I married a woman with Parkinson’s despite my friends’ warnings, we are now celebrating 40 years together with 14 grandchildren.

I met Lisa at a hospital while I was working there as a nurse. She was a regular patient of one of the doctors there, as she was being treated for juvenile Parkinson’s disease.

For me, it was love at first sight. When I first saw her, she had a breathtaking beauty that I could not resist. She was a soft-spoken young lady with a beautiful face, and every time I saw her in the hospital, I wanted to get to know her more.

One day, I finally worked up the courage to ask her out. I slowly approached her as she was waiting on one of the hospital benches and started talking about my favorite restaurant across the street.

“Hello,” I greeted shyly. “I’m Javier. I’m sorry to bother you like this, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to you,” I told her.

As I said this, I saw Lisa flash the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.

“Me?” she asked with a chuckle. “Why would you be interested in me? I’m just a woman with Parkinson’s. It would be a hassle to date me,” she replied.

“Can I at least try?”, I asked him honestly.

I think she saw how genuinely I asked her that question and decided to accept my invitation.

That day, we went out on a date at the restaurant across the street. I remember it so vividly: I ordered my favorite meal: cheeseburger and a milkshake, and she ordered chicken tenders and a beer soda. We spent the whole afternoon talking, swapping stories and laughing with each other. It was the best date I’d ever had.

Lisa became my best and only friend. Before I met her, I couldn’t have cared less about the hearts I had broken and, I admit, I didn’t mind dating more than one girl at a time. But when she came into my life, I changed. I didn’t see it coming, but the thought of hurting her was something I simply couldn’t stand. I wanted to be the one who took away her problems, not the one who caused them.

When we started dating, Lisa didn’t want to open up to me.

“Things are going to get worse for me,” she would warn me. “I really don’t want to be a burden to you.”

I could see how Parkinson’s affected her daily life. Her hands shook every time she used them and sometimes the shaking became so uncontrollable that the pot she was cooking with almost fell to the floor.

“I’m here. You don’t have to worry about things like that anymore,” I told her.

Little by little, Lisa allowed me to love and help her. While some people might find caring for a person with Parkinson’s a hassle, for me it was a privilege. I loved Lisa with all my heart and wanted to do anything for her.

So, we got engaged. Lisa and I couldn’t be happier, and we excitedly told all of our parents and friends about it. When I talked to my friends, they were all surprised.

“Are you sure about this, bro?” one of my college friends asked. “Your life is going to be a disaster,” warned another of them.

“How can you say that? You’re talking about Lisa, my girlfriend! When you insult her, you insult me,” I said, hurt that they were trying to dissuade me from my own wedding.

“We’re just telling the truth, man. Your life is going to be very difficult having to take care of someone with Parkinson’s disease,” they said again.

The truth was that my life was not going to be transformed just because I had to take care of Lisa. My life would be a mess without her!

One day, a couple of months before our wedding, I decided to attend a conference for people with Parkinson’s with Lisa. “What for?” she asked me.

“I want to know how I can take better care of you,” I told her. “And it might be good for you to find a support system,” I suggested.

As we stood in the hallway, an elderly man who looked to be in his 70s approached me.

“How old are you, son?” he asked.

“I’m 32 years old, sir,” I replied. “My fiancée has early onset Parkinson’s. We’re going to attend this conference, so I’ll know how to take better care of her. I know it won’t always be so easy,” I added.

“Early onset?” the man said, surprised. “So you’re knowingly walking into the fire?” he asked me.

I was confused by the way he responded because it was as if he was surprised that someone could knowingly love a person with early-onset Parkinson’s.

“Why not?”, I thought to myself.

“I don’t think the fact that my wife has Parkinson’s will stop me from loving her wholeheartedly,” I told the man, who seemed to have scoffed at my decision to marry Lisa. “I love her, and my love for her is more than her condition.”

“You say that now, son,” he shook his head, and I heard a faint chuckle leave his lips. “A word of advice? You’d better part ways now. Go. Things will only get worse from here. Take it from a man with a 71-year-old wife who has stage IV Parkinson’s,” he said, tapping me on the shoulder before walking away.

Before I could understand what he was saying, or look for Lisa, I found her standing right behind me. She had heard everything the man had said to me and was on the verge of tears.

“Don’t listen to him, honey,” I suggested. “He doesn’t know us.”

For the rest of the conference, Lisa remained silent. She barely spoke and kept to herself most of the time. It was when we returned to the hotel room that Lisa began to cry inconsolably.

She cried all night, begging me to leave her.

“Please,” she begged. “Please leave me now. You heard what the man said…your life is going to get worse because of me,” she sobbed.

“Honey, I will never leave you,” I said, hugging her tightly.

“I want you to be happy,” Lisa told me. “Please call off the wedding. Let’s not do this anymore,” she cried.

“I’ll only be happy with you,” I assured her. “Please believe me. I’m not calling anything off. I want to be with you!”.

Lisa kept crying, but I kept hugging her until she calmed down. While I was doing that, I was determined to prove to her that it was totally true what I said.

Before I went to bed that night, I called my parents and asked them to reschedule all of our wedding reservations for the next day. The next morning, I had Lisa’s wedding dress brought to the hotel and asked her to get dressed.

“What for?” she asked me, surprised that her wedding dress was in the room.

“I meant what I said. I want to spend the rest of my life with you… if you’ll have me,” I stated.

Lisa gave me a genuine smile as she hugged her wedding dress to her chest. We got married that same day surrounded only by our families. I no longer wanted to invite my friends, as I knew I didn’t need their negativity knowing they weren’t genuinely happy with my marriage.

No matter what anyone said, I was determined to spend the rest of my life with Lisa and raise a family with her. I knew what I was getting myself into and the complications we would face in the future, but all that didn’t matter to me.

Now, we are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary together at a beautiful beachfront property in Miami with our children and grandchildren. We came here to spend the special weekend with the rest of our family. Lisa and I were able to enjoy the cool ocean breeze while creating beautiful memories.

I do not regret my choice to marry the love of my life. To this day, I look back on all the challenges and complications: I have nothing but gratitude, knowing that we did our best to overcome them together.

We went through everything, and I proved everyone who disagreed with our marriage wrong. We didn’t split up, nor did we ever fight because she had Parkinson’s. Instead, we worked hard to overcome challenges together and that made us a much stronger couple.

I can’t imagine having spent most of my life with anyone but my beloved Lisa. If it wasn’t her, it wasn’t going to be anyone. She is the love of my life and will be the only love of my life as long as I live.

Together, we had four children: she gave birth to a son and a daughter and then we adopted twins, who to this day help me take care of their mother. They love Lisa as much as I do and try to spend as much time with us as possible.

We are a close-knit family. Although Lisa can no longer walk and has to use a wheelchair, we still try to take as many family trips as we can. We take her to places where she can enjoy the fresh air and watch our fourteen grandchildren run and play.

Looking back on the life we lived, there is nothing I regret. I love my life with Lisa and the family we built, and I look forward to spending the rest of my days with them, celebrating every holiday as a family, and continuing to hike in nature.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are still days when her Parkinson’s gets the best of us. But those are challenges we are willing to face as a family.

Those friends who dissuaded me from marrying Lisa? I never saw or heard from them again. I was smart not to listen to people who didn’t plan to be in my life.

Whenever she feels bad about her diagnosis, I sit in a wheelchair all day to show her my solidarity.

“We’re in this together, honey,” I assure her. “Don’t ever doubt it, okay?”.

As soon as I sit in the wheelchair and assure her of my love for her, I see a smile on Lisa’s face, the same smile I fell in love with over forty years ago.

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