Of all of the roadblocks that Bill has had to face since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in April 2009, undoubtedly the most difficult one for him to handle has been giving up driving.
I’ve mentioned before that Bill doesn’t complain about having PD. That isn’t true for me; I whine about it all of the time. It isn’t that I have a problem with being his care partner. I take my wedding vows very seriously: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer in sickness and in health. He would do — and has done — the same thing for me. I just find myself getting frustrated for him.
He is patient when he works on projects that involve handling small objects. I watch him and want to scream. He just patiently powers on. If he drops something, he picks it up. He doesn’t cuss. Much.
“Why don’t you have one of the kids do that for you?” I will ask him when he has been working on something for hours and hours.
“Because I like doing it myself,” he will explain, again and again.
Bill is 80 years old, and has been driving since he was 16. That’s 64 years, friends. (And don’t laugh because I had to use a calculator.) We will be married 31 years in June. For the first 28 years or so of our marriage, he was the primary driver. When we took our road trip through the southern part of the United States, he drove every single mile. When we were on our Big Adventure in Europe, we put 6,000 miles on the car in three months, and he drove every single mile. Not once did I take the wheel.
He likes to drive. At one point in his life, he considered becoming a long-haul truck driver. His parents gasped, and he went to law school instead. I’m glad about that because I likely wouldn’t have met him if he was always on the road driving canned goods and toilet paper to Walmart.
I have been the main driver for a couple of years. I have been the sole driver since one of the doctors he sees told him he shouldn’t drive. The risk of lawsuits is too dangerous.
And then, his neurologist/movement disorder doctor suggested he see a specialist who assesses people’s driving abilities. As you might imagine, I was less than thrilled at the doctor’s suggestion. Still, he told us his goal is to keep his patients as independent as possible for as long as it makes sense. If the woman gives him clearance, why shouldn’t he drive? I saw his point, but I was/am still wary.
Yesterday morning, Bill looked at the forms he had to fill out before the assessment could take place. In the nearly 14 years since his diagnosis, I have never seen him frustrated about anything related to his disease. As he read the forms, he was frustrated. Mad, really. I thought he was going to throw the very expensive iPad I bought him for Christmas across the room.
The questions dealt with the disabilities he has from PD. The forms were going to be sent to someone in the State of Colorado government so that there is a record that he has that ability should he pass the assessment and then have an accident.
I remember that my dad had a very difficult time giving up driving. I don’t know if it’s a Man Thing. For Bill, I think it’s just a clear indication that he is losing control of his life, a little at a time. Damn it.
We will have some serious discussions about this issue. Pray for us.