birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Becoming Your Parent's Parent

It began slowly with a change in his gait. He'd shuffle down the street, lagging behind his grandchildren, when he had once been a leader like the Pied Piper. My dad had Parkinson's, but none of us truly understood what was going to happen to him over the course of the years after his diagnosis. It all seemed counter-intuitive. You mean, despite all of the meds and doctor's visits, he's getting WORSE?!? It was a slow decline at first. Then I noticed that my dad -- a formidable, quick-witted sports writer-- had a script written out next to his phone to remind him of the basic facts he should keep in mind when we would converse. Characteristics that used to merely annoy me, were now exacerbated to crisis levels: The rigidity and the obsessiveness. He refused to give up his car keys even after totaling two vehicles. I reported him anonymously to the DMV. But when he showed up to their offices for his exam, he somehow got them to reveal who had reported him. He passed the test and called me. I confessed. Said it was out of love for him. He kept driving and I stopped sleeping all the way through the night. He was having what we now know were hallucinations. A woman and her son had suddenly appeared in his living room. Not implausible given that home break-ins were becoming more common in his neighborhood. But then the story kept evolving and I realized it sounded like a bad dream. Then he began to fall. He collapsed while covering an Oakland Raiders game. The paramedics carried him out of the press box. He fell all the time in his house, which had three sets of stairs. I wanted him to move. He said I'd have to carry him out in a pine box. Neighbors would find him splayed out on his steep driveway. He just wanted to retrieve his newspaper, he said. So my son and I went onto Google translate and figured out how to say: "Leave on top of driveway" in Vietnamese and taped it to his the mailbox. He kept falling. So we got him a Lifealert bracelet. Eventually he fell in his bedroom and accidentally rolled over onto his Lifealert, activating a 911 call. His neighbor called me. I was at my son's Little League game. The next day I was on a flight to Oakland. I arrived at his re-hab facility with a Power of Attorney document. I needed him to sign it, so I could pay for his care. He refused. "Trust everybody, but cut the cards," he said. I was furious and stormed out. Pacing the sidewalk outside the facility, it dawned on me. I wasn't fighting him anymore. I was fighting his disease. I went back in. He said he was glad to see me. But he wasn't signing that document.

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