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Nov. 25, 2020, 4:59 a.m. EST

Michael J. Fox talks about getting older and looking to the future

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Randi Mazzella

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As Fox says in the book, “Energetic and engaged in their 90s; they are architects of their own lives. In my 50s, I’m envious.”

Fox says playing golf is frustrating but it’s also a gift, writing, “The game becomes an escape, relief and a release from my preoccupation with my health situation. When you are golfing, all you can think about is golf.”

Fox’s first tattoo is of a turtle, inspired by one he met on vacation in 1999.

Back then, he was contemplating retiring from “Spin City” and creating a research-based Parkinson’s foundation. He was in the ocean when he saw the battered turtle who had a scar on his beak and was missing a chunk of his fin. 

In his book, Fox writes, “The guy had obviously been through a lot, and had earned the right to go where he wanted… Sure it might be easier to just flow with the current, but sometimes you have to risk charting a new course.”

Two decades later, Fox found himself thinking of himself as that turtle. Life had battered and bruised him, too. But like the turtle, he wasn’t going to stop swimming. The tattoo, he writes, signifies the “power of resilience and the will to survive.”

Sharing his diagnosis with the public in 1998 was hard for Fox. At the time, Parkinson’s was considered an “old person’s disease.” Fox used his celebrity to help take away the stigma and launched the foundation in part to give the young-onset community a platform.

Through his foundation, Fox has found a community of people going through similar physical and emotional challenges. Together they support each other and work toward funding research for treatments.

Also see: The problems with ‘aging in place’

In the book, Fox recalls telling another person with PD, “You’ve pushed me back up a few times, brother. You don’t even know.” 

Fox had spinal cord surgery in April 2018. His recovery was going remarkably well until he took a fall.

Alone in his apartment, Fox waited for help while lying on the floor. He was physically and emotionally down. Known as someone who takes life’s lemons and makes lemonade, at that moment, he declared himself “out of the lemonade business.”

Despite that fall, like the others before it and the ones that are bound to come, Fox finds a way to rise. He recounts the words in the chorus of the song “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend, “ I don’t wanna live like this … but I don’t want to die ” and says he relates.

As he writes, “The truth is, I don’t want to live like this, but I have found a way to accept the fact that I do.”

Fox admits that as he gets older, it is easier to drift into melancholy. Still, he considers himself both an optimist and a realist. He is grateful for all the support he receives from his family, friends and the PD community.

Read: Don’t wait until retirement to start enjoying life

Fox says, “They remind me that I have a life to step back into, which encourages me to be forward-thinking.”

When asked about what’s next, Fox admits he has no idea. He says in his book, “As for the future, I haven’t been there yet. I only know that I have one.”

In my book, I tell my daughter it’s OK to care about me, without feeling she has to take care of me. The same is true for our elderly population in this country. Caregivers are angels – but they often project their own fears and concerns onto their loved ones, presuming what they can and cannot do, how lucid they are, or not. It’s nice to protect, but please don’t project.

The images that this pandemic have seared in my brain are those of people with their faces pressed against the glass of hospital windows, trying to glimpse their loved one, suffering and out of reach. It reinforces the impulse that as I grow older and my life becomes understandably smaller, I take care not to lose contact with the people that I love. I must continue to value those relationships.

Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer specializing in a wide range of topics from parenting to pop culture to life after 50. She is a mother of three and lives in New Jersey with her husband and teenage son. Read more of her work on randimazzella.com.

This article is reprinted by permission from  , © 2020 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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