Tomorrow is my dad's 70th birthday.
He told me several years ago that he wouldn't make it to 70; he didn't believe that he'd live past the age his own father died at. He did that last year, and he told me that everything past it was just gravy.
I know that there have been moments where he was ready to give up. I know there have been moments where I was willing to let him give up. He is a vibrant mind trapped in a failing body, and just that thought is so painful that I cannot think it without falling apart.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It's not labeled as a terminal disease, but it damn well ought to be.
It's terminated my father's spirit, his sense of community, and his independence. It terminated his career. It forced him from his home, from his wife, from his friends. My father sometimes can't feed himself. He needs help to stand up from his wheelchair. And the 30 to 60 minutes of energy and mobility he might have in a day is fleeting and fraught with the worry of my mom and myself. Oh, it's terminal, my friends. It even terminated my family.
We threw my dad a surprise party for his 60th birthday. He'd never had one before. We filled up the Country Club restaurant with people. My whole family was there. My mother's card club was in attendance. My father's poker buddies were there. Their friends from the golf course. Their co-workers. People from town, old classmates, and long-lost hell-raisers all sat together. My best friends -- who adore my parents -- even made the 5 hour trip to celebrate him.
My dad drank beer and cracked jokes and danced with my mom. He made a speech -- that wasn't new. He got a little teary -- that was. He was surrounded by love and buoyed by friends. It was such a good night.
That was a long, long time ago. Ten years never seemed so long. So much has happened since then. So many things that can't be undone. So many mistakes; so much hurt. So many empty spaces at that table now.
And I've got no idea how to fill them.