Beneath the Surface

People and Parkinson’s Disease; the surface we see and the people we love.
Vast Oceans; the surface above and the sea life below.
Where does the beauty live?

It was many moons ago when my husband arrived at Yale and met Dave, one of his first friends there.  A number of years later when I met Dave, it was easy for me to understand why they had become such fast friends; Dave is witty and smart, interesting and interested, a compassionate listener, an artist, a great adventurer, a hiker, a swimmer, a snorkeler and an avid bodysurfer. 

Life and life choices often alter relationships and create fault lines where there were once none, but Andy’s and Dave’s paths tracked well.  After college, they both went to medical school, and later both became radiologists. Dave was in our wedding, and when a couple of years later he married Michele on a Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina pier, we happily shared in their celebration. As our families grew, they welcomed us to Wrightsville for “family week”, Dave’s extended family’s annual gathering of over a hundred-fold; it took our kids some time to sort out that their family was not actually related to us ☺.

So when Michele and Dave recently invited us to join them on a diving and snorkeling adventure in Bonaire, saying yes was the obvious answer. However, Michele added that it would probably be Dave’s last time traveling as his Parkinson’s Disease had progressed to the extent that his challenges would curtail future extreme physical adventures- the trip would, without a doubt, be bittersweet. She went on to say that their three sons would be joining them along with their infant grandson and daughter-in-law, one of Dave’s brothers and his partner, and a few other friends of their kids.

Once we arrived, snorkeling and diving ensued, and the sites pre-arranged by their dive-master son were amazing. Each day we were greeted by the magical blue hue of the water, and shores decorated in a coral necklace, being visited by the occasional iguana. Beautiful as that initial view was, once we looked through our dive masks we were transported into another world- one of astounding beauty, untethered by the earth’s gravitational pull.  Suspended from my usual reality, I saw differently, and what I saw was different. Curious and engaged, I relaxed and embraced looking at life through another lens.  Astounding beauty unfolded before my eyes, giving me windows into the hiding place of an octopus, a squid nonchalantly swimming by, wise old turtles gliding through deep waters, a huge array of coral, and parrot and angelfish too numerous to count.

Dave is now a more muted version of himself; quieter, more considered in his speech as talking is no doubt more taxing. His humor, curiosity, and compassion are intact, but I found myself needing to listen better and pay closer attention. Conversations are now more intentional and less repartee.

As Dave maneuvered his way to the ocean’s edge, his brother and sons ushering him into the water and one of them then taking his walking stick back to the beach, I was struck by their love, sensitivity, and dedication.  Later in the week, when we spent a day drift snorkeling at Klein Bonaire Island with the Woodwind catamaran crew, they too were no doubt struck by Dave’s unerring determination to participate in every drift, engage with the world on his terms, and enjoy their fabulous cooking (Dave sweetly asking “can I have an extra brownie please?”). His appreciation of their guidance in the water, their care and their consideration was another kind of beautiful.

People and Parkinson’s Disease; the surface we see and the people we love.
Vast Oceans; the surface above and the sea life below.
That’s where the beauty lives.

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