Driving with Parkinson’s Disease

On the first day of vacay, just come back from the beach, sandy and relaxed, I got Chris’s phone call with the bad news.

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.

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7 thoughts on “Driving with Parkinson’s Disease

  1. So sorry about the wheels MB, and about this development 😦 Will insurance help with a replacement car? I imagine not much at all. If I hear of anyone in your area with wheels for you, I’ll let you know.

  2. As someone with PD, I can feel for what you are going through and also for what Chris is facing. It’s an ugly disease that robs everyone in the end. My prayers are for each of you.

  3. I like your line about picking your battles with someone with a chronic disease. my mom has a chronic illness that affects her energy levels and memory. it is a hard and at times frustrating experience.

  4. I am pretty sure not every Park. patient has a strong, smart, sensitive, joy-filled mate at their side throughout. I love you both and am looking forward to seeing you in Westport this summer. XO, Scott

    1. I love you too, man. And while I AM all those things, I am often not as patient as I’d like to be. But awareness leads to acceptance and then to action. So I’m working on it. Hope to have time at the beach with you!

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