Pars For Parkinson's

An NJ based 501-C3 Charity for Parkinson's Disease

Don’t Be So Careful What You Wish For….

December 3, 2012
Debby Flancbaum
Posted Jul 27 2011
            People celebrate all different types of anniversaries. We commemorate weddings, bar mitzvahs, yarzheits, first dates, the day we met our bashert, buying our first car-the list goes on and on. In our house, my husband, Lou, and I always remember that on May 17, 2007 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Each year that passes without significant deterioration to his physical condition is a cause for celebration. Usually, after a good (in this case, no news is good news) report from his neurologist, we go out on the town for a lovely steak dinner and a bottle of cheap, sweet Rashi wine. But, this year, the fourth anniversary of that fateful evening that forever changed our lives, and ended his career as a surgeon, my husband celebrated in an entirely different way.
            Last fall, Lou had mentioned to me that his lifelong dream was to whitewater raft down the Grand Canyon. I don’t really relate to these kinds of dreams, because all of my dreams occur on dry land with my feet firmly planted on the ground. My dreams involve shopping, spas, eating on the mirpesset at the King David Hotel or reading a book on the beach in Cancun. Although he didn’t characterize it this way, I think this rafting extravaganza was an important item on his “bucket list.”
            I am a person who prides herself on really listening to the people I love. It gives me great pleasure to help them make their dreams come true. Lou always advises people to “be careful what you wish for,” when they are dealing with me. For example, a few years ago, he mentioned that he had always wanted to take piano lessons. Knowing me as he does, he should not have been so surprised when the baby grand appeared in our living room. So, as soon as Lou was out of earshot, I started my research about his trip to the Canyon.
            I know that I’m making this sound like an easy task. He asks for something-and with a snap of my fingers, I deliver. In this case, I was overwhelmed with fear just thinking about him having this type of adventure.
            However, in an attempt to be a loving and supportive spouse, I did start googling rafting trips. Through some keen detective work on my part I found that a trip to the lower portion of the Grand Canyon involved flying in a tiny airplane (the airline actually weighs each passenger before they board so they can figure out how to seat you to balance the plane), riding in a helicopter and three days of rafting in the 55 degree Colorado River. There was nothing about this trip that seemed like a prudent idea for a middle-aged guy with a potbelly – even if he didn’t have Parkinson’s disease.
            But, a dream is a dream, so with great trepidation, I decided to at least explore the possibility of him doing something so obviously crazy. I called the rafting company and immediately became friends with the woman on the other end of the phone. I asked her a zillion questions-most of which pertained to my husband’s safety and welfare. She made everything sound so well organized and professional. She addressed all of my concerns with infinite patience. Finally, I took her into my confidence and told her that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease and I was somewhat concerned that this trip might be “too much” for him.
            Sometimes, I believe, Hashem brings particular people into your life when you need them the most. The voice over the phone told me that her husband was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 53 – a weird coincidence to be sure. She said that from the moment he received the news, even though his symptoms were quite mild, all he’s done is sit on the couch and feel depressed and mope. “You don’t know how lucky you are that your husband wants to do these things. This is a fantastic trip and he’ll have a wonderful time,” she reassured.
            So, I got the paperwork together, sent in his deposit and he was ready to go. Through some cajoling on his part, Lou got six friends to join him on this great adventure. Some of them had major issues of their own-a previous heart attack, a knee replacement, etc.
            At the beginning of June, these seven special men went off on the adventure of a lifetime. They experienced the majestic beauty of the West and were awed by Hashem’s creations. They tested their own strength and agility and they came home with huge smiles on their faces and great stories to tell. In shul, they became “celebrities” and they all enjoyed being in the limelight.
            At the end of next month, we will be hosting a “rafting reunion” bbq at our place in the Catskills. I’ve already been given a head’s up that the guys would like to have another rafting adventure-perhaps the Snake River in Idaho. I realize now how fortunate I am to be married to someone who is upbeat and positive and wants to enjoy his own life and our life together. So, whatever dream he wishes for-I will try to make it come true!

Debby Flancbaum is the author of  The Jewish Woman Next Door (Urim, 2007) and can be reached at