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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.

Filtering by Tag: family

The Resilience and the Fragility of Life

Terri Reinhart

The young robin must have flown into our window. When we arrived home after errands, it was lying on its back, perfectly aligned on the arm of our porch swing as though it had just decided to take a nap. Though I knew it was dead, I sat and held it in my hands, marveling at its perfect beauty and almost willing it to open its eyes again. Of course it didn't and I buried it on the far side of our raspberry patch.

I'm tired. Two funerals in one week have left me and my family physically and emotionally exhausted. Being greeted by a dead robin was not among the list of things I could deal with right then. 

Life can seem, at times, to be oh, so fragile. A little bird still learning how to control its flight, hits the glass at just the right place, just the right angle, just the right speed. A young woman's doctor doesn't realize how severe her infection is. A teacher finds out he has cancer. A man with a heart of gold dies of a massive heart attack. 

All life is a gift.

I've cried and yelled and shook my fist at God many times these past weeks. How dare he let a 32-year-old woman die! How dare he strike good men with good hearts in the prime of their lives! (okay, I think retirement age is prime) And why the robin? I like robins. 

"All life is a gift and it owes us nothing. It doesn't owe us longevity. It doesn't owe us good health or wealth or happiness. It is pure gift." 

I don't know the source of this saying. When I heard it the first time, it sounded almost cold - too objective. The more I read it, I began to see the wisdom in these words. We had the gift of our niece, Dani, for 32 years. In our minds, it's not long enough, but we had 32 years of the gift of her life. Our students had the gift of Mike Baker's teaching, humor, and compassion for many years. I can't begin to tell you how many people were touched by the gift of Dean Stefan's humor and warmth and generosity. To the universe, the universal, the supreme Good: Thank you for the gift of these people in our lives.

After experiencing a time when life seems so fragile, it's good to also remember how resilient life can be. My dad will be 94 in September. He didn't do any of the right things to assure longevity - except for having longevity run in his family. Our friend, Carolyn Osborn is, at 72, one of the few remaining survivors from the era of polio and the iron lung. There have been times she almost left us, but somehow, miraculously, she has come back every time. We've raised orphaned puppies from day 5 weighing a few ounces to wriggling piles of love, puppy kisses, and leaping on our laps. Our grandchildren and our gardens are growing as quickly as the weeds.

And the other night I dreamt of a tree growing at the back of our raspberry patch. As it grew, white blossoms appeared. They didn't turn into flowers, but out of each one, there came a tiny, living bird.

And they started to sing.

 

Brunch for a Bunch or Growing up with the Reinhart's

Terri Reinhart

A couple of girls in my high school class were arguing one day about who is included in one's immediate family. One insisted on only including your parents and siblings. The other just laughed. No, she said, your immediate family includes your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and all your cousins, and everyone comes to every family gathering.

My mother-in-law, Natalie, was even more inclusive. Family gatherings included all of the above plus a few neighbors, several of her teacher friends, friends of her children, and maybe a family or two from the school where she taught.

I think I fell in love with my in-laws as quickly as I fell in love with my husband. Chris was smart. He took me to meet his family very soon after we met. It was a Saturday or Sunday evening and everyone had come home for dinner. I learned, over the next few months, Chris and his 5 siblings were free to invite friends for dinner and they frequently did.

Natalie loved to cook. She had been a nutritionist in the army during WWII, stationed in England. She was used to cooking for hungry crowds. This was good, because during the next year, three of her children married, including Chris and I. As our families grew, the family gatherings grew, too. Before long, all of us were married and bringing our children along. You'd think with 6 children and their spouses and 18 grandchildren, this would be enough immediate family for anyone, but Natalie found people endlessly interesting and there would often be someone new to meet, in addition to a few old friends, colleagues, and neighbors. If anything, the gatherings became larger and included more people as the years went by.

Natalie passed away in November of 2006, five years after her husband, Paul. Chris and I visited her the day before she had the seizure from which she never awoke. She dozed on and off, but whenever she was awake, she asked about everyone in our family. Just before we left, she woke up to say goodbye. Looking up at us with bright eyes and an even brighter smile, she said, “It's been fun, hasn't it!” On the way home, Chris told me he felt she was speaking more of her life than of the moment.  It wasn't until later, we learned these had been her last words.

We still get together, but not as much. Natalie was the matriarch and truly, I believe people came together to be with her. She left us with memories of warm meals, large family gatherings which never felt crowded, and a gentle sense of humor which occasionally included novelty eyeglasses (with eyeballs on springs) and an umbrella hat.

She also left her recipes, organized in cardboard boxes, some typed, some handwritten, and some with the unmistakable purplish blue print of the school mimeograph machine. On the recipes, she kept a diary of sorts; notes on doubling the recipes and how much was left over, who came to each gathering, and how they set up the tables and chairs. Our son, John, took some of these recipes and created a lovely recipe book, which is available online.  Take a look!  He included copies of some of the original recipes, notes and all:

Easter Brunch and a Bunch More

Now, our own family is growing. Our third grandchild is due to arrive any day now. Just having our kids and grandkids together makes for a full house. Lately, however, both Chris and I have been missing the large Reinhart family gatherings and this year, we invited everyone we could think of to join us for Easter. It was wonderful!

We plan to continue this tradition, though I would never try to take Natalie's place. That would be silly. For one thing, those would be big googly-eyed glasses to fill.

clicking on the photo will take you to the online store where one can purchase googly-eyed glasses & other novelties

clicking on the photo will take you to the online store where one can purchase googly-eyed glasses & other novelties