By Darcy Heller Sternberg
This plea extends to other areas of care as
well. For the most part, he assumes responsibility for his
own needs, unless he is rushed, agitated or under pressure.
Buttoning his shirt, tying his shoelaces and buckling his
belt become increasingly frustrating. Good naturedly, he
eventually waves the white flag. Last week, he accidentally
tore a five-dollar bill in half. I considered fixing it, but
then realized that this was a man who once built model
ships; he taped the two pieces together as if he were a
So it’s become a day by day process – when to take
charge, when to retreat.
Through it all, he never complains or misses a chance to
smile or joke, “Hey, women even give up their seat for me on
a bus!” No support group, no online research about
Parkinson’s, definitely no self-help books. I used to see
this as denial (why don’t you want to help yourself?), but
now I view him as a person who will not give into his
disease nor be reminded of it at every turn.
It’s not easy keeping up with his optimism, despite being
13 years his junior; but deep down, I know this is what
sustains me through moments of joy and weakness—a gift no
one but Marty could give me.
Darcy Heller Sternberg lives in New
York City where she teaches public speaking at the Borough
of Manhattan Community College (part of the City University
of New York). Her essays have appeared in The New York
Times, The Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine and The Litchfield