Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You can do more than you think you can

ABOVE: Homage to Sylvain Chomet

Alzheimer's is the forgetting disease, but there is something that Parkinson's keeps making me lose track of: The fact that I don't have to quit doing what I enjoy because of PD. It's true that lots of my old skills don't measure up to their former levels, But as G.K Chesterton said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." This was a defense of amateurism, but by all that is shaky, it also applies to living with PD.

I love riding my bike, I used to do a regular 22 mile round trip commute on our wonderful network of Anchorage bike trails. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson's,I was especially glum about the prospect of losing my ability to balance. No balance, no bike. I kept at it for awhile, then had to sit out most of a rainy season. When the next season rolled around I talked myself into the idea that I couldn't ride anymore.

I was working at home one day a little while after I reached this dispiriting conclusion. My son had driven to school and Pam had taken the Jeep to work. The phone rang, and when I picked up, I was told by the head of security at my son's high school that we had "A Situation" with his car. She explained that a roving security guard had peered into our Subaru and spotted a weapon. Said guard had the car staked out and could not leave until I dealt with the situation.

Calling me to let the guard return to "roving" mode was actually plan "B". The original idea was to jerk my son out of the middle of his AP economics test and have him retrieve the forbidden implement of destruction. Sanity prevailed, in the form of an alert assistant principal who knew that this kid would not be a threat to the school if he had a bazooka in the car. (Come to think of it, the car itself was a bigger threat, but he can explain that to you himself here)

Which was how I ended up telling an extremely unhappy head of security that, having no car, I would walk right up and take care of things, but since I had Parkinson's Disease, it would be about 45 minutes. This naturally left her delirious with happiness. At least I think it was happiness.

I trudged into the gloom of the garage to put on my shoes and the dull gleam of the gold paint on a friend's road bike caught my eye. It seemed worth a shot. It was.

I rode uphill all the way to the school and confiscated the weapon. I know you've been wondering just what it was. Machete? Switchblade? Gravity knife? Nope. It was a tiny folding saw with a 6-inch blade and a bright yellow handle that my dad had given us in case we broke down in the middle of a forest and had to hack it down to get back to civilization, or, if we were feeling truly ambitious, use it to start a whole new civilization. Which seems like a better idea all the time.

My job done, I signed a few autographs kissed a few babies, rescued a treed cat and rode home, delirious with happiness. I was back on a bike.


Margo Shohl Rosen said...

Pete's sister Margo here, compelled after all this exercise musing that Pete has been my exercise muse ever since he prevented me by simple reverse psychology from quitting the ski team. I can no longer count the number of times I have convinced myself to get out even for a short run by thinking of the hours Pete's logged on bike, ski, or foot since his diagnosis. Turns out that exercising helps not only the Parky, but has a ripple effect into family and friends as well!

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

OK, it's true, I do flap my jaws quite a bit about exercise. (And by the way, several small but interesting studies have shown that jaw flapping does seem to have beneficial results on PD symptoms.)
But I have to admit that it is not a PD panacea. If it were, the Olympic bicycle racer Davis Phinney would not be a person with Parkinson's. That said, I'll proudly take the blame for your exercise habit!

Anonymous said...

Cool silver lining to an all-too-typical fool-with-the-rule cloud.

I'd have been sorely tempted to tell the security guy, "this is Alaska - that's a saw - you're more dangerous with your misplaced authority than ten of my son's"

(good thing for that vice-principal)

Remind me why I like Stellar - where my daughter attends.

They don;t have the usual ASD prison rules - they have rope instead. If the kids hang themselves, then they get shown the door.

The ASD ought to try that more generally.