By Brandon Killian
I learned of mother’s diagnoses with Parkinson’s disease in 2011, when I was 14 years old. When I found out I didn’t know what to feel. I was only in grade eight, and I didn’t understand how it would affect my life. I knew things would change, but I just wanted to be a normal family.
The first time I really understood how it would change my life was when we went Christmas shopping in 2013. My mom asked me if I would take her to the mall. Every winter, my mom and I would go shopping, but she usually asked if I wanted to come along. One of the many effects Parkinson’s has on my mom is her motor skills; she cannot drive. This time she had to rely on me to take her.
I drove my mom to St. Matthew’s Mall. St. Matthew’s is our favorite place to buy gifts in Louisville. Every year, since I can remember, my family has spent most of our time and money at that mall because it is a big place with a lot of variety for everyone on our lists.
My mom had a list of places she wanted to go to. We went into a women’s clothing store first. My mom told me that my sister and I were in the store a week before, and my sister showed me what she wanted. I had to tell her I have never been in that store before in my life.
“I must have dreamt it,” she said with a sigh.
That seemed to turn into one of her catch phrases. My mom has trouble sometimes distinguishing her dreams with what really happens in her life. It’s one of the many things that comes with her Parkinson’s.
I just smile and lie to her.
“I get confused with that too sometimes.”
I tell her little white lies like that so she doesn’t feel too bad. I was trying to make everything more normal.
We got my sister a gift card.
The first few years after my mom’s diagnosis when my mom would do something that was a little off, I would ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen or that it was fine.
We stop to get a snack about half way through. I remember sharing a pretzel with her. I wasn’t that hungry, but she said she wanted to eat something. She only took about two bites and offered me the rest. I remember realizing she didn’t really want to eat anything, she just wanted to sit down.
Walking is also a struggle for my mom. The mall was always a challenge because the stores we needed to go to never seemed to be close together.
After we ate, we went to a store in the mall that is a perfect to shop for my dad. My mom tells me she can’t go in. Her feet hurt too much. I’ll have to shop for my dad by myself. I watched my mom shuffle her feet over to a bench nearby, and I looked around to make sure no one had seen her. I wanted to make sure no one saw her like that because I still wanted to feel like a normal family. Now, when I see her shuffling her feet, I just make sure she gets to her seat just fine.
I remember walking into the sporting goods store looking for a gift for my dad, but it was a lot harder than usual. My dad was supposed to be easy to shop for. He likes sports stuff and 80’s rock bands. I looked at all of the clothes with my dad’s favorite teams on them, but I wasn’t thinking about what he would like. I was thinking about my mom, alone on the bench outside.
I remember being so angry in the store, just thinking how unfair it was that she couldn’t do the things she wanted to do. She was my mom. She was supposed to take care of me, but for the past couple of years it had seemed like I was taking care of her. I realized being a normal family wasn’t an option.
I didn’t get my dad anything from that store. I walked out and asked my mom if she wanted to go home. We would shop for my dad on a better day.