Years ago when I was living in Chicago my mom came to visit for the weekend. Because I lived in the tiniest studio apartment, she stayed in a nearby hotel. On the last day of her visit I was in her hotel room watching her pack. I was sitting on the bed chatting away when she suddenly grew serious. I remember her saying something along the lines of, “I have to tell you something.” And I knew at that moment, because of the look on her face and the tone of her voice, it wouldn’t be good news, and my eyes instantly filled with tears. My mom was and continues to be my best friend in the whole world (aside from my husband I suppose, but that is a different type of friendship). We genuinely enjoy each others company and have so many interests and hobbies in common. In fact, there is no one I enjoy road tripping and traveling with more than my mom. We love checking out new places and stopping for pictures, and we can hardly contain our excitement when we come across a roadside flower stand, or a sweet little shop or an interesting old barn. With a house full of boys, I appreciate our shared interests more than ever now.
But back to that hotel room in Chicago. “I’ve been diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease.” And there it was: the explanation as to why she had been tripping and falling so often, and why she had such trouble navigating her arms to put on her coat, and why she’d get a tremor in her lip that wouldn’t cease. At the time, she was in her mid-forties with a young child at home (my little brother)- a picture of health and vibrancy. I was angry- that is often my go-to initial emotion- it just seemed so unfair. So unbelievably unfair.
As I’ve watched my mother deal with this disease over the past decade, my love for her has only deepened. She is the bravest, most optimistic person I have ever met, and continues to live life to the very fullest, doing so much for others and never letting her decreased mobility or pain get in the way. In fact, I don’t think we will ever know the real toll of the disease, because she is not one for self-pity or dwelling on her pain. She takes medication every morning, and the disease is progressing, though if you were to meet her, there is a good chance you wouldn’t know that Parkinson’s was at play.
Who knows what the future looks like at this point- she could live to be 100, or the disease could progress more rapidly. We don’t know. But what we do know, and what a diagnosis like this brings into focus is that NOW is the time… The time to travel, to be together, to make memories…because really, in the end, what else matters? It is in this vein that we planned a road trip of a lifetime. Beginning in Savannah, Georgia, where we’ll kick around for a few days, my mom and I will drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, ultimately arriving at Blackberry Farm for a weekend workshop with the one-and-only Natalie Chanin. It’s a “girls only” trip, as my boys would say. Once the trip is over, we’ll all meet back in Northern Michigan to spend the summer together at my parent’s home. We’re planning on lots of late nights, rooftop cocktails, photo excursions, fried chicken, ice cream, Southern roses, and inspiration enough to last us for years (I can’t wait to share!). We’re packing our bags for take-off on Sunday.
p.s. If you have any recommendations to share (Savannah or anywhere along our route) please do!
p.s.s. This was shared with the full support of my mom, it is really her story to tell, though it is a part of all our stories…xoxo. And the gorgeous flower photos you see here were all taken by my mom…my artistic, beautiful mama.