A Parkinson’s prayer

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” —Luke 15:22-24

Parkinson’s disease … to use a technical term … sucks.

When I am “off” (when my medication is not in full effect), the disease rattles my world — I type with one hand, use a cane, and move as if enveloped in molasses. My view of myself as a maternal rock crumbles in the face of dopamine’s abandonment: My daughter ties my shoelaces; my son pulls me from sitting to standing.

Like the brother in the parable who must accept his wasteful sibling’s return, I must learn to accept my cellular prodigal sons, accept my childish cells’ betrayal and their feckless disregard for their place in my neurological family.

I am the Giving Tree, forced to receive, humbled to the point of helpless, too shaky to access fine motor skills. “Please get me two pills from the bottle?”

How do I forgive those suicidal dopaminergic cells, those errant child cells that trifle away my future with their reckless disregard for their rightful role in my brain?

We plan. God laughs. If you’d told me that I’d be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 50, I would have laughed at the notion’s absurdity. But for reasons that I, like many others, wish science would figure out, something in my body has come home to the roost, having squandered so many of these precious brain cells even before symptoms present themselves.

Like the brother in the parable who must accept his wasteful sibling’s return, I must learn to accept my cellular prodigal sons, accept my childish cells’ betrayal and their feckless disregard for their place in my neurological family. It doesn’t matter why they’ve abandoned their posts within the substantia nigra.

It is what it is — and I am what I am as a result, even if, like the brother, I fake forgiveness, until, like the father, I find the grace to make it real.

Moving from the brother to the father is an arduous process, one that requires emotional heavy lifting, a process that resembles Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ model of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — to arrive at what Kübler-Ross calls acceptance and I call forgiveness: the state of being where you mean it when you say, “It is what it is, and I am what I am.” And it’s okay.

And it is okay.

Oh, dear Lord, please let me find the peace to accept my brain’s many imperfections while maintaining the grit to continue fighting like hell. And, if you’re in a particularly generous mood, I don’t think anyone would object if you threw in a medical breakthrough.

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