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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

Chicken Flambé

Terri Reinhart

We had the best chicken dinner tonight. It turned out just right - a little toasty crispy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside, sauce with apricot preserves, a little onion, and a dusting of tarragon. Couldn't have been better if I'd tried.

And that's the problem. There is no way I can try and replicate this dish. The flambé, you see, was not intentional. Methinks the oil just got too hot and *poof* suddenly it was flambéing straight up toward the ceiling. Several things went through my brain simultaneously. One was "don't put out the fire with water". Another was, "turn off the heat and it'll burn itself out". And the third was "holy shit".

I still cook dinner most of the time, though I get lazy and do easy meals as much as possible. It's not really anything to do with my Parkinson's - though Chris still gets nervous when I use knives in the kitchen. It's mostly because I'm trying to be a caregiver and care receiver at the same time and, since there aren't enough hours in the day to do both, the caregiver side gets most of the attention. And since there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything and feel rested and relatively sane, I tend to go on automatic and don't always think everything through or watch what I'm doing closely enough. 

There's something comforting about this time in my life. It's incredibly stressful at times, such as when the nurse and paramedic suggest Mom needs to be checked out in the ER and Mom says no, and they look at me and say, "You've got POA? It's your call." It's both exhilarating and exhausting to have our three young grandchildren for a day, but when our granddaughter hugs my legs and looks up at me and says, "I want you to stay with us all the time", I go mushy and can't think of a better way to spend my day.

We went to a party last summer and the first 5 women we talked to mentioned how they were taking care of at least one parent. Then they told us all about their grandchildren and showed us photos on their cellphones. I realized suddenly that we were all the same. We were all about the same age and, despite having dressed up for a party, there was a certain look about us as if to say, "I don't care if my hair isn't perfect or my shirt isn't ironed and my contribution to the potluck came in a bag from Sprouts. I'm here." 

There are lots of us caregivers and grandmas in the world. We're all tired, stressed, overworked, and both loving and hating it at the same time. It's a great equalizer. It's been 8 years since my diagnosis of Parkinson's disease and I haven't felt this normal for at least a decade. Get any group of us grandmas together and you'll hear us slurring our words and see us occasionally walking into walls. Sometimes we come out with phrases which make it painfully obvious we spend a lot of time with preschoolers and elderly folks. Of course, I was walking into walls before I was a grandma and caregiver, but now I don't even have to blame it on my Parkinson's. 

And I'm not going to blame my Parkinson's or anything else for the chicken flambé. I'm opting for a defense I learned from my kindergarten students a long time ago, when they would jump off a swing and land in what looked to be a very painful position. They'd just pick themselves up, glare at me, and say, "I meant to do that."

It was a really good chicken dinner. Obviously, I meant to do that.