On June 9th Michael J. Fox will be 50 years old. Wow the time sure has flew by,he dont look 50 he looks 40 or so.Even though he has PD he looks great,I bet I know why,he stays healthy and eats right and doesnt let life tear him down. In this magazine I loved the interview I will put it on here for you all to see, I do not plagerize so all the interviews are in the magazine word for word not my words. I really like all of Mr. Foxs interviews he is a amazing man with a loving heart. He inspires so many people with his words and wisdom.
Rosemary Ellis: You’re turning 50 very
soon. That’s a big birthday. How does it make you feel?
Michael J. Fox: It’s not a “feeling down” kind of thing. It makes you think how valuable life is. Really, how bad is something [like Parkinson’s] in relation to not having [life] at all?
RE: Right. Which is something you must have thought about a lot when you were first diagnosed. Things like that — big life-changers and significant birthdays — make you reconsider what you value.
MJF: You know, there’s a rule in acting called “Don’t play the result.” If you have a character who’s going to end up in a certain place, don’t play that until you get there. Play each scene and each beat as it comes. And that’s what you do in your life: You don’t play the result.
So you get diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and you can play the result. You can go right to, “Oh, I’m sick.” It took me seven years to figure out that I’m not at the result. I’m not at the result till the end. So let’s not play it. It’s not written yet. And so that’s the attitude I take in life. Another expression is “Act as if.” Act as if it’s the way you want it to be, and it’ll eventually morph into that.
RE: That’s a very wise attitude.
MJF: Well, with Parkinson’s, it’s like you’re in the middle of the street and you’re stuck there in cement shoes and you know a bus is coming at you, but you don’t know when. You think you can hear it rumbling, but you have a lot of time to think. And so you just don’t live that moment of the bus hitting you until it happens. There’s all kinds of room in that space.
RE: What’s the hardest part about Parkinson’s?
MJF: I actually never talk about this, but the hardest thing is probably the fatigue. And trying to have a higher threshold for it. Sometimes there may be things I want to do, and I say, “I’m so freakin’ tired. I don’t know if I can do it.” And then I’ll do it and I’ll never regret that I did it. But [the hardest part is] just getting over that.
RE: When you think about being 50, what are you most proud of in your life? What are the things that stand out most to you?
MJF: I don’t feel a yearning or a sense of missed opportunities. I don’t have many regrets. So that’s a nice feeling. To have no regrets and still have enough sense of adventure to take on risk. I mean, in other words, I can say, “I don’t have anything I regret!” But I can also say, “I can go forward in my life the way it is now and I don’t think I’ll accrue any future regrets.”
RE: Have there been any surprising blessings in the way your life has unfolded?
MJF: One of the great things about Parkinson’s, in a superficial way, is it relieved me of vanity. I don’t worry about what I look like, because it’s literally out of my hands. But on a deeper level, it gives you a real humility, because you have to deal every day with the fact that you compromise, to a certain extent…so then you explore what that compromise is and “How am I compromised?” And for everything I can’t do, I find that there’s another ability that’s been developed or another avenue that I’ve gone down.
I had a great moment with [my daughter] Esmé the other night. This may sound funny because she’s 9 years old, but she loves to read — anyway, we were talking, and I realized, here’s a person who’s never heard the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.” And I said, “You’ll love this!” And I went and got the poem, and there were some phrases I had to explain to her, but she so loved that idea of choosing the road less traveled, and it was so cool to impart that. And that’s something I feel has made all the difference in the world. That I’ve taken those paths that people I grew up with in my life wouldn’t have expected me to take or wouldn’t have told me to look for.
RE: Have you surprised yourself?
MJF: Yes — sometimes, with the foundation [the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research], I look around, and it’s an out-of-body experience. It’s amazing to think, Look what we’ve wrought. And I’ve been really lucky with people. That’s another thing: to appreciate the people in your life, the people you take for granted and the people you may not even know are having an impact on you. There are people who make decisions that affect you every day. You don’t know that they’re making those decisions and you don’t stop to think about how grateful you are that they made them.
RE: Speaking of things you’re grateful for, what have been the highlights of the past year?
MJF: It was just great to be with family, all together; there were so many moments. Going to London with Tracy for her birthday. And careerwise, it was great to work again on The Good Wife [he has guest-starred on several episodes of the CBS drama, as a cagey lawyer with a neurological condition]. That was really fun, and it’s nice with work to still have a sense of, “What do I bring to this? What tools do I have?” Not concentrating on what tools I don’t have. I don’t have the physical subtlety that I had before. I don’t have the elasticity of expression that I had. I have to work to configure my face or to physically situate myself in a way that serves the script or my immediate physical needs. But at the same time, this experience has given me a gravitas, a kind of steadiness and a stillness, even in my motion, that I didn’t have before. It’s really taught me how to be quiet. And those are the moments in life, too, like when you walk around the corner and see Esmé lying on the floor on her back with a book and [with] her feet up. It’s just fighting back the impulse to say, “Hey, sweetie, what are you reading?” or whatever, but instead just stopping at the doorway and looking.
RE: Do you have rituals with each of your kids?
MJF: Sam [who’s now in college] and I would listen to music in the car all the time. I love music, and he’d be in the car seat…and say The Who was playing “My Generation.” I’d point out, “Listen to this bass line.” And he’d listen and then we wouldn’t talk about it, but then he’d come home from school [years later] and say, “Can I get a bass? I want to play the bass.” So with Sam, it’s a lot of that kind of stuff, and talking about science fiction and computers.
With my twins [Schuyler and Aquinnah], they’re so interesting because they’re so different [although] they’ve had the same life experience. They share the same clothes, they share the same room, and yet they’re such distinct human beings. Schuyler was born with a whiskey voice. She has a droll take on things; she’ll roll her eyes if there’s any kind of drama in the house.
With Aquinnah, she’s so passionate that you have to be really earnest when you deal with her. She’s like, “My teacher’s going to kill me.” I say, “Guarantee she’s not going to kill you. It’s not going to happen.”
And with Esmé, it’s so hard to explain! She spent the past two weeks writing a book about Greek gods. And when I say she’s written a book about Greek gods, I mean she’s written a book about [them]. She’s broken it down: Demeter and Apollo…she’s got every Greek god listed, and a description of them, and then pictures she found on the Internet. She’s taking advantage of this world we have now with all this information. She’s a really interesting, bright 9-year-old.
RE: What’s the hardest part of parenting for you?
MJF: The hardest part is that they grow up. And also realizing that there’s some stuff that’s their stuff. I spent so much time just walking them to the store, monitoring their every move. Now my 16-year-olds have to be able to go to their friend’s house and not text me every five minutes and tell me what they’re doing. They need the freedom to do that.
RE: Do you and Tracy have different parenting styles?
MJF: She’s very orderly, which is great. And I’m more laissez-faire. To me, if one of our kids reads a book for school and I can have a conversation with her about the book and I sense that she gets what the book is about, then it doesn’t really matter to me if she gets an A on the paper. What I’m sending them to school for is so they read and they get it and they write. Not necessarily that they’re able to put that out in five paragraphs with good topic sentences and a strong thesis and an outward-facing conclusion, whereas that’s important to Tracy that they do that. And that’s great.
RE: How do you and Tracy carve out time for yourselves?
MJF: There are things as silly as our having television that we watch together. If I watch Episodes on Showtime when she’s out of town, she’ll say, “I can’t believe you watched that without me!” We have that time where we sit and watch that together.
And we do take a trip every year. We really enjoy each other’s company. This year, in New Orleans, we had a day and a half where we walked the French Quarter. Just to spend two hours going into curio shops — I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. It’s not just romantic moments, but it’s goofy moments of buying a coffee and [learning] how to get a cab.
RE: What’s the most romantic thing you’ve done for her?
MJF: We had a rule. We try to save gift-giving for birthdays and Christmas, but if we’re doing something like remodeling the apartment, then we agree, “Let’s not do the big gift this year, since we’ve got to get new carpet.” But I was in New Orleans with her for Valentine’s Day, and I brought some gifts. Even though we had a deal not to give gifts, I could tell she was delighted. And I didn’t care that she didn’t get me a big gift, because that was our agreement. I cheated! I broke the rules! I got her a necklace. So sue me. She was thrilled.
RE: That’s pretty romantic. It’s nice you two were able to be together for Valentine’s Day.
MJF: You know, when our twins were born, they were induced, and we had a choice between February 14th or 15th, and we decided the 15th, because we didn’t want to never be able to have a Valentine’s dinner because it’d be the girls’ birthday. So she carried that weight around an extra day so we could have Valentine’s Day.
RE: The last time we met, you said that when people hug Tracy and say, “You’re so strong,” or they give you the sad face, you roll your eyes, understandably. So what do you think are the right things to say to someone going through a difficult time?
MJF: The cue should be taken from what the person is radiating. So for example, I had this conversation with somebody who said to me that her husband had Parkinson’s and was in denial. And I said, “What do you mean he’s in denial?” And she said, “He still insists on golfing and hiking and swimming.” And I said, “That’s not denial — that’s life. That’s just great. It’s not about what you think it should be. It’s about what he is experiencing.” So if you go up to someone and say, “How are you? Are you OK?” I mean, that tells me I’m supposed to not be OK. Just ask me if I’m OK, I’ll tell you I’m OK…and take my word for it. Or I’ll tell you I’m not OK…and then be prepared to reap what you’ve sown by asking me the question. So what I say about Tracy is this: Tracy’s big challenge is not having a Parkinson’s patient for a husband. It’s having me for a husband. I happen to be a Parkinson’s patient. That’s what I say to people: Whatever the situation, just take it for what it is. You don’t have to make it worse or better than it is. It just is what it is. Always deal with the honesty, the truth of what something is, and then you’ve got all kinds of choices.
I’m not fearful of my condition or my future — but if someone is looking in my eyes for fear, then they see their own fear reflected back at them. They’re saying, “I’m OK, but you’re kind of damaged in some way.”
RE: But some would say you’re not OK. How would you reply?
MJF: It’s like, I’m all right. Don’t worry about me.
RE: So totally shifting gears here: Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future. Have you watched any of the movies lately?
MJF: If I’m changing the channel, sometimes I’ll see them, and I’ll pause for a second. But I love that people still see it. It’s funny that a film about multigenerational relationships, characters over a span of generations, has become a film that’s been popular over a span of generations. In fact, we’re almost at the place in the future that Marty went to. Fast approaching, and there are no flying cars.
RE: You were 24 when Back to the Future was released — you didn’t finish high school, right?
MJF: No, I got a GED in my 30s. My kids know that I never stop learning, and they know I love reading. I have books overflowing everywhere. I am current on today’s events and I read the paper every day, and we talk about it, so they see that appetite. And they also understand that I came from a background [in which I] didn’t have the opportunities [they have]. And they know I would say to them, “You have these opportunities and you don’t take them — what are you, crazy?” So they don’t need to have that conversation with me. They realize.
RE: Tell me, does faith, or spirituality, play a part in your life?
MJF: I’m always grappling with it. My glib answer is, “I think there’s a God and I know it’s not me.” I don’t have a set of tenets, but I live an ethical life. I practice a humility that presupposes there’s a power greater than myself. And I always believe, don’t inflict harm where it’s not necessary.
So in terms of faith, in terms of a daily reinforcement of it, I think it’s just celebrating life. Life is the power that’s greater than I can ever comprehend. The way life runs through everything, even the tiniest elements of nature — that makes me humble. It’s the same humility that causes people at a certain time every day to get on their knees and put their foreheads on the ground in honor of something or someone. I feel in my own way I do that in every day in honor of this life. If spirituality is that you’re humble in the face of forces greater than you and you believe that those forces are more inclined toward being good than being bad, then I’m a spiritual person.
RE: Let’s talk about Father’s Day. Do you do anything special? Any favorite gifts you’ve received?
MJF: The biggest gift on Father’s Day is if I can be with all my kids. And we have one of those households that’s just a big noisy blur of activity, so it’s nice on Father’s Day when I get to be the center of it for a day.
RE: Your dad passed away 21 years ago. What are the lessons he taught you or the important things he passed on to you that you want to pass on to your kids?
MJF: When I think about my father, I think about how if you got into trouble, he was the first person you called and the last person you wanted to see. My father, seriously, he would walk barefoot through glass in a firestorm to do the right thing. Not only for his kids, but for a neighbor. He had a real sense of what was right, and he did what was right.
It took me a long time to really appreciate that. Because for me, it’s easy [to say, “Do what’s right”], because I have all this. I have financial security; I have a record of accomplishment. I’ve got an ease with my kids. I know I can provide my kids with what I want them to have. He didn’t have any of that. He had a lot of insecurity and a lot of struggles. He grew up in the Depression and went into the military because it was a paying job, and he stayed there for 25 years. He made a lot of sacrifices. I think about that when I think about all I enjoy. And he never fathomed this life. And so I always think, he died 21 years ago, but he got to see the beginnings of this. And he got to see Sam’s birth. So he saw me on this road. And I think that I’m happy that he got that. Because he owns a piece of it. So I’m glad he got a chance to enjoy something while he was here.
RE: What are the strongest memories of him that you have?
MJF: I remember when I told him that I wanted to move to the States [from Canada]. I was 17, and I wanted to move on my 18th birthday. I needed to get an agent down there, and I wanted to drop out of high school. And I expected him to blow up. What he said was, “Well, if you’re going to be a lumberjack, you better go to the forest.” So he said he’d take me there, and he drove me down to L.A. to find an agent.
I remember that trip in his Dodge Aspen, driving from Vancouver to L.A. It took us two days. We didn’t have the easiest relationship, because I was kind of a flaky kid. We didn’t talk the way I talk with my kids, a kind of loose conversation. He was a military guy, and the two of us alone in a car with me going down to L.A., well…but he did it. Because he decided it was the right thing to do, that I deserved to have that chance. And so there was nothing that was going to stop him from giving that to me. He was excited by my risk — one that he didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in taking because he had certain responsibilities. But he saw that I could take that risk. All that was in jeopardy was his sense of whether he was a good father. I’ll tell ya, whatever math he did to decide it was OK to take me to L.A., I love the way he did it.
RE: What a terrific story. Thank you for sharing it, and for all of your wisdom. And I know our readers join me in wishing you a very happy half-century!
Happy Birthday Michael J. Fox!! your a true hero forever!!