I didn’t know Wayne well, but I did know two aspects about him. One is that he battled it all and then some, having a variety of medical conditions. The other is that he had a sparkle in his look, as though behind the dusty blue of his eyes was an enormous filter that sifted through the muck for those shiny moments of fun and humor. That quality likely got him through the daily skirmishes with PD.
There are ten million of us worldwide (according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation) who make up the ground troops in combat with rigidity, dystonia, dizziness, dyskinesia, insomnia, meds that sometimes work and sometimes don’t.
April is Parkinson’s Awareness month. So, in addition to the front lines, we’ve added civilian duties to advocate, educate, demonstrate that we can step through doors in more ways than simply placing one foot in front of the other. Sometimes a cane helps, sometimes a walker, sometimes a giant dog.
The dictionary defines awareness as knowledge or understanding of a situation or subject. It doesn’t say that the knowledge needs to come from those already aware. After a decade with this disease, I have to admit to being tired of explaining it. And that’s less than half the time Wayne lived with the sidelong looks, the questioning faces of those wondering about our stumbles, our slurred sentences.
It’s called Parkinson’s. Look it up. Go to the PDF’s web site. Or the Michael J. Fox web site. Or call the American Parkinson Disease Association.
The next time my meds give out in the middle of the produce aisle, I’ll soldier through the stumbles. But not through the stares.
Before the month is over, I just may blurt out a new awareness approach: “Lady with Parkinson’s coming through. Need a wide path. Not sure where my feet will land. Ooh, look, broccoli is on sale.”
And I’ll think of Wayne and hope he has a good laugh.