By Teresa Swartz Roberts
13. Copyright 2017
*This blog post, written in February 2017, commemorates important events, including the anniversary of my Parkinson’s diagnosis.*
My husband and I were married in the First Baptist Church of Dunbar when we were fresh out of college, and we’ve had quite the journey. Counting the move from Concord College, where we met, to the rooming house we moved Frank into while I lived at my mother’s as we planned our wedding, we’ve moved 14 times. We’ve seen members of our families grow up, grow old, grow apart. We’ve seen our own relationship change in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
Our honeymoon was one night at the now-defunct Shoney’s Inn at the Cross Lanes exit paid for by a well-wisher who gave us $50 in cash to spend on our honeymoon. After hitting the breakfast bar the next morning, we returned home to our garage apartment to find Frank’s mother, sister, brother-in-law, and their two children still in residence with a broken-down car and a baby with a stomach virus who had thrown up on everything we owned. We escaped to a crappy motel where Frank spent the night watching flu symptoms develop and throwing up while I watched On Golden Pond.
Ten years later, we spent our anniversary in undeveloped southern Belize, hiking into the rainforest to explore Mayan ruins and learning how to snorkel on the beach of a tiny caye (island). Thirty-three years later, we went with our son to Olive Garden and watched part of a movie on Netflix before we realized it made no sense. A couple of days before our anniversary this month my husband said, “Thirty-three years is a long time but not long enough.” It’s no wonder I love him.
My wedding anniversary isn’t the only celebration in February. I have a birthday this month. I’m 55 as I write this. I don’t say, “I’ll be such-and-such age next February.” I’m 55 until I’m 56. I guess I’m past the age where I wish my life away, hoping to be in some superior future time. If anything, as a birthday approaches, I think about past ages, past milestones.
That’s why it’s appropriate that my sixth grade best friend is coming to visit this week for our birthdays. She’s the person I smoked my first cigarette with. When she moved away, we wrote letters–paper letters–to each other for the next few years and began talking on the phone when we got too busy to write. We went different directions but managed to cross paths throughout our lives. I’m looking forward to looking back.
I’m remembering heart-shaped cakes my mother made. I’m remembering my 13th birthday when a bunch of us met at the skating rink for Valentine’s Day and somehow ended up back at my house playing spin the bottle. I’m remembering my birthday in New York City with my best friend who grew up in Connecticut and knew how to get around the city.
I learned of my son’s existence on my 29th birthday. I had a feeling I was pregnant, even though my period wasn’t quite due. I gave myself a birthday present and stopped by the doctor’s office to see. Jonah was the best gift I could have received. He still is. My son is a private person, but I have to tell you that Jonah is a wonderful human being whose spirit shines brightly in my life. He has meant so much to my Parkinson’s journey.
Jonah was in the waiting room two years ago this month when I sat in my neurologist’s office connected to the new hospital in Braselton, Georgia. Just to clarify, I was at Medical Plaza B, not Medical Plaza 1. (I am not making this up.) I got my diagnosis that day.
Jonah was waiting in the hall outside the restroom at Life Care Center and saw the emergency call light switch on my first day of physical therapy when I fell. He was there weeks later when finally I was able to turn around without taking twenty tiny steps. When I danced to “Uptown Funk” my last day of 16 therapy sessions, he was there beatboxing.
Frank and Jonah have been able to share in my appreciation of more gains than losses, of gratitude for what I have, not what I’ve lost. My husband and son deal with my challenges with grace and humor and make it possible for me to retain my innate positivity. Human beings like to mark the passage of time with anniversaries. My wedding anniversary was this month. So is my birthday. It’s the second anniversary of my diagnosis. I am celebrating all three.