Saturday, September 5, 2009

Back from the undead

It happened again just last Friday. We were at an opening for a show of collaborative drawings and paintings by my friends Joe and Catherine Senungetuk. I hadn't seen either in quite a long time. Catherine noticed a difference "You look so much better!" She exclaimed. It was not the first time I'd heard this since the operation, but I especially took this instance to heart. Catherine is trained as both a nurse and an artist. When she says I look better, chances are I do.

She struggled to put her finger on what the actual improvement was. Everything from my color to my affect came up. Attempting to sum things up, I offered the description "More... lifelike?"

Catherine guffawed, and we moved on to other topics.

But there have been many similar observations. My dental hygienist was delighted with the new me, "You actually smiled!" She reported as I settled into the chair. And my neurologist offered the supreme compliment "I haven't seen you looking this good in years." All of which is music to my ears of course, except for one disturbing implication.

After a while the repetition of these words of encouragement from so many different people brought me to an inevitable conclusion: I must have looked like crap before the operation.

Curious and apprehensive I put the question to my family. Wiley was quick to offer helpful info. "You looked like this, Dad" he said, curling his shoulders forward in a slump. His arms hung limp and still in front of his trunk. "Like a zombie" he added.

We had a brief argument about exactly what a zombie looks like, but there was no escaping the larger point. It can't be good to look like anbody's idea of a zombie.

Sad truth, as a Parkinsonian, you're not even going to be a good zombie.

CUT TO: Townspeople barricaded in home. Our hero, John Strong parts a drawn curtain and squints through

Strong: "They... they are coming."

Joey, 13-year-old neighbor: "What do we do? what do we do???"

"Well, the ones that aren't frozen in place are shuffling incredibly slowly and falling down. Let's heat up some dinner, then catch a nap, and then think about fleeing."

I can hear the test-audiences nodding off and snoring as I write. So I'm glad to be a former zombie. But to all of you who stood quietly by me while I went through my b-movie monster phase, thanks for putting up with me, and believe this: You'll always look great to me.


Bill Schmalfeldt said...

I had friends who told me I looked taller after my DBS surgery. Another said that I always had this "walking into the wind" posture until then.

Keep getting better, bro!

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Thanks Bill,

I like that "Walking into the wind" image, certainly preferable to "zombie.

Best wishes, and hopes for tailwinds!


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter...
Here's another descriptor: more relaxed, more comfortable... more at ease. Wonderful to see you both, :_)

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Hey Catherine,

My guess is that it's the EZ- listening music I can now pull in with my new antenna. Love to chat, but gotta go, Zamfir is on!


Steve said...

Peter, I too thought you acted totally differently (positively) from the last time I saw you back in December. I went back and looked a the video of you talking at the Anchorage International Film Festival. You couldn't hold your head or arms still back then. Friday the head and arms mostly behaved themselves.

And the Methany piece was great! Thanks.

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...


Thanks for the confirmation. It's amazing what a little brain surgery will do. Glad you enjoyed the Metheney rant. The man is almost as handy with words as he is with his guitar.