Two weeks ago I talked from the pulpit about my Parkinson’s diagnosis – what I refer to as ‘my Parkinson’s sermon.’
I used Stanley Kunitz’s poem, The Layers, in which he said, “I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was, though some principle of being abides from which I struggle not to stray…I am not done with my changes.”
Clearly, I am not done with my changes. Neither are you. I like the way Buckminster Fuller put it when he said, “I think I’m a verb.”
The Parkinson’s diagnosis came on July 14, after several months of both wondering what this tremor was about and going through necessary tests, first by my internist, then the neurologist.
By the day of the final diagnosis I had time to move through the initial stage of denial, though I must admit that some denial still lingers, and I appreciate it, both in the sense of understanding the benefits of denial and being thankful for it! I’ll take one day at a time.
After he told me that he was certain that it’s Parkinson’s I said: “So, Dr. Gross, your 68 year old rabbi comes to you and says, I have Parkinson’s disease. How do you respond?” “I would say, ‘let me know when you can’t do your work.’”
Naturally, I ask, “How long do you think that will be?” He responds, “How long do you want to keep working? “Hopefully another five years or so,” I tell him, and he says, “That should not be a problem. You are in a very early and mild stage, you’re in otherwise excellent health.” After a brief pause he adds, “But that’s not a promise; no one really knows how any person’s experience with Parkinson’s disease will develop, but we know that it is progressive. You’ll just have to see…now let’s talk about treatment options.”
My Parkinson’s has not progressed enough for me to think of myself as living with a serious illness; it’s not life-threatening, and it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. Lory bought me a set of golf clubs for my birthday, last month, and I’ve spent the last three Wednesdays, my day off, at Long Shore Country Club, playing 18 holes, carrying the bag. Exercise is always important, but now, I’m told, it’s even more important.
It’s also important for me to keep centered, so I’m finding ways to enhance the quality of my inner life, to avoid stress. I’m very grateful for the outpouring of support and encouragement.
I want to conclude with two important things: first, congratulations to Ken Lanouette, this year’s recipient of the Very Fine Award, presented to a member of the congregation for outstanding service. Ken was at Norwalk Hospital, recuperating from (successful) surgery, when the award was announced. I visited him after the annual meeting and smiled to see the plaque proudly displayed in his room – Jennine had accepted it on his behalf, and she and Midge brought it.
I also want to mention that we’re having a service of dedication for our newly renovated Memorial Garden next Sunday, October 5, at 12:30. I hope you’ll plan to attend. I hope you’re well, and I look forward to seeing you again, soon.