My son, Jared, and his fantastic girlfriend, Maddi, left this morning after a visit punctuated by deep conversation and hikes. Yesterday, Jared gave me an early Christmas present.
Jared didn’t fall far from my irreverently twisted humor tree. Past gifts include an “I ain’t dead yet, Mother Fuckers” coffee mug and a t-shirt sporting the pithy statement “Not today, Satan.” The icing on the cake was my 60th birthday when Jared and my daughter pooled resources to buy me a wheelchair. I silently vowed to let it collect dust for as long as possible, maybe forever,
I was prepared for about anything except the present’s composition: it was a thoughtfully creative gift. A glass frame enclosed an underwater photo of my final dive in 2020 next to a neat paragraph of laser-etched writing. Two of Jared’s friends took the picture of Jared and me floating side by side, 55 feet underwater off the beach in Mukilteo.
Next to the photo were the final lines from a favorite poem, The Quitter, by Robert Service. I used to recite the poem from memory to both of my children in the hope that it would provide a rallying cry when enduring one of life’s inevitable rough spots.
Without going into detail, Jared has been in just such a rough spot for the past two years. Instead of becoming consumed by problems, he included the poem excerpt to help bolster my determination as my eighteen-year battle with Parkinson’s takes a dark and dirty turn for the worse.
I was blown away with pride for my son as he leverages suffering into fortitude, discovering an inner resilience not unlike my experience doing battle with Parkinson’s. Jared, I am proud beyond words of the grace and compassion with which you move through life: you are my inspiration.
Thank you. I love you more than I can say, Jared, and Merry Christmas.