Em’s trip to the big city and understanding of ‘You are not alone’

Here's Kate and me at the Unity Walk kickoff, with Time Square in the background.
Here’s Kate and me at the Unity Walk kickoff, with Time Square in the background.
A few weekends ago, I made a big trip north. Kate picked me up at the airport in Baltimore, MD bright and early (at least for her) and we drove to Jersey City, NJ. The anticipation of how the weekend would turn out was extremely high for me. Firstly, I had never been to New York City. On top of that, the nervousness I had for using the subway system or a cab was high. I have to admit that I love watching crime shows and of course most of the bad stuff happens in NYC. Plus you hear that the cabbies will hit people on the street and keep going. For someone who lives in wide open, flat country, this was a big feat.

As we came off the NJ Turnpike, I saw the majestic city. Unfortunately for Kate, I was a horrible navigator because I was too busy getting pictures of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Once we got to our cousin’s place, she sat us down and showed us where to walk to get on the correct subway and where to get off. She took us to the terminal and helped us purchase our Metrocards and we were off, in the middle of Friday rush hour.

My first subway ride.
My first subway ride.

We made it to Time Square and walked to the Marriot for the Parkinson’s Unity Walk welcome party. As we were navigating the crosswalks and the crowds, Kate was trying to take pictures of my first time in the “Big Apple” (of which I disapproved). The welcome party was filled with others in the same fight as our family. It was awesome to have people come up to us and ask why we were involved and what a great day we were going to have the next morning. We met people for the MJF foundation and families who had seen what we were all about and excited to finally meet us in person. For me, this event was the right way to begin the walk to come. It was the first time other than my dad’s golf tournament where I got to get out into the PD community.

The next morning we were up bright and early and headed back to the city. I hailed my first taxi and held on tight for my first cab ride in NYC. I was terrified as we dodged other vehicles and hit potholes. We made it in record time to Central Park. As we walked into the park, we noticed people with our team shirts. We stopped and got to know them and waited for the majority of the team to show up. Our childhood friend who I haven’t seen since high school, Jessie-Kate arrived followed by Kate’s college roommate and her posse in tow. As we caught up, we had no idea of what was waiting just around the bend.
More than 10,000 with a common goal. To cure PD.
More than 10,000 with a common goal. To cure PD.

When the bus rolled in, the chaos began with pictures and first meetings. Rounding the corner and seeing all of the people packed in the starting line area I took a step back and just stared. It was the first time that my dad’s famous line of “You are not alone” made sense. To see more than 10,000 people united for the same cause, a cause so dear to my heart, was breathtaking. Our little group of friends looked at each other silently acknowledging what it all meant. A whirlwind of registration and sign making ensued. We entered the line of thousands and began the walk. After about an hour we were done with the 1.4 mile slow crawl. We met new people, including Muhammad Ali’s daughter, May May, as well as random strangers and the rest of the team that until that point I was an enigma. At the end, it was a little sad to leave the greatness of what we had just participated in.

The rest of the weekend, we spent time with friends covering most of NYC and visiting with our cousins. Even though we could barely walk on Sunday morning, the weekend was a success. We made our way back to Baltimore and I flew home, completely exhausted.

I realized that the whole experience was not about who could raise the most money (even though I am so grateful for all of those who supported my efforts of making my goal). It was about family, the enormous family that I joined 7 years ago with my dad’s diagnosis, my Parkinson’s family. We have a common understanding that we are in the fight for our lives and the lives of those we love. For that, I will be forever grateful to be considered a card carrying member. WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!

I'm no longer an enigma. It's me, Kate and the Ryans!
I’m no longer an enigma. It’s me, Kate and the Ryans!

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