Friday, February 08, 2008

Blog From a Better Place

This is not David writing this time. It is his step daughter Caroline. David died this morning (February 8, 2008).

I am desperately trying to think of what funny and clever thing David might have to say about his own death. I am sure it would be poignant and humorous.

We, his family, would just like to say how much we loved him and how much he will be missed.
I'm afraid I can't add too much more at this time. If there is anything you would like me to post on his blog as a tribute to David, please e-mail me at and I will do my best to create some new posts.

We miss you so much Pop pop!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Did I Die, or Just Stop Posting?

It's been about 6 months since my last post. It was simply becoming too hard to get ideas, search through what now passes for my brain for words to express them, and to post them. The prospect of this effort, on a continuing basis, combined with questionable reader interest, began to sap my motivation.

But then, I reminded myself, that's not why I started the blog. I had simply wanted to record a little of the life I lived, the things I did, the people I met, and the ideas and events that molded and moved me. If no one wanted to join me in this endeavor, so be it.

As to the difficulties I've experienced due to my condition (PD), I was reminded of the biblical story of Job and the hardships he endured to prove his devotion to God. Having recently faced some tough times myself, I feel a certain degree of empathy for Job.

On the other hand, I do not share Job's apparent belief that we humans should accept suffering without question or complaint, even if arbitrary, unjust or undeserved. Instead of becoming angry about hardships inflicted on innocent people, we are urged to admire and emulate the patience of Job. Frankly, this idea stinks.

We are told that God is loving, all powerful and just. But when we encounter hardship and misfortune, we are apparently expected to refrain from asking why. Do we defy or embarrass God when we search for reason, logic and meaning in our lives.? I think not. If God is truly loving, all powerful, and just, He should able to take care of Himself.

Indeed, a more interesting and controversial question is: why does God, being all powerful, loving and just, tolerate the spectacle of widespread human suffering? In other words, if God can't eliminate the suffering experienced by millions every day, is He truly omnipotent? But if God could alleviate that suffering, but doesn't, is He truly just or loving?

A larger question is how does one deal logically with a mind numbing day to day experience like Parkinson's? We could blame God, of course. Or we could rail incessantly about the injustice of it all. But unless we want to waste the rest of our lives with a senseless rant against fate, that's not much of a plan.

This would appear to be an appropriate time to inquire about the physical, mental and spiritual health of a blogger who hasn't posted anything to his blog for several months. Sounds like this person could use a good stiff upper lip, or a kick in the butt or both.

Having said all that, I don't feel much better, but then nothing ventured, nothing gained. Now, if I can just stay away from all those floods, pestilence and famines that gave Job such a hard time!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Marriage # 2 - Vicki and David give it a try.

My earlier post entitled "Marriage # 1 -The Texan and the New Yorker " generated a myriad of requests (3 people, as I recall) for similar stories on Marriages 2 and 3.

The song "Breaking up is hard to do" pretty well describes the time between the end of marriage #1 and the beginning of Marriage #2.

During this time, The Fairfax Unitarian Church was a godsend (no pun intended). I had many friends there and my work on the Board of Trustees kept me busy and provided a great support group. It was in this setting that I met Vicki.

As with earlier posts, I issue this disclaimer: Although I'll try to keep the chronology straight and the facts accurate, let the reader beware. Or as Kurt Vonnegut would say, "So it goes".

My first memory of Vicki was at a church Pot Luck dinner. We arrived with other people, but quickly decided we were more interested in each other. Everyone was very civilized about it, and by the time dinner was over, we had realigned ourselves and the rest is history. I'd like to report that the other couple also got married, and they did. But not to each other.

A lot of early memories are too sketchy to record, but I recall vividly the night I met Vicki's children. When I arrived at her apartment, she went into their bedroom to retrieve them. I can still see, in my mind's eye, Vicki surrounded by her four beautiful children. They looked like a giant amorphous creature - five heads, ten arms (eight of them holding their mother very tightly) and ten feet taking tiny steps toward me. As this mass of humanity untangled, I was introduced to John, Laura, Carey and Melisa (they will henceforth be referred to as the kids), none of whom looked like any of the others. In later years, it was fun to show their picture to people have them guess which ones were twins. You can play the game,too! Click here to see the kids "all growed up". Could you pick out the twins? See answer at end of post.

Many people have asked, then and since, how I could have taken on such a large responsibility. I honestly never thought about it in those terms. I've had regrets in my life, but this wasn't one of them. At the same time, I must acknowledge the support of their father David, step-mother Kitty, and all the grandparents. Every one involved always made me feel welcome (Nan, do you still make those wonderful coconut cakes? hint, hint!)

Life was pretty hectic at times. There were sporting events to attend, participate in, and coach. Vicki got her Masters degree (mostly at night) while holding down a job and parenting. I logged about a million miles of chauffeuring, and became coach of a girl softball team for seven years. My co-coach Bill and I took full advantage of the rule which allowed coaches to pick all their own children first when team rosters were drafted. Several years our kids made up half of our roster, and they were all good players. The other coaches hated us.

Swimming was also a major activity in our lives. We were all involved in one way or another, even a landlubber like me (I tried avoid the water). Vicki and I were timers, ribbon dispensers, record keepers, and other roles too numerous to mention.

Another important aspect of our lives in those days was the activities of the Fairfax Unitarian Church. We especially enjoyed the concept of "extended family". Each family was composed of around 30 - 40 men, women and children, ranging from babies to grandparents. We had lots of social activities, including a week at the beach each summer. Each extended family rented their own beach house(s), divided up the cooking, housekeeping and laundry work. As I recall, these trips were pretty peaceful (except for a couple murders resulting from dish washing disputes).

As the kids grew older, Vicki and I seemed to grow apart. We tried the usual things: counseling, separations, reconciliations, etc. I'm not sure either of us could explain, with any degree of certainty, why our marriage failed. On the other hand, Vicki is a smart person, and perhaps she has figured it out during a few spare moments in the last 20 or so years. So, Vicki, on the off chance you are reading this and wish to say a few words to our vast listening audience, feel free to use the comments feature at the bottom of this post.

Note: It's very important that I acknowledge the support for my son Claude exhibited by Vicki and the kids. This was always true no matter what the state of our marriage. I'd like to think I provided similar help for John, Laura, Carey and Melisa. I love you all.

Note2: A later post will fill some of the gaps in this one. Space limitations often prohibit the full exposure a topic deserves (this one could use a lot more), but I'm 75 and have PD, remember?

Answer to the photo quiz, above: top row - John and Carey; bottom row - Laura and Melisa. The twins are .... Carey and Melisa!!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Night to Remember (ugh!)

Nancy and I decided to see the musical, 'Meet John Doe", at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D. C. to celebrate the mid-point of Nancy's Spring Break. The tickets were purchased on a beautiful spring day during Cherry Blossom Festival time. Unfortunately, as the day to see the musical approached, so did a frigid mass of cold air from Canada.

Undaunted by this news, and lacking even a modicum of common sense, I chose fashion over warmth in my attire for the evening. It was as if, by the power of will alone, I could force the weather to be nice because I so much wanted it to be. As usual, there was a price to pay for such stupidity. Another curious notion I hold is that I can look at a map and instantly commit it to memory. The fallacy of this notion was exposed when I parked the car and started walking toward the theater in a direction off by precisely 180 degrees.

Well, let's summarize the situation. We are cold. We are lost. We are racing the clock. One of us has Parkinson's Disease and shouldn't be outside freezing in the middle of the night. Nancy, correctly sensing that I would die before asking for directions, got them from a stranger and we resumed our quest. We arrived at exactly 8 O'Clock Unfortunately, the play had started at 7:30.

This news was delivered by a woman in the box office in a tone usually reserved for addressing those of extremely low intelligence. I wanted very much to smack her. Instead, I grabbed our tickets and entered the theater. We rushed up the circular staircase to the balcony area (Puff, puff!). Oh, look! The show had indeed started and looked like fun.

Unfortunately, it was very dark and there was no usher to show us to our seats. I studied the ticket stubs by the light of a small lamp at the back of the theater and decided to go for broke. I started very slowly down the pitch dark aisle toward the front of the balcony. This is exactly the kind of dangerous situation that we of the Parkinson persuasion are told to avoid like the plague. Miraculously, arms appeared from the darkness to lend support (who says there's no God?). We finally reached our seats, noting that they would have been great except for the post which stood between us and the stage. But by leaning away from each other, we were each able to see one half of the stage.

For some reason, I was finding it difficult to get in the mood. Not only was I exhausted, it was time for my medications. Using the Braille system, I managed to find the appropriate pills in my pill box and swallowed them. During the intermission, I realized I would be unable to make it through the entire play without a trip to the men's room. My heart sank as I remembered it was on the first floor. As I looked down that quaint little circular staircase, it appeared to be about the same height as the Grand Canyon. I looked at Nancy and said, desperately, "Please let me go home".

We found our car and started home. I began to have visions of climbing into my nice warm bed and sleeping forever (or until time for my next pill, whichever came first). Unfortunately, some local traffic official had decided it would be a great time to close the portion of roadway which I normally use to cross the Potomac river into Virginia. The detour provided was confusing to me and most of the other drivers trying to get to Virginia. We all ended up following each other in circles until we finally got back on track. When we finally got home, I thought to myself, "the guy who first said, "Home, Sweet Home" really knew what he was talking about. Indeed, I have vowed never to leave home again (except maybe to see the part of the play we missed).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

KING TUT - Up Close and Personal

Our intrepid travelers were last seen straggling back from the White House Tour (see last post). As you may recall, the tour was fantastic but very tiring, especially for a certain 75 year old who shall remain nameless to protect the infirmed.

Never ones to let moss grow under our feet, we decided to visit Philadelphia the following day; the better to see Tutankhamun, otherwise known as King Tut. The Texas contingent of our group decided to skip the exhibit when they learned that King Tut was dead. Instead, they planned to spend a full day sight seeing in the historical area.

But first we had to get there. We began hearing ominous news of an impending snow storm, but since we had spent a king's ransom on tickets, we decided to try, anyway. The usual three hour trip took almost eight hours. The aforementioned 75 year old, an obstinate control freak, insisted on being the designated driver, and refused all appeals to turn back. As the snow continued to fall and driving conditions worsened, he appeared to spent most of his time looking for "potty break" opportunities.

Our plan was to have dinner with Claude's family in Philadelphia. We were a little embarrassed when we missed our arrival time by 3 hours and even more embarrassed when we learned that 10-15 of Monica's relatives were among those waiting for us to arrive. Mindful that we still had to reach our downtown hotel, we finished dinner, said our goodbyes and departed. The stress of driving through the snow, combined with the weariness engendered by the White House tour a day earlier, left me exhausted. We finally made it to the hotel, registered, and fell into bed, wondering if we would be able to climb out again the next morning.

As the new day dawned, our spirits brightened. Nancy, Asher and I took a taxi to the Franklin Museum to check out King Tut while Bob, Sue and Luke did their own thing. The museum steps were very interesting (only the front of the steps were painted, revealing King Tut's image there). I then made what can only be described as a brilliant move; I asked for, and received, a motorized wheelchair. The combination of riding instead of walking and standing around, and Asher's skillful navigating saved the day. I was especially impressed with his assured and confident manner as he maneuvered the wheelchair from one great vantage point to the next. I saw all the exhibits, up close and personal. Later, we had lunch and spent more time in the museum

Thrilled to have accomplished our goals without a heart attack or a stroke, I again sought the comfort and security of the hotel bed for a nice long nap. I left orders to be notified when food was available. We had dinner in a fine tavern and retired for the evening.

The next morning featured breakfast in bed, ordered by that quintessential gourmet, Asher Thomson-Jones. I don't remember him picking up the tab, but I'm sure he did. We spent a little more time with Bob, Sue and Luke before they left for the Airport. Nancy, Asher and I had a much easier trip home than expected. All in all, a very pleasant ending to an memorable week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The White House is "our house."

My brother Bob, his wife Sue, and grandson Luke are visiting us from Texas. As part of their trip, Bob had arranged for my wife Nancy, grandson Asher and me to join them for a tour of the White House. I had little in the way of expectations, except a vague feeling of apprehension. Truth be told, I expected to be herded, along with 20 or 30 other people, through a few nondescript rooms, and shown the door. The reality was quite different.

The day had started with me depositing Bob, Sue and Luke to the local Metro Station where they were wisped away for a day of sightseeing in our nation's capital. Nancy, a 6th grade teacher, continued her relentless attack on ignorance in the public schools. I remained at home, hoping to justify my self proclaimed title of trip coordinator. Surprisingly, I managed to get myself, Nancy and Asher to the parking lot of the agreed upon meeting place (ESPN Zone), without a single accident. We turned out attention to the tour.

Mindful of my condition (75 year old PWP -Person with Parkinson's), we took a taxi to the NW gate of the White House. Not so fast, Tourist. I should have said we told the driver to take us to the NW gate. We soon discovered he had dropped us off at the opposite side of the White House, instead. We walked, and walked and walked. I began wishing I was somewhere else. Eventually, we found the proper gate, met our guide and entered the White House Grounds. Although very happy to have made it, I noticed that my backside was dragging.

Thus began one of the most wonderful and, at the same time, draining experiences of my life. Our group consisted of the tour guide and the 6 of us. He was extremely knowledgeable with respect to the White House and the Presidents, as well. He was very personable and made us feel right at home. Indeed, we were constantly telling our two grandsons not to touch anything, and he simply reminded us that this was "our house". And despite the current environment of heightened cynicism and sarcasm, we found ourselves actually believing it.

My only regret was centered around the limitations imposed on me by Parkinson's, and to a lesser extent, my age. Although I wouldn't have missed the tour for the world, the walking and standing required made the tour extremely difficult. I should have brought or rented a wheel chair, and will do so when taking other tours. Another low point was when the batteries in my camera died and I hadn't remembered to bring spares. I like to think that wouldn't have happened a few short years ago. But all things considered, and after a day of rest, I'm ready for my next challenge. Tomorrow we go to Philadelphia to see the King Tut Exhibit at the Franklin Museum.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Parkinson's support group

The only good thing about having PD is that it allows me to belong to the Upper Montgomery County Parkinson's Disease Support Group and attend their meetings. The group, which meets each Wednesday, is led by, facilitated by, and sometimes even pampered by Donna Dorros. If it ever became necessary, I'm sure she could even do a little badgering, as well. More about Donna, later.

The meetings are held at a local church, start at 10:30AM and end around noon. The first 45 minutes are dedicated to exercises selected by Gerri Carpenter, a fitness trainer, with an emphasis toward the needs of Parkinson patients. Unfortunately, I can't take advantage of these excellent sessions, usually offering some lame excuse about lower back pains. Truth be told, many of the exercises do exacerbate the injuries I've sustained over a lifetime of alternately playing sports and imitating a sloth. Instead, I ride my stationary bike for 30 minutes every other day (to keep the heart doctor away). Of course, water exercise would be perfect for me, except I hate getting wet, other than an occasional shower. But, I digress ....

The last 45 minutes are spent on discussion. Donna brings articles of interest gleaned from the internet, newspapers, magazines or journals and shares them with with the group. The last portion of each meeting provides an opportunity for questions, answers and sharing of concerns.

Attendance varies week to week, depending on the weather, holidays, vacations, illnesses, and occasionally, the phase of the moon. Average attendance is perhaps 15, a mixture of Parkinson patients and Care-givers. I seldom miss a meeting, others rarely show up. And that's OK! The group also has a wide spectrum in terms of severity of the disease and symptoms exhibited.

Donna and her late husband Sidney started the group and she has continued it since his death (from PD). Their experiences with respect to this disease would fill a blog or two. Suffice to say, her experience, knowledge and empathy make her a most valuable asset for the group. Some of us believe she is at least as knowledgeable about PD medications as most General Practitioners. Donna has a sympathetic ear, a database-like brain, a ready smile, a shoulder to the wheel, and her nose to the grindstone (now there's a weird mental image). There's a rumor going around that she is an angel in disguise. We all appreciate her very much.

Note to support group members: I want to thank you for making me feel welcome. I've especially enjoyed meeting Frank, Virginia, Lester, Rae, Lucy, Ronnie, Margaret, and of course, Donna. I look forward to future meetings and, ultimately, to the day when we become part of the final eradication of our common enemy, Parkinson's Disease.