Josh Lasky learned as a young man that endurance is a valuable skill for both an athlete and a caretaker. In his new memoir, “Every Step Is a Gift: Caregiving, Endurance and the Path to Gratitude” (New Degree Press, 139 pp., $18.99), the Cranford-raised author shares his experiences of spending 11 years taking care of his father, who was afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, and discusses the role gratitude plays in appreciating moments of defeat and triumph.
Lasky, who is also the managing director and chief strategist for the social impact consulting firm LINK Strategic Partners, will hold his virtual book launch, Jan. 14 at 78 p.m. To RSVP, visit forms.gle/cfNZMtBjNqgYvcpX6; you will be sent a zoom link after registration.
Many of us find ourselves in the role as caretaker — whether of children, sick parents or friends — by the time we hit our 30s. Some endure painful moments when observing the pain of loved ones who are sick.
Lasky started younger than most. When he was just 21, he began the process of transitioning his father to assisted living, having to help him get his finances in order and apply for housing. Later, he moved him from New Jersey to Lasky’s current hometown of Washington, D.C.
Throughout the experience, he learned the benefit of finding purpose and feeling deep gratitude. He also found that the endurance that he learned when caring for his father through a lengthy illness empowered him with the mental ability to enjoy endurance sports. He has ridden his bike alone from Washington, D.C., to Portland, Ore., and has completed more than 6,000 miles of bicycle touring and 50-kilometer, 50-mile and 100-mile ultramarathons. Whether traveling across the Grand Canyon or New Hampshire’s Presidential Traverse, he has learned to breathe through rough patches and to just keep moving, as he did when dealing with his father’s decline.
Lasky found gratitude not only in his role, but also for his deepened relationship with his father and for the simple beauty of surviving another day to see the sun rise.
“I found a sense of purpose,” he writes in his book. “Being there for a loved one, in any capacity, is a virtuous act. For those who need us, bearing witness is meaningful in and of itself. As a byproduct of that service, we come to know gratitude. I became grateful for the moments I shared with my dad, even the really hard moments, and as a result, I became grateful for so much more in my life.”
His book focuses on struggle, resilience and growth. He writes in the prologue that “long-distance biking and running provided fitting and illuminating analogies for my service as a caregiver. You simply cannot grit your teeth and outlast a fifty-mile run or a hundred-mile bike ride. You need to settle in. You need to find a way to get comfortable, even in discomfort. You need to weather the lows and feed off the highs. And you need to be able to breathe throughout.”
Lasky ends the book reflecting on hospice care and emergency room visits that ended with the scattering of his father’s ashes at a place he adored, Bradley Beach.
He thought about all that he has lost and gained over the years as he dug a hole for the ashes, describing it as:
… the kind of hole my father would be proud of. I stepped down a few feet into the space. It possessed a serene quality, slightly quieter than up above. As I stood there, I thought about my father, just as I had at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I thought about the lows he endured with depression back when I was a child and my parents were together. I thought about the steep uphill climbs he looked at every day with Parkinson’s, just getting out of bed, putting on his clothes, and brushing his teeth. I thought about the end of his life, when his body itself had become an unscalable canyon, and he remained trapped within, fully dependent on others to move and do and be. And yet, he persisted. At some point, the walls get too deep to even recognize as walls because there’s no more light coming in through the opening at the top. Or worse, your mind has completely lost touch with the concept of up or down or movement. It hurt me deep in my gut to think that that’s how my father’s journey ended.
In that moment, I remembered that even the ability to recognize the walls of a canyon around you is a beautiful thing. And if you’re lucky enough to have it, the ability to pull yourself out of the canyons even more beautiful. The depths remind us of the value of gratitude. Without constraints, we cannot appreciate freedom. Without struggle, we cannot appreciate ease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neuromuscular disorder that impacts more than six million people globally. Actor Michael J. Fox, boxer Muhammad Ali and others have raised public awareness of the degenerative condition. Ten percent of the proceeds from sales of Lasky’s book will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
The Light of Day Foundation, launched in 2000, raises money for Parkinson’s research through multiple concerts, including those held annually in Asbury Park and Montclair. For information, visit lightofday.org.
For more about Lasky or to purchase the book, visit joshlasky.com.
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