O Henry! The irony of it all! Long ago, pre-Parkinson’s, I was a welder. Needless to say, with Parkinson’s, the welding went by by. (If one can’t hold hands and arms still, one cannot lay down a straight bead of weld.) Retraining was offered, schooling and even college. The admissions offices would always say, “You are very well spoken, the way you use words you should really consider a career in writing!” Remember now, this was just a few months after they dropped the “P” bomb on Me! I’m 34, divorced, 3 children to support and a future that has been shattered by an incurable, progressive neurological disease. My handwriting is a mess, illegible on good days, and hardly any tremor control. I wouldn’t be able to read my notes even if I could take them. ME a WRITER? Come on now.

So, here we are many years later and I’m writing. This is my first public commentary about a disease that so long ago darkened my dreams for the future and caused me to doubt my abilities. But I digress. Let me get back to the subject — change and Parkinson’s.

I live on Social Security Disability Insurance, so toward the end of every month, I find my suspenders staining to hold up my britches – pockets bulging with coins. To most people coins aren’t even given much thought. To a Parkinson’s patient however, they can be a nightmare. To begin with we’re nervous when standing in line – our bodies ready to betray us. When we begin to reach into a pocket for money somewhere in our control center the speakers inn our head crackle to life: “He’s going for a pocket – cut the dopamine levels — quick!” Gee, it’s hard to get my hand in my pocket. I can hear the coins jingling in joyous melody happy to be given a chance to perform their tricks. Then wrapped by my trembling fingers they burst from my pocket like a metallic fountain, splashing upon the counter and the floor. Oh boy, what fun!

Paper money? Not much better. The ever ready control center receives a signal, “He’s going for His wallet…Hit the switch.” Now, somewhere between the point where my hand disappears behind me and reappears with the wallet, my fingers have turned into thumbs. Yep, I now ten thumbs! Shaking, trying to separate bills, I pay, I grab the ones handed back, stuff them in a pocket and escape with my purchase.

Yes, there is much change with Parkinson’s Disease – literally and figuratively. I have however, throughout the years, found a quick solution to over abundance of coinage and one dollar bills: Children and grandchildren. They are more than happy to take all the change offered. Curiously, it seems when they reach age 12 or so they are more interested in the folding money. I’ll have to think on that for awhile, when I come upon a good reason I’ll let You know.

Editor’s Note: Al corresponded on our Forum, using the screen name LOHENGR1N. He was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 1986.

About the Author
Photo: Al LabendzAl was a Parkinson’s patient from Massachusetts. A divorced, father of three and Grandfather of four, he lived with his Service Dog in the Berkshire Mountains in the far western end of the State. Al was a welder before Parkinson’s changed his life. During his battle with Parkinson’s, he strove to educate people, the State legislature, medical field personnel, and general public about Parkinson’s Disease and it’s effects upon patient, family and loved ones. To that end, Al has served as the State and Congressional coordinator for Parkinsons Action Network in Massachusetts. Mr. Alan Stanley Labendz, 67, of Adams, died on Friday, March 27, 2020, at his home.
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