FROG HOSPITAL -- Dec. 4, 2019
The PD Blues
By Fred Owens
This is just an update on how I am dealing with Parkinson's Disease. Some of you have seen this same piece on FB last week. I got a lot of good feedback on that, so now I share it with the broad Frog Hospital readership.
PD is the coolest of major maladies -- we have Michael Fox, Alan Alda, Linda Ronstadt and Mohammed Ali. Next Monday I am going to a boxing class at the gym, designed for PD folks. I will probably knock myself out. These days I get scared of going to new places by myself. Like yesterday, I was scared to go to the new Target. I did go however and I did not like it. The in-store music was too loud, and the lights were too bright. It was all too shiny. But I stuck it out and bought a new 5-cup Mr. Coffee coffeemaker and some art supplies -- a small canvas and a tube of Apple green acrylic paint. I have set myself up in an outdoor painting place -- it is very absorbing.
This is all PD related by the way. In my PD exercise class they encourage all manner of activity, like painting. Another thing I have begun to do is play the piano. Reading the sheet music maintains the connection between the eyes on the notes and the ten fingers on the keys -- that feedback loop is what can get lost when the disease progresses.
In exercise class, I began talking with Kent. He is 81. He's had PD for 15 years. His wife Karen drives him to class. He is a bit unsteady in his movements but speaks loudly enough and makes sense. That's encouraging. Kent is doing all right.
I take the medicine three times a day, "ropa dopa" they call it, otherwise I get stiff and achy. I get constipated and I have to pee a lot. But a lot of these things are just old age. Like my sex life, still going, can't complain and spare you the details. I sleep well and my appetite is good.
I have almost entirely lost my sense of smell, and this is common for PD folks. It seems like a small thing, but actually it's a big thing. So much of our judgment and decision-making comes from unconscious olfactory feedback. We like people or do not like people because of the way they smell. Some rooms smell good and some not so good. It's good to pay attention to your nose, and I wish I still had my nose -- my olfactory capacity that is.
But in general I don't cruise the Internet for PD information. I find this depressing. I would rather go to my PD exercise class and ask questions from my fellow sufferers.
PD is so random. Who gets it? Does it progress rapidly, slowly or not at all? Some people get the trembling hands, but many people don't get it. My sister said don't think about what might happen, so I don't. I can't say that it weighs on my mind too much, although my balance is pretty poor and I have to be careful when I walk. Maybe that explains my fear of new places like the Target store -- familiar landscapes are easier to navigate,
And I like my doctor. She works at the Sansum Clinic nearby. She is 35 and looks like she's 12. She went to medical school in Bangkok and her name is Dr. Mananya Satayapresert.
This is probably more than anybody wants to know about my PD experience, so I will stop here.
So much for health news. I could write about politics next time, or maybe just shut up.
In the category of assertions advanced without supporting evidence, I offer the following piece:
Spiders and Death
A story about a young woman who is afraid of spiders:
I heard her scream. She works in the next room. I could tell by the sound of her scream that it was something that scared her, but it was something that wouldn’t scare me, so I wasn’t alarmed. I walked over.
A spider was crawling across her computer screen. I got rid of it for her. Normally, I shush a spider out the door or window, if possible. I respect spiders – it’s not good to kill them if it isn’t necessary. But in this case, there was no choice.
The young woman was minimally embarrassed, as if it was a fact of life. She is a very decent, capable worker, like me. After all, I had put in a beef about the fluorescent lights in my office – they were driving me batty. It was my peculiarity and everybody has one. The boss was kind enough to buy some full-spectrum lamps to use instead.
Then I got to thinking – women are afraid of bugs and snakes and creepy-crawlers – a vast generalization, I admit, but it led me to another thought, or rather, to a question – What are men afraid of?
Two weeks later, it came to me. Men are afraid of death. This is not my original idea. You would think that after watching enough Woody Allen movies, that I would get the point, and I finally did.
Women are afraid of bugs, but they’re not afraid of death. Of course, they feel terror at its immediate approach, but on a day-in day-out basis, they’re afraid of other things.
My sister wouldn’t attend my niece’s wedding in Cancun, because it’s in Mexico. “There are cockroaches in Mexico,” she explained, in an assertion that invited no response.
But men – I’ll give you an example. I was afraid to buy a house for the longest time, because I knew, dimly, that if I bought a house I would die.
That doesn’t make sense? Well, being afraid of bugs doesn’t make sense either.
Later, the young woman was talking to me about her boyfriend of six months, and his failure to declare his devotion to her. That was her due, I agreed. Once more, I was ashamed for my gender because a man had failed to step up to the plate and take his swing.
What was he afraid of? He was afraid that if he told her that he loved her, that he would die – which he surely will.
Why doesn’t he grow up? Why doesn’t he move forward? Why does he just want to keep having fun? Because he’s afraid to die.
This cannot be explained away. This is not silly. It’s the reality, and a man is called to courage or he is not a man. If that boyfriend is not willing to utterly give up his life for her, then he is just a boy.
All of a sudden, I understood religion. Men invented religion because they cannot face this blank wall unaided.
Women have babies. They have the life inside them, which comes forth again and again, and so they’re not afraid of death.
But how could a man know that, even if he is near it. Instead, he invented paradise in the heavens.
A woman’s paradise is simply a place with no bugs.
It is such a good explanation of large questions, and I am very satisfied with myself at this point for coming to this understanding.
And what should we do about it? We should treat each other with kindness and sympathy, because we are all afraid of something.
Politics. A survey of the Frog Hospital readership told me that most of you would rather hear me tell stories than rant on the election and the impeachment. I'm okay with this, for now.
Upcoming issues. The next issue features an incredibly long story. I have field tested this story with four astute and powerful readers. They have endorsed it, for the most part, with reservations. So you will see it next time....... Also someone suggested I write a story about Precious, the African woman I married in 1997. This might be a good idea (hear the sound of me mulling this good idea).
Donations. Donations to Frog Hospital have reached $425 which is pretty good considering we are tapping a small pool of donors. You can go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the Pay Pal button for $25. Or you can mail a check for a larger amount to Fred Owens, 1105 Veronica Springs RD, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 ....... Thank you very much ......