In the past few years, a degenerative illness has overtaken my father in his brain. It affects his speech and balance. Countless specialists from UCLA to NYU to Columbia have diagnosed it as either Ataxia, Multi-Symptom Atrophy, or OPCA. There is no general agreement on what it is, or how to cure it.
He now can only stand up and walk with a walker. He has to hang on to walls and door handles and when he takes a shower, there has to be another person in the room. Last year, the neurologist briefly prescribed a Parkinson’s drug to help his speech. It worked for two weeks until he started having uncontrollable shaking in his hands and seizures in his face. He went into the hospital and “recovered”.
He came home to the occupational, speech and home health care workers who gave him lessons, at age 74, on how to tie his shoes and ask for a glass of water clearly. Chronological maturation is a return to infancy on some levels, it seems.
Through it all, he has not complained. He still manages to smile and conduct his life with grace, honor, politeness, dignity and bravery. You wonder, how human beings, having lived and struggled their whole life, still manage to surmount the moral and physical strength to conduct one more battle on Earth.
He is leading his children in an example of how to live with illness, and still maintain a healthy outlook.