Thinking back to the early 1990s, it’s easy to track the signs of Parkinson’s disease developing. Hindsight always makes us smarter, doesn’t it?

I even remember peculiar snippets in the late 80s that may have been warnings of the onset. Wally craved Tim Horton donuts, the sweeter the better. If I had ever known how many he was consuming per day, I would have been alarmed just for the cholesterol levels alone. And salt. I’ve never seen anyone sprinkle clouds of salt on his food the way Wally did, and does. Again I attributed it to his playing tennis almost every day. He needed salt to replace his sweat, but in truth, I rarely saw him sweat or ‘glisten,’ even on the hottest days or after his longest matches.

At some point during this period, his right forefinger began to tremble, but he never mentioned it to me. I don’t know if he told his doctor either. Tennis buddies noticed it was easier to beat him, but said nothing to me or to Wally. One thought his game was getting better and was proud he could beat Wally. Another noticed his serve didn’t have the force it once did, though Wally still won games because he could keep his opponents running. Neither one of these buddies said a word to me until years later, after he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Their playing hadn’t improved beyond his as they thought then; his game had been “off” for physical reasons, so their wins didn’t feel so triumphant.

I was deeply absorbed in writing a novel and never noticed signs of depression until one day his broker called me because she was quite concerned about him. I felt terrible that I hadn’t noticed any changes. We both assumed that the depressed real estate market and the switch to computer technology frustrated him. He was working as hard as ever but not showing the kind of results he normally produced. That would discourage any top real estate agent, and Wally had reigned for a number of years in Toronto.

As I observed him more closely, I realized he wasn’t multi-tasking through the day. Normally he balanced his routine between cold calls for new listings and research for buyers’ preferences before taking clients out on prospective house tours in the afternoon or evening. Often I went with him to agents’ Open Houses. Now he seemed to work more methodically and slower, a task at a time.

It’s easy to blame aging, but is it really? My father was 31 years older than Wally, but he was still consulting for mining companies in his late seventies. In my view, Wally was still a pup compared to Dad.

I noticed these things, but they didn’t sink in until one day, in 1995, we were visiting my Dad, and my brother took a picture of Dad, Wally and me. Days later, when I looked at the photo, I was shocked to see Wally standing shorter than Dad. Wally was six feet. Dad, five-foot-eleven. That couldn’t be right. Since Dad was so much older it made sense that he would shrink, not Wally.

Wally is the baby of three brothers, each nine years apart from the other. But, at age 63, Wally looked older than his eldest brother eighteen years his senior, just as in that picture with Dad, he looked older than him. In my mind, it didn’t make any sense. Yet, when Wally returned from his annual physical exam, he was declared as healthy as a horse. Everything was normal, including his cholesterol levels. I decided I was being a worry wart over nothing and let it go. My conclusion: Everyone’s different and we can’t compare them.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi there! I'm reading this and thinking of my own realization when my husband at age 55 was diagnosed with PD. He'd told me some of his co-workers noticed him dragging his left foot, and then I started noticing this also. But what struck me was a comment I had made to him a year or so before his diagnosis. After I read the symptoms of PD…one being the "lack of facial expression"…I had once made the remark that "if he was so unhappy in our marriage, why didn't he just get out?" He was undoubtedly confused because I was reading his facial expressions as him being miserable. That symptom has also affected out relationships with friends who thought he was not having a good time in their presence and they've quit inviting us out with them. This one friend realized a couple of years later, through a conversation with our massage therapist, that his perceived lack of interest or enthusiasm was a PD symptom. I think she felt guilty finding this out, but our friendship never has been the same. I hope you and your husband are doing well. My hubby is still struggling to work each day, but gets very tired and frustrated (as I just helped him get a sweatshirt over his head!). I think your proactive approach at housing is realistic and I've threatened to move out of our 2-story home to accommodate him. In the beginning, I was very aware of obstacles but have grown less diligent. I'm a clutter bug and know this poses a problem for his safety and mine too. I'm only 53 and my hubbie 59. Well, I've rambled long enough. Take care and good luck. ~ LouiseP.S. If you'd like to email privately, let me know. I can always use a sounding board. Hah!

  2. Bonnie Toews says:

    Oh boy! I never looked to see if there comments added to my blog. I'm so sorry, Louise. If you ever do continue to follow this blog, please get in touch so I can give you my email address. I have posted it in comments following much later blogs around March — the one where there are 12 comments.BonnieBonnie

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