Who knew all this would teach me how to help Dad.

Let me start by apologizing for the delay in posting anything new for a while. I’ve been working a lot, reworking my business to serve additional clients and that’s taken a great deal of my time. The other thing that’s consumed my attention has been a decline in my father’s condition.

As you may recall, my dad has Parkinson’s disease and, at 84, his condition is not improving. He had lost a significant amount of weight over a few months which we’d generally attributed to a decrease in appetite related to depression. But that wasn’t all there was to it.

To make a long story short, with some careful observation and research, I discovered that his problem was more mechanical than anything. His tremors and manual dexterity have become problematic to a point where it’s hard for him to manipulate eating utensils. Add to that his strength has decreased and even his moving around has become harder.

Thanks to our doctor I managed to arrange both physical and occupational therapy which I’d directed towards the tasks of helping him more safely sit and stand and to work on his dexterity. But that wasn’t enough.

The plain truth is he’s just been sitting too much. He’s always been a very physically active person, what with running a trucking business, handling cattle and running our farm. So, sitting the last three years has not agreed with him. I needed to do something more to help.

After 10 months at my gym, I’ve often been pre-occupied by one piece of equipment there and how, at least in my head, it might help my dad feel and move better. I later learned that it’s a recumbent step machine, perfect for someone who may have balance issues but needs to do step-style leg and arm exercises.

This week, I decided to pull the trigger. I told him about the idea and he seemed genuinely interested in going to the gym with me. If that wasn’t shocking enough, several times the day before we went, he asked, “What time are we going tomorrow?” That was encouraging. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when we went to the Antioch Wellness Center. He was remarkably interested in everything as we walked in and got him registered.

My plan was simple. I’d get him on the stepper and see how he made out. Then, if he was doing well, we’d get through some of the exercises the physical therapist had been doing with him. I’d digitized all of the instruction sheets to my Kindle and studied the moves in person at their last session. I could do at least some rudimentary work with him to keep things going.

I was elated when he sat down and got interested in the machine and its many readouts on the control panel. He was asking what this and that were and how the numbers related to what he was doing. I watched carefully and encouraged him as he went, finding just the right resistance and related the movements to driving our bulldozer or one of the big trucks.

He kept up 18 minutes on the machine, but I backed him down after that because I was worried he’d exhaust himself. But he did very well, especially considering, like me when I started, he’d never been exposed to any of this equipment before. I found myself very proud of him, but he wasn’t done yet.

Next, we moved to a platform where I could work with him on controlled sitting and standing exercises. He’s got a problem with just “dropping” into a chair instead of using his arms to lower himself in a steadier manner, and more safely. The therapists have been working with him on it so we did that for a few minutes and then took a break.

I referred to the exercise sheets on my Kindle and picked a couple more to do, including some raising and lowering of hand weights to help with his arms and shoulders. All quite successful and he actually seemed quite into it. I was still proud. But moreover, I was grateful.

I was grateful that all of the fitness training I’ve been doing the last 10 months has led to my having at least enough basic understanding to be able to apply it to helping dad to feel better. If I hadn’t started down this journey, I’d never have known I would be able to help him to get out of that house and try something he never would have 10 years ago (nor would I).

Life has a really odd way of directing you somewhere you didn’t know you wanted to go – all based on decisions you never thought you’d have to make. So here we are – me acting as sort of personal trainer to help my dad to stay healthier. Weird. And rewarding, for both of us.

Later in the day, we were eating dinner and I noticed his tremors were nearly nonexistent, at least for a while. He was steadier in his hands. I don’t know if I should be encouraged or not, but whatever we did gave him a little relief from that awful disease for a while and that’s worth everything to me.

He used to sit and watch me with mom and wonder, “What’s going to happen to him.” Well, Dad, I think I’m going to be OK. And so are you. I’ll keep you all posted.

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