I recently attended a fundraiser for Parkinson's Disease, and observed a couple at the periphery of the group, trying to dance. The husband was an obvious Parkinson's patient. This story is based on my momentary observation.
Elsa didn't know where to turn. Her husband of forty-five years was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago, and life had gone downhill ever since. Despite the medicines, the therapy, the support groups, and the fund raisers, Mark was hibernating inside himself somewhere, unreachable. TV was his sole occupation. He didn’t want talking books. Dinner out was impossible with his tremor. Friends no longer called by because he spoke very seldom, and when he did, it was in a whisper.
She spent a lot of time crying alone, in the spare bedroom on those rare nights when Mark slept. He had been such a wonderful husband, even a good dancer, once. The times they’d entered ballroom dance competitions - the costumes, the music, the excitement – they had lived for dancing, but now he could barely shuffle back and forth to the bathroom. Life was so damned unfair, she thought.
She had insisted he come to the annual walkathon, though, as much for herself as for him. A group of several thousand, all with a personal connection to Parkinson’s disease, sporting tee shirts and smiles and placards, made the ailment feel a little less sinister, and she realized that was the point, that and the money raised for programs and services.
An energetic, gymnastically flexible woman led a few dozen brave souls in a short yoga class. Elsa and Mark hung back, the contrast with their previous life discouraging. But then a dance instructor took the stage, and invited everyone to join, seated or standing.
“Look, Mark, they’re dancing!” Elsa whispered, turning him so he could see. Mark’s head hung down habitually, part of the illness, so she reminded him to raise it.
Something flickered in his eyes when the music started. It was one of their old performance tunes for the Rhumba.
“Do you hear that?” she asked, excitement and happy memories filling her. “Come on, Mark, we have to dance!”
She stood and took his arm. He resisted, a little, but followed her. She took his hand and placed it around her waist, then clasped his left hand with her right in the classic dance posture.
“Now look at me, Mark,” she said, smiling. “Look up.”
He did. Parkinson’s patients were usually unaware of how limited were their ranges of motion, including eyes and head.
“Now forward,” she urged. “One-two-three, now back, that’s it.”
She saw the hint of a smile on his face, and returned it, tears trickling down her face, as he followed a few simple steps with her.
“We’re dancing again, sweetheart.”