Tuesday, March 29, 2011


When I feel regret, I think about the deliberate moments we shared since my fathers Parkinson's diagnosis in 2003.

After my son's death.
After his divorce - when his much younger wife decided she didn't want to care for an old man.
After he shed his armor and opened his arms - wide.

For the first time in his life he needed me.  And I have always needed him.

Thankfully, I wrote about many of our experiences.  The big ones - like when we flew to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Fighting Irish.

And the simple ones - a trip to the doctor, a visit with a friend, a warm spring day on the front porch.

This is one of my favorites.  It took place in December of 2009.

We share the far left corner of the back row, tucked behind a succession of synchronized seventy-something seniors - a line of ladies with tightly teased hair, forgiving waist bands, and festive holiday attire. 

Each takes a turn - twisting to catch a glimpse, then signals the next in line with a quick elbow jab to the gut, “Look at him go, he’s really something.”

I am to his right, just within reach.  His cane rests twelve paces back - in the lap of a plastic cushioned arm chair, under a pile of down jackets, crocheted scarfs and warm winter mittens.

“Zumba!” shouts the instructor as she whips her hair counter clockwise, shimmies her shoulders and lunges left. 

Her passion is contagious and we do our best to keep up.

“Stretch your hands high, and move your hips, now shake, shake, shake to the right!”

He’s famous for having 2 left feet.  This coupled with his Parkinson's paralysis - a stooped posture, quick-step shuffle, and rocking horse tremors - fuse with the strong Latin beat.  He's a dancing machine!

Everything about this is new to us; the music, the movement, but mostly, the shared experience.

I don’t have many memories of us doing things together, unless you count being in a car.  As a kid, he took me skiing but I don’t remember actually skiing with him. He’d leave me at the top of a mountain and wait for me at the bottom. If I couldn’t find him I’d know to look in the bar.

“You did great Dad,” I assure him.

“I farted,” he admits.

“I thought you crapped your pants?"

“No, just farted,” he assures me.

“Good for you, way to hold back.”

This is NOT my favorite topic of conversation but discussing his bodily functions has become the norm.

I don’t expect him to master zumba, rumba, salsa or samba, but I am catching as many memories as I can.

Every hardship holds a lesson - a cryptic message.  My father’s Parkinson’s has slowed him down enough for us to get to know each other.

Dad's dancing partners

one of his admirers 

Dad - before he dropped his armor  
My daughter Lindsay at my side



  1. So beautifully written, Shannon. You reveal just the right amount of personal experience and emotion -- makes it universal. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us. I lost my Dad two years ago, but your post didn't make me sad. It made me feel good, because I pulled some good memories from deep inside, thought a little and smiled. Of course I didn't have any Zumba dancing in there. I'm glad you have these moments. Thanks again.

  3. Very much enjoyed this. My father passed away six years ago, and I would have liked to have more moments like this preserved. Thanks for sharing.

  4. oh so beautiful -- as it happened and as you wrote it.
    Eventually we get them back or find them for the first time. I know I did.


  5. OMG Zumba! That's awesome!

    and the farting thing... BWAhahahahahah!

    I must remember this for my friend... did you notice any increased mobility with the Zumba or just that he was able to get up and around to enjoy himself? (Although both are awesome)

  6. This made me cry and cry.
    I am glad he dropped the armor.
    Thank God he did.

  7. They always drop the armor...one way or another. It's just a matter of whether you have time to enjoy it or not. I am glad you are capturing these moments...in your mind, in your writing. It will pay you back for years..it will be priceless. Not everyone has the gift of slowing time...I'm glad you've mastered it. ZUMBA!! And his admirer is giving him the side-eye...I would know that look ANYWHERE!

  8. More people... more men... need to shed their armor... it doesn't protect us; it just holds us back.


  9. Fantastic, Shannon. A great story, a great memory to cherish. -Jay

  10. It's so nice that you have great memories. And I know even now you are trying to create good memories.

  11. I so know exactly where these words/memories come from. The jewels of time we may not have had, had the armor been in place. Beautiful!

    Sorry I'm late, needed a day off and of course you posted something :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  12. Oh Shannon, even as time robs you of your father, it bestows gifts unto you as well. You see this and relate it so well. Another beautiful post....Thinking of you.

  13. I have to say I think what you're doing is amazing. I've read several posts in a row and am in awe of how you put yourself out there and try all these new things.

    I also think it's wonderful that you are chronicling your days with your father like this and I appreciate your candor. It makes me a little sad at times and yet there is some humour to be found as well. Really great writing!

  14. Touching!! I can feel how you feel, xo Ingrid

  15. That's very sweet. My father has Alzheimer's and it's sad to see the changes in him.

  16. so... tonight I'm thinking..... we spend all this money and energy and time on BABY'S ... WHAT about the other side? WHAT about our elderly? I'm going to spend time with them and also.... I'm going to find a way to put focus on them. They are ADORABLE.. just as adorable as baby's. Don't turn your head because they are crying... you wouldn't do that to a baby. why would you do that to an elderly?

    OLD PEOPLE ...(dot, dot, dot) THEY KNOW STUFF!!!

  17. wow! have I told you how moving your words always are? no? really? well you have a natural talent to make me cry! I admire your determination to enjoy your dad without hard feelings from the past. I want to learn that. I want to be free too. Keep up the memory making!!

  18. Very nicely written story and memory, Shannon! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  19. I think you are so brave writing these posts, maybe I have already mentioned this but I empathise with you as my late father was a Parkinson's Disease sufferer, it is such a cruel disease.


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison