I'm old enough to remember when television was supposed to be bad for us. I'm almost old enough to forget this as well, but let's not dwell on that sad state of affairs. Instead, I want to dwell on a different sad state of affairs. Now where was I?... oh yes, TV... Nowadays we don't have mere television, we have interactive video gaming, which is supposed to help us parkies with balance and fitness. It's TV that, darn it, is good for you! Ever eager to mix the unmixable, in this instance fun, and Parkinson's Disease, I obtained a Wii and a balance board. I then plugged in, turned on, and prepared to enjoy a rollicking workout.
The Wii had other plans. It began by asking me a series of questions about my height, age, and weight. Then it asked me to step up on the balance board while it did a little calculating. That done, it proceeded to tell me I am 22 pounds overweight and 65 years old in Wii Years! I'm 52.
You know you are living in modern times when your possessions can insult you.
A bit nonplussed, I let it slide and prepared to take a simple balance test. I don't mean to brag but I think that my balance is pretty good, considering my circumstances. I felt confident about my performance on the test. My machine begged to differ "I guess balance is not your forté" the machine informed me, dripping cyber sarcasm all over my misguided little sense of adequacy. I had to check the game box and make sure I didn't have a copy of "Wii Insult Comic" but it assured me that I had "Wii Fit".
Then the machine turned all fake-concerned and asked me if I wanted to lose weight, and if so, how much and how fast. This led to protracted negotiations and much refinement of my button-pushing skills. Great way to lose weight, button pushing. Finally we arrived at mutually agreeable goals. I was left to reflect that I never got along with coaches well, and in that sense, virtual reality was eerily similar to real reality. The main difference was that instead of being abused by a hairy man with a huge beer gut and a Precambrian sense of humor, I was being abused by a virtual icon of a piece of plastic electronic equipment with no beer gut and no sense of humor. It was then I remembered my forté, and, coordinating my deft right arm with my exquisitely nimble 65- year-old hand, I turned the little SOB off.
Terry Thomas was a British comic actor. According to Wikipedia, he was especially well-known for his work in the 1960's films like "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" and "Monte Carlo or Bust". He was noted for his roles as a classic British upper-class cad and bounder.
Just when your jaded view has almost permanently hardened, along comes something so well done and so true it shocks you into a new appreciation of the reach of human creative expression. This is a video from the recent World Parkinson's Congress in Glasgow, Scotland. The Congress invited people to submit videos to dramatize and explain Parkinson's Disease " to raise awareness about Parkinson's and to put a face on the disease while having a little fun at the same time. Nearly 50 people from 15 countries submitted videos". This entry from dancer Pamela Quinn tied for the top spot. You can find links to all the videos here
Our band was taking a quick break, a man jumped on stage and took my hand. "I heard you on the radio he said. Then he dumbfounded me by calling my interview "Brave".
You must have me confused with someone else. Someone with nothing to lose. Someone who isn't worried every day that he is finally seeing the end of his ability to drive, to draw, to write, to make music, to make love, to do, to be. Someone like... whom? Like someone who hasn't been paying attention.
I've been paying enough attention to realize I am at least among the lucky of the unlucky. I respond well to the medications available. We have the insurance to pay for expensive pills and surgery. With continued luck and discipline, the worst will be held at bay while I go on appreciating what my friend Janet calls "The finer miseries of Parkinson's".
How different does that make me from anybody else? Who isn't pushing their rock up a hill? Who Lives more than a phone call away from tragedy? Who doesn't depend on the fine calculation of other drivers on the road to keep a trip to the grocery store from becoming a trip to the emergency room? Who doesn't carry some rogue cell, a bit of themselves that will rebel and fester until it overwhelms the life it is a part of?
Herman Melville wrote of the whalers in a harpoon party at sea. Fragile men in a fragile boat, rowing toward a Sperm Whale to kill it with a small spear of iron and wood attached to a rope. The rope threaded throughout the boat and when a whale was struck the line jerked alive with deadly speed. The rope could snatch away a life or a limb on board the boat with impersonal lethality. Melville knew that we all are surrounded by such ropes and thought that a whaler was at least fortunate enough to see them.
Most of us are at least dimly aware of these ropes. Much of what we do every day is spent at some level trying to elude or escape them. To see the rope is to fear it less, to know where not to step, to keep a hand clear. What is truly frightening is what you do not know: Where the whale is, what it will do next. Facing this is the bravery required of each of us, and it is the price of a good life. This price is the same whether you are diagnosed or not. Diagnosis is merely to be shown one of the ropes.
Peter D-S here with the Parkinson's forecast for December. Looks like we can expect mild to moderate Parkinson's activities for the dark month of December. Heaviest activity expected, next week with a Telehealth presentation of the Tremble Cleffs (REALLY!) singing holiday songs and an account of experiences at the second World Parkinson's conference in Glasgow. Look for this event at Providence Hospital room 2401 Dec. 13 at 1:00. The following Saturday, the 18th of December3:30 at the Pioneer Home, we will have our annual Holiday potluck. Pam and I will bring something main dish-like, everybody else bring something tasty of your choosing.
Looking into January, we will have a special presentation from my buddy Jim Kerr, who will give us tips on balancing. Jim teaches juggling (among other things,) and balance is a fundamental.
Welcometo all with an interest in Parkinson's Disease. This blog was to be an information clearinghouse for the Anchorage Parkinson's Disease Support Group, where meeting schedules, agendas, speakers etc could be found. It's still that, but has also become a sort of therapeutic hobby. So I invite you to join in the discussion and experience a little therapy as well. This will be as interesting as we as a community make it. Think loud and sound off!
Our Support group meets the third Saturday of each month at 3:30 in the afternoon. The meetings take place at the Anchorage Pioneer Home , 923 West 11th Avenue in downtown Anchorage on the fifth floor in the West lounge. You may call 350-9691 with questions about the group and meetings.
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The Knight Digital Media Center, judges of the Alaska Press Club's annual journalism awards selected The Alaska Parkinson's Rag for second place in the "Best Blog" category for 2008. Here is an excerpt of their comments:
"...Alaska Parkinson's Rag is many things: a community resource, a humor column, a science and medicine explainer. But it's also something that few blogs ever manage to be: addictive and gripping. Everything seems to work just right on this blog, and it is a powerful testament to what a person can achieve in this medium. "