Parkinson’s disease, named after a doctor who first described the disease in 1817, is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system with an unknown origin. Most people first experience it by watching an older relative’s labored walking or their eating with shaky hands. Public awareness campaigns such as those by Michael J. Fox have helped people have a better understanding of this disease. In my case it was as a little boy watching wide-eyed as my grandmother tried to drink a cup of coffee while it spilled on the way to her mouth … and that was with two hands holding the shaking cup. Like what happened to my grandmother as the disease progresses dementia and depression are typically seen. Treatment is usually effective in the beginning stages through the use of neurotransmitter medications. But, these drugs become ineffective at treating the symptoms over time. There is no cure for the disease.
In Lori’s Lessons, author Carol Ferring Shepley tells the story of how Lori Patin, who has had Parkinson’s for over fifteen years, and her husband Bob are dealing with the disease. It is an inspirational memoir that focuses on how someone has taken on the challenges of having Parkinson’s and through that has learned about living. But more than that it is a book about the Patins and how they are dealing with Parkinson’s together. As much a story about what Lori has learned about life, her lessons, it is a story about what a caretaker can learn about what it means to be a loving partner to a spouse who is living with a chronic disease.
From a coma in 2011 with Bob making plans for Lori’s care at home, to currently living at home with the disease in remission Lori and Bob have quite a story to tell. This is not one of those miraculous Hollywood types, but one that focuses on what life can be when you focus on living with a foundation of love, hope and faith. This story offers a way to achieve the miracles you create yourself when you blend health focused activities with the right mix of positive thoughts and a very involved loving spouse.
So, Lori’s Lessons for me is a love story between two people who deeply care for each other and have made a commitment to be “with” each other. I have watched Bob call her every couple of hours when we have been on business trips together and know that he provides physical support with her activities of daily living when he is at home. He has adjusted his work responsibilities, so he is not gone from home as much as earlier in his career. But, more than the specific activities that Bob does for Lori he is “aware” of Lori in ways that most couples have never experienced with their spouse. To me this memoir is as much about what Lori has learned because of this disease, but what Bob has learned about what it means to be a husband. From this perspective, it is a story of the love between two people who accept each other as they are now and have committed to focus on living together every day.