My Opa

When I got home tonight, I found my Opa (“grandfather” in German) online and found out that his neurologist visit didn’t go well today and they’re having to up his dosage of meds to control his Parkinson’s Disease. Ummmm wait a second… Parkinson’s? Apparently, he’s been diagnosed for the last few months and told my mom a few weeks ago. I was a bit irritated that she hadn’t told me but I’m thinking now (after raging about it for a few hours) that she was waiting for a more opportune time when I wasn’t dealing with death and car accidents and other unpleasant things. (I talked to her after I talked to Opa and apparently, she doesn’t know much more than I do. And yes, I refrained from raging at her — after all, this is her father and it’s something she’s dealing with as well.) Opa told me that apparently, he’s suspected that he might have it for a while now and they just confirmed it. When he told me his symptoms, it clicked in my mind and I remember him having some facial tremors in April when I was there and also at my wedding in March 2002. It’s apparently in the early stages and they’re trying to arrest the symptoms. His doctor is predicting a good 5 years before things get too bad which will be when Opa turns 90 years old. It’s a blessing that it’s been diagnosed early; but it’s still sad news because it’s an admission that my grandparents are getting older and their health is starting to go more rapidly. Admittedly, I’m sad and I’m on the verge of tears; but the tears don’t seem to be coming, which means that it’s not my time to cry yet.

As bad as I’m feeling right now, I can’t help but think that this is devestating for my Opa. He is an amazing man and as my mom told me, it’s probably taken him awhile to get used to the idea of having Parkinson’s Disease. This is a man who didn’t graduate from college because WWII started the semester before he would have graduated but still is one of the most literate people I’ve ever met. I memorized quite a bit of poetry as a child because he would talk about poems he’d read or had to memorize when he was in school and I wanted to know what he was talking about. He was a pilot for United Airlines for 30 years and raised four kids. He and my Oma maintain their property in Washington (which is on par with most small farms) and one in the wilds of British Columbia. Parkinson’s is a disease which can rob one of one’s mind and I can’t help but think that such a thought would be devestating for one such as my Opa who is so active, even at 85 years old.

Granted, the doctor did say that Opa would probably have 5 more good years (which means that everything would be bad when he hits 90 years old) but still… I remember my Opa as the one who would take us flying before he had to sell his plane in 1987 due to heart problems and the one who talked of his childhood in Oregon while we were picking wild huckleberries in British Columbia. I remember him swing-dancing with my Oma when music from their college years would come on and taking me to their Episcopal church in Washington where I learned to love liturgy and balancing bulletins, hymnals, and prayerbooks. (This was where I also learned to turn pages with my pinkies and to open the BCP to exactly page 356.)

Abide with me , fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me…