Parkinson's disease is ugly.
Today I can actually see the Parkinson's.
Over the years, his shakes often appeared commonplace and easy to ignore, like one would dismiss a stutter or nervous tick. But lately the Parkinson's has moved into his mind and given rise to a dementia that exists in a clear form to see. And this disease which is slowly killing such a strong man, my father and best friend, is toxic in nature.
Parkinson's poisonous corrosion lives in my dad's blank eyes, its ugly debilitating rust reflects in his sloping body language. Some of this is absurd, like how he's convinced his wife of 47 years (my mother) is having a lesbian relationship with our nursing aide Marie.
Some of this is heartbreaking like when he confuses me for his dead brother.
One thing is for sure: All of this is ugly.
In fact, getting old is often ugly.
Moreover, the way we treat the elderly is often uglier.
There exists rampant neglect from family members and rotten apples in nursing homes. And politicos who connive ways to cut Social Security and Medicaid to a point that millions of elderly live in poverty and may very well seriously face the concept of death panels in the near future.
The fact that we are living longer should not be a burden but a blessing. We must always remember the sacrifices and love that our parents and forefathers gave to us unconditionally as not only humans but also Americans. It was the Greatest Generation that allowed for American Exceptionalism to truly prevail in the 20th century and even if those values are currently in jeopardy, under no circumstances should we turn our back on those who came before us.
We must never fall victim to distractions, greed, addictions or anything that would allow us to live in neglect of the elderly, no matter how difficult and trying the circumstances.
My father is a street smart New Yorker of eighty-seven years, a veteran of the Korean War, and watching him slowly decay into the abyss of this deterioration is completely bittersweet. But I know I'm not the only son dealing with this passage and I know my father is not the only senior.
We should not only strive to create a safe and secure environment for our elderly, but we must do everything to make sure they experience quality of life. Without socialization, stimulus and activity, there is almost no reason to exist and there are too many elderly out there with no quality of life.
So finding ways for seniors to interact with others, like in Adult Day Care centers, should be priorities for caretakers and leaders. This is very much an in-your-face issue. And we must respect and carry awareness of this issue. This is also a direct call to sons and daughters across the nation, many of whom are too pre-occupied with their own lives to keep a focus on their parents and grandparents.
In addition, stress on caregivers is very much a real thing.
The Pope said it best.
When asked what were the two biggest problems facing the world today, he didn't say ISIS or climate change or the Syrian refugee crisis, as many expected. The Pope said the two biggest problems on this planet are a lack of opportunity for the youth and loneliness in our elderly.
Loneliness in the elderly.
Think about that and don't forget it.