Parkinson’s and Regret

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The Rooster in the Hen House

Don't be the chicken of regret.

I regret many things about my Mother’s journey with Parkinson’s Disease. Instead of living out her Golden Years traveling and enjoying life, she became homebound and afraid of strangers. I regret that she isn’t going to get to know her Great-Granddaughter, Emma, who’s a firecracker like she was. I regret that I wasn’t more patient and understanding with her. But the one thing I regret most of all is that she never had a chance to enter the rooster crowing contest at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center’s Blue Ribbon Country Fair.  

Parkinson’s stole everything from Mom. It robbed her of her quick wit, her love of hiking and eventually it even took away her ability to care for herself.

Time to Get Big and Loud

Parkinson’s slowly robbed Mom of her voice. (Not always a bad thing, mind you). The hospital nearby had just created a program called Big and Loud.  It’s a fun series of therapeutic exercises designed to help Parkinson’s patients regain their voices and mobility. It would have been an amazing program for her. Sadly, her mobility had degenerated to such a degree that at that point it was physically impossible to get back and forth to the hospital.  The program was new and they didn’t do house calls.

So we had to come up with our own version of Big and Loud. Whenever she would get sick and end up in the hospital they would send a physical therapist home with her for about eight weeks. It was awesome as she liked Sandy, her physical therapist. Sandy was a local girl and didn’t put up with her baloney.

It Feels So Good When You Stop

Sandy left us a packet of exercises to do and we’d work it into our daily routine. I figured even a little bit of exercise is good. Even if it was just standing up and sitting down and walking side to side at the sink. At least it was something.  In the morning Mom’s hands would be cold and stiff so I’d give her a daily massage, which sometimes turns into four times or five times a day depending on how cold and damp it was. Mostly I’d just rub her hands, arms, and shoulders just to get the kinks out.

It was funny when she was laying down and I’d massage her legs because they were so stiff. She’d holler like I was torturing her (maybe I was, a little) but then yell at me to keep going.  It was one of those feels good when I stop situations but it did help release the knots in her muscles. That took care of the Big part of the equation.

Crow like Peter Returning to Neverland

We did come up with a solution for the Loud part, though. Every year the Heritage Center has a Blue Ribbon Fair with all of the sheep shearing, cast iron pan throwing and hog chasing you’d ever expect at a little Southern Country Fair.

One of the things Mom always wanted to do was participate in the rooster crowing contest. She would practice crowing for weeks as soon as the banners went up saying the Fair was coming. I figured the neighbors either thought we had a coop of chickens or were just plain crazy. It didn’t matter because she loved it. For someone who whispered all day long being able to crow like Peter Pan was a treat. At one point my daughter whispered to me, “Did Grandma have a stroke?”, after listening to Mom crowing to herself in the corner.

Every year I’d say, “If you’re feeling up to it, I’ll get you over there and you can enter the contest.” As the time for the Fair drew near, we would rehearse every day. We’d pick out her rooster crowing outfit, and look over the schedule of events to see what else would be fun to see and do at the fair.

Pack Up the Car, We’re Heading to the Fair

The day of the contest would arrive, and we would pack up the car and hit the Fair around 11 in the morning, her optimal moving around time. One thing you should know, we live about 2 miles from the Heritage Center. But no trip is complete without drinks, snacks, meds, a change of clothes and the wheelchair in the back. We would arrive with plenty of time to check out the crafts, the apple butter making and even watch the blacksmith for a while.

Sadly though, every year the contest was always later in the afternoon. Mom would be fine in the morning but by 2 o’clock she would be exhausted and her meds would have worn off. She would always be so tired and cranky we just couldn’t stay. I would tell her we could go home, take a nap and come back later, rested and ready to go. We always tried, but she just couldn’t make it back.

I will always regret that her body would always fail her when she needed it the most and she never got to show the world she could crow.

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