I wrote the following in 2007 after watching my Dad shuffle slowly to his recliner one evening. His upper body had begun to wither, and he was stooped and frail. Macular degeneration allowed him some peripheral vision, enough to allow him passage to his destinations around the house. Reaching the chair, he lightly touched the arm, steadied himself, and in slow motion eased into the recliner. With tired, rounded shoulders he leaned to the left and drifted into sleep.
This lion of a man who once roared his way through life was now physically small and dependent upon others for daily routines, sitting down, standing, and walking. And though we probably didn't realize it then, he was going to depend on us, his family, for maintaining his dignity. We were to soon learn about a journey called Parkinson's. That journey continues today.
if youth is fleeting
then old age must last
an even shorter time
each day passing from weeks to years
'til stooping over,
bent and slowly
we walk to an oversized chair
with eyes shut tight
sleep brings vision,
a gentle balm for
slipshod away with
Daily walks were a routine for my parents. Beneath the pines, live oaks, and sweetgum trees of East Texas they would walk each evening around the perimeter of their 10 acre home. Dad had begun to have some difficulty with his steps, and with the MD he wasn't able to see the path well enough to negotiate the grass, twigs, and variances of the terrain. He would bend forward and shuffle along, creating more potential for stumbling or falling. Not knowing how Parkinson's was affecting his movements, Mom would encourage him to stand up straight and look forward.
One evening, I was in the yard with him and we were talking about how he could improve his posture and his walk. In my ignorance I offered suggestions and we practiced walking. If it didn't quite solve the problem, it at least offered him some measure of hope for better mobility. It gave him a glimmer of confidence.
stand straight - shoulders up- head high-
your posture is feeble and bent
his caretaker, angel and wife encouraged.
later he sat on the porch facing dusk
reigning in tears behind octogenarian eyes
all but blind;
sorry for letting us down.
for not walking taller.
apologetic for the burdens of his infirmities -
"blind, deaf and dumb" he said to me.
his once little boy then soothed
and we practiced the walk, the gait,
with shoulders straight
and with purpose restored
to his life again
that night he marched upright
Poems © 2007 by R. Burnett Baker