After I drove myself and the kids to our flight out of JFK, Chris took the driver’s seat. About five minutes later, he rear-ended a car. It was on the ramp from the airport to the highway (the Long Island Expressway?). He had been fiddling with the radio and didn’t see the car stopped at the red light in front of him.
The airbags inflated. No one was hurt. Our car was totaled. Chris told me, “My driving days may be limited.”
That night after I got that call, I didn’t sleep well. It didn’t ruin my vacation. It just felt like a signpost on the unhappy road of the progress of Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease. (He’s had PD nine years now.) Parkinson’s is a steady decline.
I have not enjoyed driving with Chris for years. Lately, he could hardly drive a city block without me clutching the dashboard or pressing my foot on a phantom break. I tried to bite my tongue, but often blurted out, “Look out!”
So, when we were together in the car, I always drove, especially with the kids in the car.
This is tough stuff. But I’m glad I didn’t have to tell him, point-blank, “I think your driving sucks.” How do tell someone that? It feels terrible. Yet, it would feel even worse if there had been a serious accident and I’d have to apologize to some stranger, knowing as I did, that his driving sucked. Maybe a small fender-bender is a blessing in disguise.
When you live with someone who is chronically ill, you have to pick your battles. You have to witness a decline. And you often don’t want to speak your truth.
You have to take over the driving. Sometimes it’d be nice to doze in the passenger seat and trust that the driver’s doing just fine. That doesn’t happen when you’re married to someone with Parkinson’s. At least, it doesn’t happen for me.
He can drive other things, but he can’t drive the family car. For that matter, neither can I. Because we don’t have one any more.
- Recognizing the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms (everydayhealth.com)