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To be in June

Friday July 03, 2015

June is something of a Dad’s Month. You may say, “Well, sure: Father’s Day. Doink.” In our family, this bundle of weeks has ranged from graduation to the US Open—all opportunity to acknowledge Dad. I’ll go so far as to say that we’ve exceeded the calendar’s authority.


My dad even pinned on his bulletin board the neon-orange, disability parking permit from June 13th, 2015. “Mobility Impairment: Husky Stadium”. It’s pretty telling: whenever we leave the grocery store, or the movie theater, he immediately swipes the standard-blue one from his rear-view mirror and chucks it into the console.

Of course, the grandeur of UW graduation is limited for a dad with Parkinson’s—VIP pass or not. The stadium is a steel bowl. In 80 degrees, it’s nothing short of coliseum-cookware. By the end of the procession (finally, as much as I can appreciate Christine Gregoire’s blend of campaign inspiration), my dad was almost forsaking the place.

That feeling carried over to my graduation party. Chips, dip and conversation: none of which my dad can swallow. He engaged for about thirty minutes or so, nodding and thumbs-upping. Soon enough, he pulled an Irish exit.

Grad

My dad has become somewhat estranged from evening. I waver to admit how difficult it is, when he left my graduation party. Because, hell, it’s not like I have to stand there, physically stuck amid the mingling. But it is difficult. It’s downright demoralizing. The party’s toll on his energy was pretty high; even higher on his self-esteem. In a moment, with the breeze of the door, I was stuck, too, with guilt.

The thing is, I’ve spent these few posts defining Dad. What does it mean to be one with Parkinson’s? As a family, how do we identify, and learn from ourselves, in terms of it? These questions are significant; there’s a reason I mull them over. But I’m not sure they really have an end.

Our family relationships strain and sail like any others’—they’re ongoing processes. Great art, debate and drunken spectacle have and will take up these beautiful dynamics. Parkinson’s Disease in Spring has operatic potential. But perhaps, like I did with my cap, I need to release the theories—that I can always make whole a complex array of family, of Dad and (only then) of myself. To be without this long logic is to be vulnerable, with my head bare…and open.

I’m humble to have graduated; I’m prouder to revel in the love that got me here. How my dad exercises his identity is ultimately up to him. His fear of independent selfhood is no greater than my own.

And so, with June come Dads—and daughters. And the people in between.

Bette JaneBette Jane
NWPF Guest Blogger

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