Professor Downs wrote "Accepting Parkinson's" about learning to accept and live with a serious disability. (See the
"Being the cockeyed optimist that I am, I never paid much attention to the occasional ribbing I received from good-natured colleagues at
It took the professor only a few minutes to make an appointment with his family doctor, who referred him to a neurologist in
Dr. Downs had many questions. Not just for the specialist but for himself. How was he going to cope with all this? "Returning to
Me, I had a bad fall this winter, coming on top of a succession of other problems. And so Dr. Downs' experience sounded all too familiar. Now I can scarcely take a step without feeling an almost electric shock zig-zag down my right leg. Something about a frozen hip joint. After a couple of visits to a pain clinic, I realized that this was going to be a long and painful haul.
In my younger years, it never occurred to me that I would be reduced to such a state. (Does it to anyone?) Pride still goeth before a fall. Even at 78, when I should have learned better long ago -- through many another trial and travail. Thank you, Dr. Downs, especially for passing on your doctor's one key word of advice: acceptance. Which is much easier to say than practice. Thank you for writing an article in hopes of helping readers -- just as I can hope to be of service now.
Thank you, friends and family who have put up with me. And thanks for my wife, who didn't sign on for all this, either. And has been a rock, always there.
For me, beyond the shock lay something darker: the shadow of what Kierkegaard called the unforgivable sin, despair.
But maybe that's where faith begins: with thankfulness for all those who stand by us -- the physical therapists and coaches at the pain clinic, my publisher, and the other editors who have had to take up the slack my absence has left. Then there were the total strangers who have seen me shuffle and stumble, and instinctively come to my aid. Humiliations great and small have awaited, but so have consolations.
This, too, I tell myself, will pass. Like life itself. And I must remember to take a deep breath. To be kind to myself. But tough, too. Self-pity is a deadly trap. Avoid it. Go on. Try to put things in perspective. No, things won't get better all at once. But little by little, one step at a time, we do go on. It's a delusion to think things will ever be the same. That's not how time works. It goes in only one direction. Accept it. Be patient but not passive. Yes, breathe deep and go on.
Whence cometh my help? Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed. Renew us, and we will be renewed.
I write a lot about faith. Now let's see how well I practice it.