Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Rigid Back and the Despair It Propagates

Symptoms for Parkinson's Disease are myriad and personal. We are all different, though commonalities occur in the greater brotherhood of us Parkies. My left arm tremors are most conspicuous, though least of my present concerns, after all I am right-handed.

I just have to be damn careful while cooking or handling two-handed tasks. Watching me read while holding a paper, or drink while holding a cup, prerequisite for us teachers, can be quite comical in a cruel sort of way.

The cramping of foot and leg muscles for no apparent reason, so unpredictable and often in bed, are brutal pain-wise. My most terrifying fear, the loss of control in swallowing/throat muscles, is a foreshadowing I dread. Death by choking is real and my occasional choking sessions extremely embarrassing. As in the recent death from pneumonia by actor Bob Hoskins, when breathing and eating got mucked up together, the source of nightmares.

But the crème de la crème of nastiness, is the rigidity in my lower back. I am a turtle with too heavy a shell. Standing, walking, climbing stairs ages me by twenty years. I lust for a place to sit. I measure distances by feet where I once walked miles. Doing dishes can mean an agonising end to a potential day of chores. I feel hopelessly inadequate in the simplest of tasks. I live to put my feet up, to stop the pain, and bring back normalcy. 

I morbidly look at the dust accumulating, the weeds growing, the dreams abandoned, and feel my age and the death it proceeds. Gruesome stuff.

So I have to consider realistically the future, without knowing which symptoms will take precedence. Do I sell my house and choose a home with wheelchair access? Will my shrinking voice projection, body tremors, loss of mental clarity, leaky bladder, all, none, or more, prevent me from teaching?  

Some Parkinson cohorts play golf while others progress to a life in bed with live-in care. The only reliable fact is 'it is a degenerative disease'. Barring a miraculous new cure, it only gets worse. Shit happens and it hurts.

How much help can I expect, even ask for, from family and friends? How will my adopted country Japan, or my native US, react to an unemployed handicap senior? How much medical care do I factor into my future? How will I foot the bill to a protracted longevity? Cut out early, survive as a Ward of the State, a stone around the throat of love ones, cross the bridges, or wobble into the sea? Grim variables indeed.

So I talk about it with friends. Take note of my preoccupation with eating and the tightening of clothes it brings. Read what I can, project into a realm of potentials, feel thankful for all my blessings, stare at the moon. 

Music helps, though memories of dancing in abandonment crawl up my spine christening my brain with sad acceptance. I am not whole but want to be. Maybe there is something I am missing, a cure, or an adjustment in attitude.

Such is life with this nemesis Parkinson's.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Uncle Walt

Uncle Walt died this week of Lung Cancer. He had Parkinson's, and other aliments, but cigarettes did him in. Funny thing is, though death is surely sad, I can only envision Uncle Walt smiling. That provocative tilted grin... of a fox casing the hen house at dinner time. A look that said 'I know what you are thinking' ... and, scarily,  he usually did. Like this old snapshot of him lighting up atop deadly depth charger's. Crazy sexy. A dangerous seductiveness, fireworks to a boy, or leather-clad 'James Dean' for the girls.

Every one smoked back when I was young, but somehow Walt made it cool. He had a style that both fascinated and terrorised us little ones. He was sinewy, snarly, and unpredictable. He would hook into hobbies and take them to extremes. He was talented and couldn't help but impress you on his pursuits of perfection. 

He made his kitchens into showroom meticulous creations. He pursued photography deeply and then shifted to perfecting homemade wedding cakes, or renovating the old Firehouse streamline bus into a mobile cruiser. He was a master with his hand, a pragmatic electrician with a craftsman's imagination.

He single handedly rewrote the family geography, twice. First by buying a farm from a real estate catalogue, and drawing a large chunk of the extended family to the wintry wilds of Schoharie, away from the dwindling promise of an over-taxed Long Island. From our sprawling extension of Manhattan to the sleepy hills of Upstate New York, he converted city folk into happy country yokels.  And then again, with brave spontaneity, when the snow no longer suited his ageing bones, to South Carolina, for still lower taxes and even more country quiet.

Uncle Walt was an individualist. Like wondering onto blooming wild flowers deep within the woods, I will suddenly remember his mischievous eyes, his unique impish style, and the magic it brought into our lives. And I will mimic his smile, that teasing sly style, so uniquely Uncle Walt's.

Gozdziewski and Lindquist bonded into eternity.