What I Learned While Chasing One Last Rocket Launch with My Dad
As I slowed to a walk, I was a bit more out of breath than I might’ve expected after a very short jog. There was no two ways about it, I needed to get in better shape if I was going to be able to keep up with my dad and his walker. Of course, this little jog was a bit unexpected so maybe my sudden fatigue was a result of my body not receiving adequate notice that its services were needed. And it was late afternoon in late July in central Florida, so the sun was hot and it felt like I was sucking in warm soup with each breath rather than air.
My dad was on the move again. There was a rocket launch scheduled for 6:24, so he slipped out of his bedroom, out the front door, down the driveway, and around the corner before anyone noticed. When I located him after a few minutes of frantic searching, he was halfway down the next street over. Pushing his gray, four-wheeled walker. Moving quickly, if erratically, at a stumbling and lurching jog.
I chased him down. Stopped a few paces to his right toward the middle of the vacant street, took a few deep breaths, and gave a little wave in his direction.
“Hey there,” I said.
I never knew exactly how to strike up a conversation in these situations. It’s a pretty unique social scenario. What is one supposed to say when chasing down one’s father who has Parkinson’s and shouldn’t be roaming the neighborhood alone?
“Where you heading?”
That seemed like as good an option as any.
“Well, to watch the launch!” my dad replied. His tone suggesting this was a patently ridiculous question. Where else would he be going? Verbal communication has never been the bedrock of our father-son relationship and it only got worse has his Parkinson’s deepened.
Once we had established the reason for this fun jaunt, we continued down the street, my dad hunched over, shoving his walker forward at a pace that caused me sufficient cringing, swerving around the edge of the road, splashing through puddles in the gutters left by the afternoon thunderstorms that had swept through an hour before.