It seems strange to admit that I didn’t really know my father and yet I was thirty five years old when he died. I wish the curiosity I have now had been a little more present then. There are so many questions I would have asked. My father is on the right with my older brother. I love his hat and the things it says about my father’s style back then.
I do know that my mother and father met at a party in college at Michigan State. My father was out front (probably with a beer in hand) parking cars on the front lawn. My mother and a couple of her friends arrived and that was it. My mother told me she was warned to stay away from that one they called Legs. (My father was a hurdler for Michigan State and he did have good looking legs.) Warnings are like chocolate, one can’t resist. Three months later they were married. It was a solid marriage.
The outgoing man my mother married changed in his late twenties early thirties. It wasn’t immediately evident, but my father had Huntington’s Disease. It stalks you and quietly takes everything from you. He became much quieter. Some of my favorite and most vivid memories are of witnessing my father overcome with laughter. They were glimpses into the man he used to be.
My father loved children. I think that is obvious in the photo above. He would have been a great grandfather. He loved giving little children nicknames and they loved him.
We were lucky. Huntington’s usually starts with huge mood swings that are anger based. Many times there is physical or verbal abuse. With my father he kept it all inside and just got quiet. It was rare for him to raise his voice.
This photo was taken of my mother, father and two brothers quite a few years ago. My father had just been officially diagnosed with Huntington’s and we hadn’t fully absorbed what it meant. I don’t think we wanted to think about it.
The ravages of the disease hadn’t completely hit. When I look at this photo I am constantly reminded that my two brothers had no knowledge at this time that they too would have the disease. My older brother, on the right, had already developed some of the mood swings experienced by most Huntington’s patients. None of us knew enough about the disease to recognize this in him at the time.
Today my mother is in a memory care unit. She is blissfully unaware that my brothers have the disease. I am actually thankful she doesn’t remember things… even me. It would be too difficult for her to deal with the knowledge. Both of my brother’s are in assisted living facilities. The disease wasn’t as kind to them as it was to my father. They both had anger issues.
Through all this my father managed to build a wonderful life and many happy memories for all of us. Part of my goal with this blog/journal is to record some of these memories along with present and future plans.
As of yet I don’t show any signs of the disease. Most would say if it hasn’t shown up yet, you don’t have it. For one at risk, the fear never goes away. I have had the test, but choose not to know the results. My family has the option of finding out the results, but we are all of one mind. Live life. Nothing can be done to change this.
It is good to always be aware that sadness and setbacks hit everyone. It is how we build on those events that tell us who we are. I’m still discovering who I am.