Today my wife and I drove down to O’Hare to pick up my daughter , who returned home after studying in Florence, Italy for six weeks. She had the time of her life, and as a parent, it’s incredibly gratifying to have been able to give her this opportunity, as well as seeing what a wonderful and capable and beautiful person she has grown up to be. As I write this, her and a large number of her friends are in my back yard in a surprise welcome home party in her honor; I can hear their laughter through my open window.
While she was in Europe, I had the good fortune to attend the Lee Silverman “Big” Physical therapy at United Health Center, under the watchful eye of my physical therapist, Jennifer Werwie. Developed for people with Parkinson’s, it’s a great program that can be customized to fit the individual patient’s needs. For me, that meant exercises to help with my balance and posture. I’ve been doing the stretches and exercises Jennifer gave me every day, both in the therapy sessions and by myself at home, and, with the therapy complete now, I will do them every day for as long as I am able. The goal is, by doing these exercises which incorporate and exaggerate every day activities, to increase my nuero-plasticity, or, as I understand it, to recalibrate my brain so as not to forget how to walk or stay upright.
So far, as long as I continue doing my exercises, the results have been impressive. My wife has noticed improvements in my posture and gait, and the exercises truly energize me. The other day, while picking up some tools in my barn, I fell, but now I know why – I didn’t give myself a broad enough base and let my top get too far over my bottom – both of which are addressed by exercises I learned in the therapy.
When you have Parkinson’s, there is a natural tendency to view the universe as finite and diminishing, and the future with fear and dread. When I look in my daughter’s eyes, I see an amazing young woman who still sees a universe full of wonder and awe and potential, and through her eyes, I see that universe again, too.
What I hope to accomplish with the therapy then is that my daughter sees her father walking normally, and that she now and then forgets her dad has an incurable disease. Instead of spending any time worrying about her old man she can focus all of her energies on living life well and not losing sight of the wonder and the awe. Because as long as she can see it, so can I. It’s only a step away.