You know how it is ... right?
Suppose you have this medical "issue" ... it can be any number of conditions. In my case, it is early onset Parkinson's Disease that I contracted at the tender age of forty-five. Funny how I mistook my first symptom, a slight tremor in my left hand, for a weight- lifting injury.To the best of my knowledge, one cannot suffer hand tremors from weight-lifting mishaps.
Nine years later, the tremor has evolved, progressed-as it were-to the point at which I have (among other symptoms) chronic soreness in both forearms, soreness in my left shoulder (which makes sleeping on my left side difficult and painful), partial but significant loss of fine digital skills in both hands with the result that grasping things and letting them go become problematic.
Now, there is a really interesting problem. Everyone understands what it is to grasp hold of something. I mean we do it every day- perhaps hundreds of times: our keys, our clothes, books, pens, pencils, laptops. We pick them up, we don't think about it. We don't have to. But what if the act of letting go of an object becomes a problem? Sounds strange to you, I'm sure. Okay, are you ready? Put the cup down, let go of the pen. Well, come on! Put it down, let it go!
What do you do when you know what to do, what has to be done, an action that you've never had to think about before but which now requires focus, time and care? When your fingertips only reluctantly let go of the coffee cup, one at a time, you know you've got a problem. I have often had to slide my hand up and off the can of pop rather than simply being able to let it go.
Did you ever think you'd be reading about such things? But that is what happens when we can no longer take for granted what seem to be innate physical capabilities, such as grasping and letting go.
I was comparing Parkinson’s notes today in shul with a friend of mine, Alan S. I enjoy Alan's friendship. He is easy to talk to . As happens with "PD", he has a different and far worse set of symptoms than I, but knowing we face the same affliction-however differently manifested-makes the going a lot easier. I find that when my symptoms, especially the stuttering, do erupt, I don’t suffer the embarrassment with Alan I feel when chatting with others. It’s a variant of that old “misery loves company” thing, I suppose.
"So you say that Amantadine doesn’t work for you?" I asked.
"No way. In fact when I took it I 'd hallucinate, all sorts of weird stuff. Ants where there were no ants, people across from me making the wildest facial contortions. As a matter of fact, I was the one making wild facial contortions, not them.There was this guy on the train one time who saw me having a reaction to one of my meds. He asked me if I was alright. What do you say in a situation like that?
I nodded empathically.
"Another time, I was in court when the judge asked me if the ninth of October would be a good day to reschedule a hearing. I checked my appointment book and realized that the ninth was Rosh Hashana.
“No, Judge. That happens to be a Jewish holiday.”
"Oh ok, what about the 19th?"
Hmm, uh oh …nope. Not good for me, Your Honor.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“You’re kidding, right? Oh my God!” I interjected.
“Not at all, but I became really confused when I had to explain why the next few days were not good for me either because of Succos. I got all snarled up in the pages of my daily planner. What a mess!"
"Yea, I know what you mean ... the worst part of this for me has been its effect on my speech. I answer with lots of ‘uh huhs’,’ okays’, and nod my head sympathetically. I just dont "wanna" get caught up in the whole stuttering thing. This is where my writing comes in. I can write it much better than I can say it.”
Alan nods back clumsily. He is having a reaction to his meds. Unlike the Samaritan on the train, I knew he was all right. It’s just hard to look at. Having Parkinson's has been a double-- edged sword, both a curse and a blessing. My approach has been to teach myself to think and believe that I have “PD” for a specific reason. Mind you, I am not referring to what has happened in my brain, causing it to produce less dopamine. The issue for me lies in the spiritual dimension.
The "Aibishter" sends afflictions to challenge us. They are supposed to empower. While true not all people will be equally successful in meeting and overcoming these challenges, each of us so afflicted must strive to do as much as he can, to accomplish his very best.
So my quetsion to you is: "How well can you "make lemonade from lemons?"
My sincere hope is that you never need to find out, but should you, just remember these few simple steps:
Slice it. (Yes, of course I mean the lemon.)
Add ice to a pitcher.
Throw in the lemon slices.
Fill pitcher with water.
Add lots of sugar.
Stir with spoon.
Alan D. Busch
Revised August 18, 2008