I have written before about my partner’s diagnosis of early onset Parkinson’s Disease. Yes, life served our family up a little shaky, but instead of trembling in the face of fear, we decided to embrace the shake, celebrate the intoxicating goodness that is our family, and make one hell of a martini out of this ginned up madness of human mortality.
Circumstance’s dice roll notwithstanding, Randi and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate. A trip to the hospital or the daily tune-in to the national or local news is certainly all the evidence we need to determine that we have it pretty sweet. I have to admit that I feel a little guilty at times as others with illnesses stare perplexed at our ensuing hilarity while making up imaginary Parkinson’s t-shirts to pass the time in a doctor’s waiting room, “My leg is a drag…but my life isn’t.”
As I have expressed on numerous occasions, one of our greatest treasures is the support we receive from our friends. We have a broad network of loved ones who keep me focused, humble, and less cynical (no easy task I assure you), and who keep Randi cognizant of just how important she is in all our lives. For example, our friend, Ashley, called a few months ago to let me know that she registered to run Denver’s Rock and Roll Marathon to honor Randi and to raise money for Parkinson’s research through the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. I was speechless (another difficult task). Now, I run a couple of miles in retaliation whenever my skinny jeans begin to mock me, but I live in Colorado, and I know what the 26.2 stickers on all those Subarus mean…that they are fucking crazy.
I had to ask, “Ash, do you know what you are getting yourself into?” She told me she had run one marathon before, and that she would be fine. “Where, Ash, where did you run that race?” Disney World. “Oy.”
It’s Disney…the MAGICal Kingdom, where employees are called cast members and IMAGINEers. It’s the sea level, four-park parcel of central Florida swampland where I have to remind my neighbors when referring to their recent world travels, “That’s Epcot, and it’s not REALLY France.” This is Colorado, the term purple mountains majesty comes from the color your face turns when take the stairs at this altitude. Contrary to popular political belief, you just can’t roll down the window and stick your head out for more oxygen. There isn’t any! “Ash, are you sure?” She was sure.
A few months and $2,100 later, Ash crossed the finish line at 5:30:34 on Saturday afternoon. Randi and I were blubbering messes as Ash took the medal from around her neck and put it on Randi saying, “Don’t worry about your legs; I’ll run for you.” (Damn it, Ash, you did it to me again.)
I sit here at my desk, martini in hand, the marathon medal draped over the computer monitor, and ponder the events of this past weekend. My friend, Ashley, didn’t just run for Randi; she ran for me, and she ran for you, and those friends (and strangers) who donated their hard earned wages in a tumultuous time where those wages don’t stretch nearly as far as they once did. I am touched by your generosity. With these funds, given to a foundation running their own nonpartisan race for the cure, I have no doubt that miraculous medical breakthroughs of all kinds are on the horizon. Call it inner peace, call it calm resolve, hell, call it the cumulative effects of the martini I’m drinking, but I am confident that real relief for so much human suffering is just around that next turn, that next medical mile.
Events of this weekend also remind me that life is not a metaphorical sprint just to get in those skinny jeans. It’s a long marathon of a journey…if we’re extremely lucky. You see, as Ash was winning her race for Parkinson’s research, her younger sister, at just 26 years young, was losing her competition with addiction. It’s heartbreaking and beyond logical comprehension. With quite a bit of my own maternal anguish, I put Ash on a plane back to Florida this morning so that she could get back to her mother and father and to an extended family that needs a champion.
I raise my glass to Ashley, and I encourage you all to do the same. She carried us all during that race, through the thin air, over twenty-six miles, and that mother-loving hill at the end, to one personal victory after another. Now it’s time for us to carry her.
Ash, when life gives you shaky, honey, make martinis. L’chaim!