Michael J. Fox on Staying Positive After His Mother’s Death: ‘She’d Never Add Up the
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Michael J Fox speaks about his mother Phyllis, who passed away in September at the age of 92.
In his thirty years of battling Parkinson’s disease, Michael J. Fox has become renowned for his acceptance of the power of optimism. It is a quality that he received from his mother, Phyllis, who passed away in September at the age of 92.
“My mum had a long and fulfilling life. “There was no more revered woman,” Fox, 61, said. “She was a lovely lady. You were confident that you would be treated fairly. And she loved to laugh—she laughed all the time.”
When he informed Phyllis in 1991 that he had Parkinson’s disease at the age of 29, she expressed concern.
“I was still working TV and movies and establishing a family when I launched the foundation,” adds Fox, who married actress Tracy Pollan in 1988. Their son Sam, now 33, was born in 1989, and the couple added twin daughters Aquinnah and Schuyler — now 27 — in 1995, followed by their youngest, Esmé, 21.
“When she questioned how I did it all, I told her, ‘I just go forward.’” I’m not interested in taking stock or lamenting that something isn’t going to happen. My mum was the same way. She’d never calculate the losses. She’d consider the benefits.”
Fox reflects on his early experiences with his mother and father, William, who passed away in 1990, to discuss resiliency. William served in the Canadian services for 25 years, so as military children, Fox and his four siblings looked out for one another, and Phyllis was the one who kept the family together.
“Army wives are adaption masters,” he says. “They just know how to handle a new scenario, get the house together, get the schools set up, get a job on the side — since military money is nothing. We didn’t get it as youngsters. Now I understand.”
The actor, whose Michael J. Fox Foundation has donated more than $1.5 billion for Parkinson’s research, admits that the past year saw a number of blows to his armor of optimism, including fractures to his hand, shoulder, right arm, and elbow.
But he’s upbeat today, “rocking and rolling” as his recuperation finally comes full circle. “I’m just coming through where the last of my injuries are mending up; my arm feels terrific,” he says. “Life is fascinating. This is what you get.”
When things get tough, Fox recalls a saying he came up with after a risky spinal cord procedure to remove a tumor from his spine in 2018.
“If I can find thankfulness in anything I do and whatever scenario I’m in if I can find one little thing to be grateful for, it turns the whole situation around and allows for the possibility of grace, of something great happening,” the actor says. “I’m just getting back into that groove, so it’s very good.”