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Archive for the ‘Parkinson’s’ Category

goodbyeIt was 1996 and my father-in-law to be introduced me to Joseph Gibbons very simply: “David, Joe, one liberal to another. You guys can talk.”

I still remember that conversation, both of us immediately waxing poetic about presidents he remembered and that I, well, read about. Harry Truman? The common man’s president. FDR? Brilliant. Ushered in a new American era. Jimmy Carter? He had his heart in the right place, even if the administration fell short.

We moved beyond the presidents and their accomplishments to the 1,000 page biography by David McCullough about Truman and the great Edmund Morris books about Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps this country’s first¬† great environmentalist and monopoly buster.

Over the next few years, whenever I met Gibbons at family gatherings – Gibbons, you see, was my wife’s uncle – we would seek each other out, mainly to confirm our viewpoint, but also to fire off a few¬† trivia questions and discuss recent Gail Collins columns or New York Times editorials.

But the discussions became brief over time, and though he hated President Bush, his fury wouldn’t last very long. I would help finish his thoughts, and he would nod in agreement. It was the best he could do, as Parkinson’s disease was taking its toll.

Then came President Obama’s victory. That weekend we headed to Connecticut to celebrate his son’s 40th birthday party. When he walked in, I smiled and there was a quick celebratory hug and nothing more. The rest of the day was full of political debate, but he hardly participated.

Gibbons finally lost his battle with Parkinson’s on Feb. 27. But his family has asked people to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Times are tough, so if you can’t, I understand.

And though it seems bittersweet, President Obama lifted the strict limits on stem cell research earlier this week. The executive order could help find cures for ailments such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and heart disease.

It’s too late for Joe Gibbons and for the 280 people who die from the disease each week. But for the 500,000 Americans who currently have it, time has not run out.

As for you, Joe, I’ll just have to pull for Obama twice as hard.

NOTE: Two relatives say the quote at the top should read “one Democrat to another,” not “one Liberal to another.” Either way, donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation if you can.

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