The somber expression on the neurologist’s face spoke volumes – correction: screamed volumes. A synopsis of Dale’s symptoms coupled with an overview of what to expect with atypical Parkinsonism (no precise diagnosis at that point) left us scratching our heads about our future.
I asked the doctor if my 69-year-old husband could still drive for a while. Mustering his best diplomacy, the doctor asked Dale, “How would you feel if a dog ran out in front of you, and you hit it? Worse, how would you feel if a little child ran out in front of you, and you couldn’t stop?”
Dale paused, trying to take in the doctor’s questions. Then, “I guess I’ll give the truck keys to Carla.”
Dale never drove again after that conversation. Neither of us talked about it for a couple of days. We went home and stared at the truck he loved, each wondering how all our times together in the truck could be history already. My late mother drove until she was 87, giving it up reluctantly when some of her children hid the car keys.
Drip-drip-drip. Another piece of Dale chiseled away. Another surreal impact on our lives. From the time a teen-aged Dale glimpsed his first muscle car and turned up the amp on a Beach Boys tune, driving became part of him. For a man, turning over the keys not only means forfeiting his independence, but also forfeiting his masculinity. Dale wasn’t ready for this.
Drip-drip-drip. The realization dawned slowly on me that I would henceforth be doing all the driving. The grocery shopping, the chauffeuring, all the quick errands like grabbing a gallon of paint at Home Depot, or picking up chlorine tablets at Leslie’s, dropping off the cleaning, making a bank deposit – all that are typically shared by a married couple based on who’s available or whose commute wound by the store. All this now fell to me, and I wasn’t ready.
Somehow, we adjust our routines to accommodate the newest loss, reinventing ourselves – again. And we mourn -- because grief comes early in progressive diseases, and takes up residence. Its unwelcome presence permeates our daily lives, and it promises to stay until long after Dale’s and my last good-bye.