My wife, Kerry, and I were walking around in our little town of Jacksonville, enjoying the ambiance, the shops and, of course, the tourists.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw something that grabbed my attention. A nice-looking lady, well dressed and obviously focused on her goal, was trying to safely cross the street.
Those of you who know me or read my previous Columnist for a Day submission know that I have Parkinson's. This lady walked with an all-too-familiar gait. Her facial expression was devoid of emotion, and it was as if her blank stare was speaking directly to me. I knew she was coping with her own journey with Parkinson’s. Within that moment, I understood her, like a long lost friend.
Instantly my mind overflowed with questions, observations and concerns. I desperately wanted to run up to her to see if she was OK or inquire if she needed help crossing the road. My ultimate goal would be to sit down with her and engage her in conversation, to let her know that I host a care group in my home for those with Parkinson’s, and their caregivers.
As I stood there, contemplating these thoughts, she continued on her way. She made it safely to the curb then slowly continued on until she disappeared within the crowds of tourists going to and fro.
Why did I stand frozen, watching as this stranger entered my world? Was this a missed opportunity for me to share what I know about PD? Then it hit me. I wasn’t supposed to teach, instead I was the student, learning from the experience.
Up until that moment, when this well dressed angel crossed my path, I would approach every person with PD and engage them in conversation. I would inquire as to how they were dealing with their diagnosis and share my experience with them, as well. A strange bond would follow; comrades. We have a common enemy, Parkinson’s.
I’ve been hosting a PD support/care group for a year now, and the experience has not only helped others, it has given me a strong foundation from which I draw strength, knowledge and understanding. I deal with my own issues one day at a time. My day-to-day coexistence with PD is minimally annoying compared to others I know. For now I walk with a somewhat normal gait, and my face shows expression all the time.
I've learned that everyone with PD walks their own walk, experiencing symptoms that are unique to them. Some are worse than others, and the progression is slow.
I was given a gift of listening, teaching and providing options for those who seek advice. When my support group adjourns for the day, attendees leave with life in their eyes and a skip in their step.
Every now and then, an angel will cross my path, like that lady I watched disappear into the tourist flow, subliminally telling me that I am doing a good job when interacting with my brothers and sisters of PD.
If you have PD or are a caregiver for someone who does, there is a place where you can go to have your concerns heard or questions answered. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.