When my dad, Thomas Cart, was in his early 30s my grandfather took him to the Mayo Clinic after he began to develop some strange tremors. Since our family had no known history of HD, he was diagnosed with “chorea of an unknown origin” and his mysterious diagnosis stood until the mid 90s.
The disease took its toll on my father and he moved back in with my grandparents at the family farm. It wasn’t until I was in late elementary school that my dad finally got a diagnosis of Huntington’s disease.
Like many other children whose parents are afflicted with Huntington’s disease, I don’t remember my father without HD. But try as it might the disease could never hide my dad’s passions. He graduated from Manchester College with degrees in Environmental Studies and Social Work in 1973. He was a social worker for the State of Indiana who cared deeply about people. He was also an avid outdoorsman. Before he got too sick he would take my two brothers and me fishing and camping. He passed on to us a love of nature and encouraged us to play in the woods on the farm. He loved IU basketball and even had a signed poster from Bobby Knight and the team. He drank Pepsi, not Coke, and taught us to love The Beatles. Most of all he so obviously loved us, his children.
Even though we didn’t know him without HD, his legacy influenced each of us greatly. My oldest brother is an amazing father who loves his children. I’m a missionary who cares deeply about the people I work with and my twin brother is an environmental and social activist who carries on the memory of my father’s passion. I prefer to think that random bad genes left us a heritage of HD risk and that my dad left us the legacy of himself.