This I Believe

Elena - Freehold, New Jersey
Entered on February 3, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Blank Canvas

I never knew I could paint.

Some have remarked that I am making up for lost time, and that is certainly true. I was homebound and for the last 17 years of my life have been spent in a losing battle with a disease that gradually stole my most basic capabilities, all during a time when I was struggling to raise three daughters as a single parent.

Through the years I lost the ability to walk, talk, sleep and use my hands. I tried every known therapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s, and when all of them failed I even tried suicide.

But one summer in June 2003, I had a second brain surgery at the age of 44. My life began again. Literally, as a flick of a switch, I regained abilities I thought were gone forever.

I have been granted an interlude to experience the full use of all our blessed faculties. It is unknown how long it will last. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but the brain surgery made me lived a miracle.

And so I paint. While my hand remains steady and there’s still enough light. People say I’m pretty good at it. The critics I try to please, however, are my daughters Gisselle (26) Tiffany (18) and Vanessa (17) and my beloved mother.

Throughout my children tender lives, they endured my ups, downs, on, offs that Parkinson’s brought; the one image they had of me was of being sick, constantly shaking.

To dissipate my disability, we played. I would tell my girls that I was their “Barbie” doll, so they can help me get dressed, played waitress in order for them to help me serve their meals. We used to walk around the block, each by my side holding my hands, while they sang the song of the Wizard of Oz, and with the beat of the song, they helped me coordinate and initiate the jumping steps.

Nowadays, they are no longer sadden by my illness, we are getting to know each other in very different ways. When they bring friends over the house, they introduce me with pride: “My mother is an artist” I elated and is all the praise I will ever need to hear.

I have regained my dignity.

One day I took a break from painting to clean-up my house and I started to mop the floors and only then I noticed that the wood floors of my house were marked by numerous deep scratches. I realized that those were traces of my illness. I made them with my shoes while I was “kicking,” a symptom of Parkinson’s also called Restless Legs. It made me a little scared to think what the future holds for me, it made me more determined to cherish every second of my life.

It is a privilege to be alive and to have good health. Make time to appreciate the beauty of the morning, the shape of clouds and to embrace those we love.