The human spirit coupled with The Holy Spirit – the will to face your limitations courageously and find creative solutions – that’s what I’ve seen in Grandpa. It’s taken a lot of courage and creativity for him to do as much as he can by himself, and humbly rely on family to do the rest. Still, with the many debilitating limitations Parkinson’s brings, Grandpa manages to find joy.
The need to take responsibility for his own health comes from a strong drive within, and I constantly find myself astounded by his positive attitude which transforms his limitations into possibilities. For anyone who faces physical limitations (or limitations of any kind), Grandpa is truly an inspiration.
There are only a few exercises Grandpa can do by himself, but for him they are essential. If you have always been healthy and not suffered any personal handicaps, you would fail to see their significance. Yet, these “small” routine efforts mean everything to Grandpa – and to us his care givers, because they give him a sense of independence and fill his day with purpose.
For instance, after taking his “power nap” after breakfast, Grandpa is helped out of bed and up onto his walker. From there he shuffles (some days fast, some days slow) off to the bathroom to do his “muffins”- a 500 step-in-place “mini-exercise” at the bathroom handicap bar. One day, he just added this newly invented exercise to his routine, which he nick-named after the kneading action cats make with their paws.
Muffins are one of the few exercises Grandpa can do on his own. He works out daily on an all-in-one home gym, which he has to be helped on and off of, but “muffins” are his own invention. And since necessity is indeed the mother of invention, Grandpa’s need to “do” for himself led to the idea of pulling himself up and out of his wheel chair onto the handicap bar, step in place at inintervals of 50, and sit back down again when he needs to rest. Muffins usually take him about a half hour, and I know the whole family is glad that he can do them by himself.
After he is done “making muffins,” Grandpa wheels himself backwards to the sink and gives himself what he calls “a cold water facial.” A cold water facial consists of patting his face and neck with cold water, wetting his hair down, and brushing it back into a “Will Geer-Grandpa Walton” hairdo.
“Where does he come up with these names?” Claire asks.
“I don’t know,” I reply, except we both agree, Grandpa is from another era – the golden age of Hollywood and all it’s glamor. The older he gets, the more sentimental he becomes, so the term “cold water facial” probably came from one of those classic Claudette Colbert/Clark Gable movies or an Ivory Soap commercial from “way back when.” Whatever the case, Grandpa’s senior jargon is charming.
Another exercise Grandpa does on a daily basis are vocal exercises, but you won’t hear arpeggios or scales emanating from his bedroom. No, instead you’ll hear a 90-year-old’s quiet but gusty version of “On an Old Rugged Cross” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Whenever Grandpa’s vocal cords start to lapse into a Parkinson’s whisper, he stretches them out by singing the great hymns of the ages – vocal exercises for body and spirit.
Faced with limitations? Think of them as springboards for witnessing God’s creativity. Pray and ask Him to show you a solution you haven’t thought of before. You just might find a new way to exercise your faith in a God who is limitless with inspiration and solutions – some of them seemingly small, but life-changing. You’ll never know until you pull yourself up to the bar and start doin’ “muffins.”