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‘Energizer Bunny’ can’t outpace age, chronic condition

Getting old really sucks.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in December 2014. As my situation evolves, I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones.

My Parkinson’s Disease is progressing very slowly. My balance is solid (zero falls to date), I still drive and, thanks to modern medicine, my tremors are rarely visible. My symptoms usually come to life when I miss a dose (or two) or when I overdo it and don't take enough breaks (especially hydration breaks).

I am like that Energizer Bunny: I keep going and going and going. But eventually, my batteries quit on me, and that is when my slow gait, slouched posture and blank facial affect spring into action.

Do you remember the Carol Burnett Show from back in the ’70s? That old man character that Tim Conway so brilliantly portrayed is pretty much how I look on the outside and feel on the inside.

As my in-laws (Red and Chris) aged, my wife, Kerry, and I became their full-time elder-care providers. Once hospice came into the picture, our daily routine became much easier. God bless the hospice folks and all they do, not only for the patient(s), but for the family as well.

Part of my responsibilities included taking Red to all of his doctor appointments, and he had many. Being a much younger person compared with most of the patients I sat with in the various waiting rooms, I got to see and hear their aches and pains first-hand.

I was sympathetic. I longed to comfort them. Their weathered faces didn’t lie. I felt strong, young; my heart swelled with compassion.

Then one day, an elderly lady at a dermatologist office had just finished her ultralight treatment. She slowly made her way toward the door, navigating her Zimmer (those walkers with tennis balls on the front legs). As she approached the exit, I got up and, with pleasure, held the door open. Her bent body continued at the same slow pace, managing to clear the threshold with ease.

Then just as she was clear of the doorway, she came to a full stop. With bone-cracking difficulty, she slowly turned her head up so she could see me. I was anticipating that she was about to thank me for being a gentleman, for doing something that most guys would have done if they were in my place.

Her face was pale, her eyes bloodshot, as her lips quivered these words: “Getting old really sucks!”

With that, she resumed her bent posture and continued to an awaiting van. I stood there, speechless, in awe of her courage.

For the rest of Red’s and Chris’ days, when they complained about an ache of other discomfort, Kerry and I jumped into action, striving to stay ahead of their aches and pains.

Now, the question I have is regarding my own aches and pains. Are they from aging or are they from my Parkinson’s?

Getting up out of a chair, I find myself making the same groans that Red use to make, and I am not alone. Kerry, too, has her own issues, those we can blame solely on aging.

For me, I guess I am lucky that maybe most of my discomfort is age-related. But then again, having Parkinson’s doesn’t help.

Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.