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A Caregiver’s Gift
By Darcy Heller Sternberg 

(Page 3 of 3)

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 master craftsman.

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 Times.

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