It’s been over a year and a half since I last published a blog post about my dad’s battle with Parkinson’s. It’s been a hard year and half; that’s for sure.
I pretty much slept through 2017, the full year I didn’t write a post about this journey. Most of the year is a haze for me, though I still managed to get most of the way through a read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan and publish a really gorgeous book somewhere in the middle of it.
My last post hinted at this idea that my dad wasn’t sleeping through the night, that it was wearing down my mom and me. That post was merely the tipping point of a more-than-year-long fight in which the not-actually-a-sleeping-aid meds that dad’s doctors prescribed actually counter-acted the Parkinson’s meds, keeping him (and us) up at all hours of the day and night, him screaming for the shaking to stop and us screaming back for just one moment of peace and quiet…for over a year.
They say you can never get back the sleep you missed… If I wasn’t at work, I was in bed. Somewhere along the way, after expending everything I had finishing The Rainbow Moment, I lost my voice. You lose a lot when you lose that much sleep, but this one thing in particular left me in a really deep fog of confusion, almost drowning in depression and anxiety. I just felt so L O S T without writing, even when I had no energy to do it. I’ve been spending the last few months finding that voice again, only it’s still hard to pay attention to what I’m writing long enough to actually get it finished.
I think that’s where dad is right now. He wants to be working, or at least doing something, but he doesn’t really have the energy to do much. He’s 72 and retired, but it’s not because he wants to be. The heat and humidity of a Georgia summer is no help, either. Most days, it’s all he can do to keep himself standing upright; the tremors in his legs make it hard for him to put one foot in front of the other. It’s almost too hard for him to get from the house to the car, then from the car to the church, and back. He makes it work, though; it just takes a while.
There’s a part of me I recently realized I got from my dad… It’s this stubborn, I-can-do-it attitude where we refuse to ask people for help. Whatever we’re battling might be easier if we were to do it with someone else, but it’s almost like we have to prove we are capable of doing something, or our self-worth takes a hit. Parkinson’s sometimes makes it so dad can’t even sit straight in his chair, and he absolutely hates it.
Honestly? Though I wish dad would stop trying to do things he really can’t anymore, it’s better watching him fight tooth-and-nail to bend over and pick up a clump of dog hair off the floor than it is to watch him give up. It’s the moments he stops fighting that hurt the worst.
I’ve never held back when I share in this space, but after spending so much time with dad, it’s become scary for me to be open and vulnerable, even though I know the people around me have no condemnation…and even though I know that what I share here helps other people.
The truth about this past year and a half is that I’ve lost friendships because I was too exhausted to be the person putting in the work. I sowed a lot into friendships along the years, serving and giving it all I had, but there are less than a handful of those friendships left. That’s a lot of loss, on top of watching the loss of my father play out over almost a decade so far. The truth is that sometimes, the losing…of friends, of sleep, of everything, it seems…becomes a burden too great to bear. Gratefully, some friends started fighting for me, and they listen and help me bear those burdens.
The truth about this whole journey altogether is that people never know what to say; they never know how to approach me now, and they just…don’t. I’ve always struggled with abandonment/acceptance from people, but the reality of just how many people I thought were friends, who have given up relationship with me because I didn’t have it in me to be the one reaching out, well, it’s more than I can count, and that hurt has been overwhelming at times.
Learning how to live with a grace for my dad has helped me learn how to walk in grace for myself. Panic attacks and an apathy I couldn’t seem to shake were overwhelming earlier this year, and any task seemed all too much to handle. You know what? While I was in that period of my life, it became okay for me to just make it through the day…and that was an okay thing.
It was okay that I sometimes spent days watching Netflix because I was simply too sad or stressed to do anything else. It’s even more okay because I’m not staying there. I figured out that spending an hour or two painting in my smashbook leaves me feeling more at ease, and I do that more often now. I am getting better and getting more done. I’m still chasing my dreams, and just because the chase is somewhat slow and behind the scenes right now doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
Even after all this time, there are still people praying for my dad’s complete healing, and that blows me away. After so many years of struggling and watching the struggle get worse and worse, there are still people who care enough to have faith for our family when we just can’t.
Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s while I was living at GGC, and I was gone for the first few years of it. It’s always easier for me to remember the closer past than prior years, so it’s almost as though the only Richie Lynch I know is the one with Parkinson’s. It’s hard for me to see him standing tall and strong, as the guys who’ve been in our church as long as we have remember him.
It’s good for me to see pictures that remind me of the person he used to be before the frustration and onset of tremors and weakness:
You have no idea how grateful I am for these photos.
Dad goes into a home soon-ish, and I know this is but the next chapter of the disease he is fighting with every last breath he has.
People keep asking me if I’m okay with him going into a home, and I honestly am…as long as he doesn’t give up. Giving his care to people who can handle it better than we can doesn’t scare me. As I said before, the rare times he has given up have scared me… They have shaken me to my very core.
Mom tried to get him placed into a 1-on-1 home, but do you know what dad’s doctor said? It’s too much for one person to handle.
But my mom can do it on her own. She has been for so long. Please go out of your way to give her a big, squishy hug the next time you see her. She deserves it.
I am proud to have a daddy who never gives up, who wants to fight to provide for us. I am proud that I’m becoming a fighter like him.