What a strange, symbolic and literal relationship this is. Let’s take a look, if You’re reading this, someone you know and love has or had Parkinson’s disease. At sometime they arrived in a Neurologist’s office — I’ll start there.

Here we sit, awaiting an exam – we wait with hope, like when children lay in bed as Mom and or Dad open the closet door to check for monsters and say that they see nothing there. we wait for the doctor to finish with the little hammer on your knee, having us touch our nose, relaxing our arms and turning our wrists. We walk down the hall turn walk back. We get told to take our hands out of your pockets. Not all of it makes sense.

The doctor has you sit so he can talk. He or she clears their throat and just like when you were a child, you know the monster is there – hiding so, you wait for the “I see nothing to worry about right now…”

Instead, you hear: “We opened the door and you have a monster in your closet! It’s called Parkinson’s Disease and it’s got you!” Now, like some B-rated Saturday afternoon matinee, it seems a body snatcher from planet “Y” has taken over your body. On Your way home you can feel the alien trying to get used its new home – you are dizzy, off centered and dazed.

Trying to adjust, we begin to close doors, to cut down on frustrations, to not remind us we can’t do things like before. We close doors on hobby’s, on sports like fishing. Maybe woodworking as we’re not as precise and exacting as we once were. We get frustrated easily. We may close these doors because we don’t want anyone else to see we can’t make things as we once did. We put up our brave front, we say it’ll be OK – we’ll down size, make it easier to keep up. Over time we all do it – close doors. We may say “I’ll open that up later when I see how I am and feel and we forget.” But there are so many closed doors – we forget.

Then we end up in our confined world, looking around with nothing much to do. We wake up, take our meds until bedtime and then start over again the next morning. Until one day we say “I’m getting sick of this, the pill taking and fighting this disease.” I’ve said it and I’m willing to bet if You have Parkinson’s you’ve said it or soon will.

Now, this is where a friend of yours and mine, named Joe comes into my tale. Joe said it! It scared the heck out of his wife too! It shook her up so much she posted about it on the forum!

What to do? Well, they sat down and talked. It seems they had down-sized, moved and made a list of things to do after the move (a wise Woman, Joe’s wife). Way down on the list was make another workshop for Joe. They decided to move it up on the list. Joe’s workbench was gone, he had to get rid of it with the move. Now I suspect it was his Wife’s idea, but I could be wrong (I’d rather err on Her side). They looked on Craigslist and found a smaller bench for sale. Now to come up with the cash for it. As they looked around Joe saw an old overhead garage door didn’t need it so he posted it for sale…it sold! Fast, by next day cash in hand Joe could get the workbench and get started.

Now Joe tells his Wife, “If You get up and I’m not here, I’ll be in my workshop.” Funny, how little things can be a balm to a man’s soul. For Joe it is the smell of sawdust, curls of the wood rising up from a plane, fine dust on freshly sanded wood or something as simple as dusting off tools.

Doors. Behind Joe’s was a workshop. What’s behind Yours? Fishing gear? Open it up. OK, so you can’t scramble over rocks in a stream anymore but there are ponds and lakes and guess what? They’ve got fish in them too!

So this morning (or afternoon or evening) as You sip Your coffee and wait for the Meds to kick-in, think of Joe and his door. As your caregiver/partner looks puzzled and wonders what you’re up to, ask if they’re ready for an adventure. Tell them it’s time to look behind some old doors. Head to the garden shop, bait shop, fabric store, grab the old bag of golf clubs or head for the park, somewhere you haven’t given much thought in awhile. So what if half Your fingers have turned into thumbs and you are a bit clumsier then You were. Just be more careful! Just remember to be easy on yourself!

Thanks to Joe and his Wife for sharing their story and inspiring us to open some of our old doors!

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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