Bryan M. Roberts, Associate Dean at the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College and member of the MJFF Patient Council, blogs at Stepping Forward: Life with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease. He shares his light-hearted reflection on being a dad with Young-onset Parkinson's disease.
I tend to take very few things in life seriously — including my own health. One of the only things that I'm truly dedicated to is being a good father. This also gives me a large amount of anxiety — will my daughter see me as being "sick"? Will it diminish her childhood in significant ways? Make her feel that she received a raw deal in the "parent lottery"? Will this feeling engender low self-esteem and lead to poor life decisions — like dating a NBA player with a neck tattoo, becoming one of those idiots who enjoys the World Cup or, sweet Jesus, enrolling at Syracuse University?
This has been weighing heavily on my mind recently as Avery turns four. I have had Parkinson's for her entire life. She'll never know Bryan Roberts: the guy who was a stud athlete; Bryan Roberts: the guy who never got sick; Bryan Roberts: the guy who almost chose military service over college; Bryan Roberts: the guy who dated the model (she is probably better off not knowing about this), etc.
Then I found myself at a Michael J. Fox Foundation fundraiser standing next to Michael's son, Sam (not to be confused with the other Sam Fox who runs long distances and climbs mountains for sport). We got to talking and after a while of discussion, started talking about raising kids while having PD. I disclosed my fear of seriously messing her up and then Sam put my mind at ease. He said:
"Growing up it wasn't dad who has Parkinson's disease. Dad is just dad."
That simple phrase really put things in perspective. My daughter won't know what I was or what I am not, she will just know that I'm her father and I love her very much. Parkinson's disease may be a disease of diminishment but it doesn't have to be. Some roles, like a parent, are too big to be diminished.
So, happy birthday, Young Roberts — your dad loves you and is incredibly proud of you.
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