong, courageous sense of the word. He was a fighter until the end, and when life got hard, he “saddled up anyways”.
75% of the proceeds from this print will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research during the month of April. 30% will be donated to this foundation during all other months.
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