Anyone who has taken their valuable time to read this weekly column over the past few years is undoubtedly well aware that not only do I have Parkinson's, but I am not afraid to whine about its impact on my life. What I don't share frequently enough is the effect the disease has on my wife, Nancy, as my caregiver. My Parkinson's is definitely no day at the beach for my bride, which is why when the opportunity presented itself for my spouse to spend a week in a beach community in the Carolinas I encouraged her to go.
The invitation to vacation along the Atlantic Ocean came from Nancy's brother, Steve, and his wife, Heather, who own a beach-front house in Oak Island, N.C. They invited Steve's three sisters and their spouses to come and stay with them at their home, which is only a short walk from the murky ocean water.
While I was included in the invitation I did not deem going a realistic possibility because of travel concerns. Because of the Parkinson's I am not a good traveler anymore which makes a 17-hour trip formidable, considering that these days I can hardly stand to endure a ride of an hour's duration before desperately needing to stretch my legs. By my calculations, with all the rest stops I would require we would barely have time enough after arriving to wade into the ocean one time before we would need to start the long journey home.
Flying was suggested because it would shorten the trip from double digits hour-wise down to only a couple of hours. But with me being a serious fall risk I did not see me doing well in bustling airports or aboard big airplanes with narrow aisles. I also did not see it playing out well if I asked a stewardess an hour into the flight if we could pull over so I could get out and stretch my legs.
The biggest drawback I could see with me on the trip is that Nancy would have virtually no break from caring for me. What sort of vacation would that be? Not much of one if you ask me for someone who desperately deserves a break.
Because I can no longer stay by myself for an extended period of time I needed to find someone who could and would be with me in Nancy's absence. That hurdle was cleared when Nancy and my oldest son, Caleb, stepped up and offered to “daddy sit” for a week.
Not surprisingly Nancy had a blast spending time with her siblings. Based on her almost nightly calls home a good deal of the week was spent eating barbecue, going on shopping excursions, walking on the beach, hunting for shells, helping put large puzzles together and relaxing in the swimming pool.
The most unexpected activity that Nancy reported doing occurred on Thursday of last week when she went parasailing. Parasailing entails being strapped to a very large kite that is attached to a boat with a rope. As the boat gains speed more rope is unrolled which allows the kite and its passenger to go higher and higher, until the person has a bird's eye view of the ocean and beach far below.
Nancy confessed going back and forth about whether or not to do it, but there was no doubting that she relished the experience as she talked about how peaceful it was up there. As I listened to my wife it was easy to tell that the ride ended and she returned to Earth far sooner than she was ready. On Friday, her last day of vacation at Oak Island, I could not help but wonder if Nancy was having some of the same feelings about returning to Earth far sooner than she is ready as she thinks about returning to Hannibal and me.