Actor and Parkinson’s research advocate Michael J. Fox, 50, opens up about to PARADE about his longtime love Tracy Pollan, their four kids – Sam, 22, twins Aquinnah and Schuyler, 17, and Esmé, 10 – and coping with Parkinson’s.
On raising the kids away from the limelight: “We made a decision really early on, before the Parkinson’s diagnosis, that we’d move back East. We’d just bought a house in Bel Air [Los Angeles], but we never moved into it. We had an awakening one day that we don’t want to raise our kids in an environment that’s largely show business and built on whose father had a bigger opening weekend. It seemed fraught with peril. New York seemed like a better bet. There’s much more variety in the people that they meet and the relationships they have [in New York]. It’s much more real. They don’t live in a bubble. And I know where my kids are all the time.” He adds, “We have a responsibility to make sure that they’re good people, not destructive; that they’re contributors who don’t feel entitled. They’re good kids. I can’t imagine reading about them [in the tabloids].”
On dealing with the devastating diagnosis of Parkinson’s at age 30: “For a time I dealt with it with alcohol, which turned out to be a disaster. I’d always been kind of a partier, but this was the first time I was drinking in order not to feel something. It had a dark purpose. About a year after my diagnosis, I woke up one morning and saw (wife) Tracy’s face…She said, “Is this what you want?” Instantly I knew-no, this isn’t what I want or who I am. So I quit drinking in ’92. I recognized I had choices about drinking, and that made me realize I had choices about Parkinson’s as well. I could say, “I’m powerless over this, but I have things I can do.” I could apply everything I’d learned about getting drinking out of my life to dealing with Parkinson’s.”
On living with Parkinson’s: “I don’t look at life as a battle or as a fight. I don’t think I’m scrappy. I’m accepting. I say “living with” or “working through” Parkinson’s. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it. I look at it like I’m a fluid that’s finding the fissures and cracks and flowing through.”
On his faith: “I don’t subscribe to any particular doctrine or ideology. I just think that there’s kind of a good and bad, the good being life in its purest, happiest form, and the other being the darker side of existence. I believe that the majority of times the scale tilts toward the good. It’s this amazing thing that rolls on and if we get in the flow of it, that’s God. And if we fight it, if we swim the other way, we’re swimming away from the purest expression of this life. The thing that brings people to wail at a wall, or face Mecca, or to go to church, is a search for that feeling of purity.”
On why his wife of 23 years Tracy Pollan stays with him: “It’s hard to explain why this amazing woman would want to stay. People say, “Tracy’s a rock.” She always laughs at that and says, “I’m not a rock.” And she’s not. She’s a living, reactive person. We’ve been very blessed and haven’t had a lot of big challenges other than Parkinson’s. Tracy knows she can count on me when there are issues we face. We still love each other and make each other laugh, which is probably the most important thing. She still thinks I’m smart and funny and sexy.”
For more of the interview with Michael, pick up a copy of PARADE this Sunday.