Focused on the road, my hand fumbles blindly in the center console.
“You know, you can ask for help,” says my younger son.
No, no, no I can’t. Not yet. Not yet.
For a moment my mind wanders … headlights from the oncoming traffic take on sinister affect. I am living in the wreckage of my future, trembling to the point of inertia. Thankfully I’ve driven this road so often that my muscle memory, twitchy though it may be, has it on autopilot.
“Thank you. Can you please see if there are any of those single-use eyedrops I like in there?”
His nimble fingers hand me what I seek in seconds.
As we exit the highway and come to a stoplight, I rehydrate my dried-out eyes. The combination of antihistamines (I have allergies, LA has allergens, heightened by the current Santa Ana winds, so I pop pills in addition to my PD medications) and the fewer blinks my PD eyes make leaves them parched.
And it is. The moisture lessens the glare of the night’s lights.
“ I know that you didn’t have a lot of help when you were a kid, which is why you don’t ask for it.“
Well, thank you Future Freud.
“I know my childhood is very different than yours was.”
No, really thank you, F. F.
Again, oncoming headlights morph into demonic clumps of Alpha-synuclein protein (these clumps can form Lewy Bodies where dopaminergic cells should be) Their light taunts me before vanishing into cars resembling the substantia nigra (the part of the brain where dopaminergic cells live .. or in the case of PD die off for reasons still unknown.) on wheels.
“We love our children the best we can.” I defend the parents who did and do love me with all that they are, all that they are able to muster.
“Well, they produced a good person.”
“Thank you.” Tears now moisturize my tired eyes as I squeeze my earnest kid’s knee.
My dopaminergic cells plummet silently from the streetlights onto the pavement. Why? Why? Why? One after the other followed by yet another one of the cells I mourn so, each loss another notch on PD’s belt.
We arrive home. Instead of running into the house, my child looks back at me as he gets out of the car. In what is becoming habit, both kids glance back to check – especially at the end of the day – just in case I need help. This is not the muscle memory I want them to develop.
No, no, no. This reversing of the roles is too soon. Not yet. Not yet.
At least not yet today.
My progression is slow – but this disease is unpredictable. Tomorrow? Next year? Someday I will be grateful for the habituated glance. Some day. But not today. At least not today.
But it is what it is, and I am so very grateful my children are who they are.