Without reservation or apology.

Yesterday, my mother’s health took a marked turn for the worse, accompanied by a dear family friend’s recommendation that I expedite my trip east. The family friend  helped out when my sister passed away in 2003, and also when my father died in 2019. When she makes a  recommendation, I listen. We moved my flight up a week.

It was only four months back that I nearly had a panic attack traveling home alone from Houston after the birth of our grandson.

The prospect of voluntarily putting myself in a similar situation initially made me extremely nervous; these days, I was more terrified of flying in the back of a safe, relatively comfortable commercial airliner than preparing for my first combat sortie during Operation Desert Storm.

I’ve thought a lot about my last solo flight, dissecting my decisions and interpretations with the same merciless dispassion as that of a young naval aviator. Despite significant differences, they shared a similar central character: death. The stark difference in context was bridged by the dire urgency of both flights.

The coming weeks promise much empty time, punctuated by a little sadness, perhaps some soulful crying. One thing is certain: the loud  laughter of Hunt humor’s off color irreverence will fill the house. My family has always laughed ferociously at life’s inconsistencies without reservation or apology.

Sharing my writing is my solace, bringing me a temporary calm. Readers: thank you, I benefit from  you more than you will ever know.

As an aside, my fear of flying solo was for naught. Taking on challenges outside one’s comfort zone is the only way to know  for sure that you are past them, or if matters have gotten worse. Despite just ninety minutes of sleep last night, I sit here at the back of a crowded airliner, thinking of jokes to tell my mother, smiling. Reflecting on my recent emphasis on a comeback, maybe it was staring me right in the gaunt face, as I plan my next, happier trip.

The brutal language of necessity

A little over a month ago, I posted a blog called “Comeback” with a video of me attempting yoga on the boat rail. It’s been a hard reversal of progress, comparing my yoga skills of eight years ago with today, as the realization hits that regardless of effort, all my mental and physical abilities will continue to fade.

The pre-deep brain stimulation yoga ended successfully, unlike the recent version where I fell in the water. Pride’s harsh language reminds me that I will not beat this thing. Despite consistently winning battles, eventually, I will lose the war.

After a surprised, “Oh shit,” I hit the water.

Reappearing after a bit, dripping wet, I smile and say, “A decidedly different outcome from eight years ago. I would have to say that my balance is much worse.”

Then, after a pause, “But my spirit is right on. Love you all.”

What a difference a few weeks makes, as I am repeatedly visited in chilling isolation by the night terrors, the sensation of anxiety’s leathery bat wings scraping deep within my gut. I write to bare my soul to suppress a burgeoning vanity, to return to balance.

Unrelated to my internal battle, my mother’s health has dramatically deteriorated recently. Losing her will make life difficult to bear for a while. While neither of us is particularly scared of dying, I have grown to rely on our frequent phone calls to recalibrate. It helps me identify my hubris.

Ushered forth is the realization that my real comeback will not be physical. It will be a taming of ego in the brutal language of necessity. All stories of hubris’s grim lesson hinge on this singular example of coming to terms through mortal combat of the soul.

Just as Odysseus leaves Troy for Ithaka because of his love for Penelope, all successful battles with hubris begin and end their story by leading with the heart.

And so will mine.

In shared humanity

Learn to quietly revel in the faults of others, not in an egotistical dance stemming from anger, fear, or desire, but secure in the heartfelt belief that embracing their failings elevates both of you in shared humanity, creating the imperfection that transforms art into a masterpiece, proving to a fragmented world in frightened disarray that it is all okay, that everything is as it should be.

Here to play

With the winter sun quitting the western sky so early, I’ve developed a habit of taking the boat out to watch the sunset in communion with nature. The nightly ritual gets me out of the house while enjoying the water’s healing powers. Solo boat rides, often playing in the dark currents under the Deception Pass Bridge, also keep me sharp.  Maybe just a little scared, too.

The need to radio the Coast Guard is not uncommon in the vicinity of Deception Pass for various reasons, the most common being missing kayakers and the occasional jumper off the bridge. Effective communication would be helpful when this happens or if my boat is in trouble. But late afternoon activity brings with it risk: my voice becomes slurred, soft at times and unintelligible.

Although I remain confident in my driving abilities, I appear to be drunk, making the drive home a potential opportunity to enjoy free local lodging courtesy of the Island County Sheriff. If pulled over, I’ve prepared a note ginned up on my home computer and printed out, explaining my situation, including my inability to articulate clearly. Still, this will only work if the written explanation is understood and believed.

There are many reasons to avoid this behavior, but notably, just one to continue: it brings me joy.

It is worth reflecting on the world we have created, humble in the recognition that—like all things—this, too, will change. Prioritizing happiness provides a physical reset, encouraging authenticity and revitalizing the ability to be empathetic with others.

Helping myself first ensures my presence for the long haul of helping others endure life’s suffering. Please consider taking just a few minutes daily to stop, reflect, and fully feel what it means to be alive in this land of form we all visit.

After all, we were not put here to stay. We were put here to play.

The hard way

What makes a person resilient? Why do some people with a Parkinson’s diagnosis remain active through their second and even their third decade, while others don’t make it five years? One answer might be that societal pressure to treat a person with a severe ailment as a victim disempowers them, significantly diminishing their ability to fight back.

Before frightening anyone, let me explain that the danger is with those playing the long-term victim role. It is okay to temporarily play the part of victim, say during the initial diagnosis surprise. Get your complaining done and move on.

Resilience gains strength with a rebellious attitude toward the popular narrative of victimhood. It thrives when keeping an open mind, becoming available to those who put the well-being of others ahead of their interest. And sustained resilience takes hard work and patience.

But resilience only settles deeply into a person’s soul after developing a habit pattern of doing things the hard way.

Choosing to not get a disabled parking pass is an example of the hard way. The extra walking is not only healthy but also boosts morale by avoiding the promotion of self-identification as someone with Parkinson’s disease. Do you want to be defined first and foremost by a disease?

Solo boating and impromptu swimming are doing things the hard way. The hard way has me racing against myself up a steep hiking trail in the recurring epiphany that I can only lose by quitting.

The hard way puts us out of our comfort zone, facing challenges that test our thinking, opening the body to positive change, and allowing for a low-grade flow state of increased performance. It can lead to a fully engaged and satisfying life.

Life is hard. Why make it harder?

In the land of Walmart

Leaving town after shopping at Walmart, I noticed a woman approaching each car as they stopped for the traffic light. Judging from her neat clothes, she was not a typical homeless person. She carried about a dozen flower bouquets of four roses a piece. According to her cardboard sign, all proceeds went to support her family of four.

Despite her well-groomed appearance, she was, indeed, homeless, an Afghan refugee in Washington State for regional resettlement. A collective guilt washed over me for leaving Afghanistan in dangerous disarray, at our responsibility for her predicament.

Lowering the passenger window, I handed her a bill of disproportionate denomination. She looked at me, face breaking into a broad smile, the unspoken contract to resolve her children’s hunger fulfilled for another day. She showed no bitterness, an example of the power of acceptance.

My reflection turned to Afghanistan. I thought of a friend, a former marine, who had completed two combat tours in Afghanistan after experiencing a pair of combat deployments to Iraq. Now a fully functional civilian, he radiated a powerful, righteous resentment that, in some intangible way, we had not been straight with him. I had to agree.

Eyes cast down to the road before me, I thought of those Veterans home in body and mind, but still fighting desperate battles of a trauma left unchecked by a society that didn’t want accountability for war’s devastation.

We all wrestle with unseen daemons, literal Godsends of spiritual enrichment stigmatized to invisibility by a cultural consumerism that leaves us bland and unfeeling. Acknowledging the suffering of another as being their unique cross to bear, terribly beautiful in authenticity, allows for the engagement of a kindred spirit, soothing the lost, comforting the broken.

Still driving, the pained confusion of a generation’s misplaced destiny joined my imagination with a grateful refugee’s smile in a communal charity of tears, my humble tribute to all touched by war’s struggle.

The mutual gift of kindness is real, even in the land of Walmart.

Dead easy.

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.

A ham-fisted ally

Living landlocked is not for me – being close to the ocean is a must. From my long-time hobby, shipwreck diving, to my first real job as a navy A-6 Intruder carrier pilot, to where I choose to live today, the ocean’s influence on my life has been nothing short of monumental.

Military flight training appealed to my adolescent mind. But the notion of launching from a ship thousands of miles out to sea, with no emergency shore-based airport available, compelled me to join the navy. The sea was my ham-fisted ally, ready to kill in a monstrous hug, a friend who, despite her unforgiving nature, would back me up as long as I gave the day everything I had and, if need be, more.

As a child, I basked in the revelation of the unknown, mesmerized by the ocean’s contradiction of enigmatic obscurity, spending hours snorkeling, looking for anything unique. When too cold to continue, I would park my wrinkled young body on the rock jetty adjacent the beach, radiantly lost, gazing into the depths. When confronted with critical decisions, confused, or depressed, I have always looked to the omniscient depths for answers.

The ocean has marked every step of my life, inspiring a long list of adrenaline-charged memories. Self-discovery, the finale’ of my life challenges, welcomes the ocean’s serene fortitude.

Disguised by a thin veil of the world’s harshest interpretation of reality, the ocean’s wisdom is raw, unrefined. On the seas, there is no societal stigma; no complex cultural etiquette to follow. One is free to be. Born a Pisces, Poseidon has always been my god.


It rained all day, imparting a halting melancholy to the prevailing mood for my wife, the dogs, and me; we all seemed affected. The summer was gone, and it was time to start the work to prepare for winter, an indelible tarnish to the gold in our remaining years.

But by late afternoon, blue was on the horizon, a rich shade of azure reflecting nature’s compensatory response to the earlier rain. It was going to be an impeccably clear sunset.

Magnificence is universal in the Pacific Northwest, and my gratitude for the natural beauty of where we live is an insignificant fee for such sanctification. I decided to drive the ten minutes to the beach to watch the sun disappear behind the Olympic Mountains, some fifty miles away across the straits of Juan de Fuca.

The beach I chose for my rendezvous with the setting sun faces west, directly into the prevailing winds where the modest surf could not conceal the imputed promise of the water’s cyclic tidal purpose. Standing amid the ragged driftwood with face to the wind, I thought about where I had been, the ethereal everywhere of my life, a story preparing to end. And begin.

Reluctantly, returning to the car to drive home, the day’s melancholy returned with animated purity.

Topping the final hill to my destination, a murmuration of Starlings played in the wind just shy of rooftop height, awakening a dormant recollection of youthful curiosity. Approaching my house, I couldn’t stop smiling as the birds performed a final time before landing to welcome me home.

A precarious trail

Ordinarily, my many sleepless nights are exercises in boredom relief, but yesterday was different. In the early morning, around 3:00 am, despite overeating the day prior and ignoring an uncomfortable fullness in my gut, I allowed Parkinson’s to leverage my gluttony into an agonizing near-win for the disease. Maybe.

Almost immediately after finishing a bowl of granola, I doubled over in excruciating pain. It felt like my intestines were being twisted and yanked back firmly in a repeated cycle of torment. At the same time, my body’s temperature regulation went haywire, causing me to stagger across the room, sweating profusely and leaving a trail of perspiration.

After thirty minutes of constant pain, I woke Laurie, and we decided to go to the emergency room. Still sweating furiously, I struggled to get my pants on, barely able to stand. And then, just as suddenly as it had come, the pain miraculously disappeared, and I went from sweating like a fevered baby to experiencing a bone-chilling cold in the blink of an eye.

Huddling in a fetal position, Laurie draped me in an electric blanket and turned it high. It took twenty minutes to stop shivering. I thanked Laurie and drifted off, managing half an hour’s wonder of deep, restful sleep.

When I woke up, I felt great, better than I had in weeks, as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

Was it a bad experience, or had I just undergone a cleansing catharsis, clearing my body of a long-held negative feeling or energy? I do not know, but the positive after-effect intuitively told me it had been worth the temporary distress. We all walk a precarious trail, bracketing victory and disaster in an unseen display of familiar discrimination, taunted by nature’s exalted indifference, lamenting the lost joy of simply being.