Scenes from a Struggle with Parkinson's Disease

Bob Hardman

Bob Hardman is an Episcopal priest. "When I would lay my hands on peoples' heads and have a prayer of healing, my little finger would shake," he says now. "It's kind of ironic that you are at a healing service and you are discovering the first signs of Parkinson's." hide caption

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Susan and Bob Hardman i

Susan and Bob Hardman Courtesy of Jesse Hardman hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Jesse Hardman
Susan and Bob Hardman

Susan and Bob Hardman

Courtesy of Jesse Hardman

After some initial hesitation, freelance reporter Jesse Hardman set out to tell the story of his father's struggle with Parkinson's disease. You'll find more information about this piece, and a discussion board, at Transom.org. There, Jesse and his parents, Bob and Susan Hardman, give background on the story.

Jesse Hardman

I have wanted to document my dad's battle with Parkinson's for a long time. As many reporters can attest, it can be a hard transition from the detached impartiality required for most journalism to documenting someone close to you. For nearly 10 years, thoughts of interviewing my dad felt forced — and frankly, the idea scared me. Did I really want to know the difficult details of his battle with the disease? On a personal level, I had gotten into the habit of assuming he was OK, and only drawing from his general successes, not what is inevitably a progressive breakdown of the body.

While visiting my parents a few months ago, I woke up one morning and saw my dad was getting ready to go to a Parkinson's support event. I grabbed my recorder and a microphone and joined him.

Bob Hardman

I would say three things keep me going: my faith, exercise and a sense of humor. I have found meditation very therapeutic, as well as quieting of my body and centering my spirit. It is a constant in my life. I also find exercise walking, bike riding (which is sometimes easier than walking), yoga (which calms my body) necessary. "If you don't use it, you lose it!"

My sons help me with a sense of humor, like "Dad, you can throw away your electric toothbrush." Other than that, I keep trying ways, many alternatives, although I like to call them complimentary therapies: i.e., acupuncture, electro-magnetic therapy, glutathione, healing touch, reiki, massage and am now stepping into ayurvedic therapy. All have brought me into a wonderful smorgasbord of care that this world has to offer, some were more helpful than others, but all helped. I am blessed and so are you to have so many avenues to wholeness (holiness).

Susan Hardman

I am very proud of my husband, and sons for their courage and openess in sharing our journey with others. We laugh and joke and find humor a must. Our grandsons ask questions about why grandpa shakes and they get good answers, then they just go about their business.

I honestly don't know how I would be if I were in Bob's shoes. Probably much the way I am today: at times fiery and impatient, and at others patient and understanding. I am someone who likes to think there is nothing I can't do, or at least try, and Parkinson's gives me an opportunity to take on even more. Bob can't do it. I will. I'll drive 3,000 miles so we can go East. I can take care of the three grandchildren by myself. I'll learn to drive the boat, I need better balance, I need time out, I can say no.

Maybe this is one of my biggest learnings: What do I need to enjoy my life and still be a caring helpmate? This question is front and center on my plate. Listening to this [story] again today was very emotional for me. I was able to get inside our life in a way I can't when I am at home and in action. It had me being still and very thoughtful.

Jesse Hardman

What ultimately made me want to do more with these recordings than just a family archive was the actual sound of my dad's tremors. I feel like this sound in and of itself explains as well as any words what it is like to be in my dad's body. You can probably come up with a sound to represent most physical illnesses, but few as powerful as the sound of Parkinson's. I want people, regardless of what side of the stem-cell debate they are on, to hear that sound, to feel it, to Hear what is at stake for my dad.

Transom Discussion Board for "Bob Hardman: A Body in Motion"

This story was produced by Jesse Hardman, with help from Jay Allison.

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