Having Parkinson's is a lot like being locked into a slapstick comedy act at a Vaudeville show.
For you littlun's who aren't familiar, Vaudeville was a travelling show, popular from the late 1800's to somewhere in the 1930's, made up of several different, unrelated acts. There were acrobats, singers, skits and of course, slap stick comedy.
I'm not old enough to have experienced the real thing, but I've watched the Abbot and Costello and Three Stooges reruns, sang "Mr. Sandman" along with Dolly, Emmylou and Linda, which led me to the the Andrew Sisters, all of these acts came from Vaudeville.
I'm guessing Saturday Night Live is the closest thing to it these days, but The Carol Burnett Show was probably my intro to Vaudeville. It was a TV show, but based on the same theory, and it cracked me up to no end as a little kid.
Charlie Chaplin, who we know through his work in the cinema, also began his career in Vaudeville, and is probably my most shining example of the classic slapstick comedian. That dude was born to fall. He was the master at finding humor in sadness and making mayhem madcap.
My disease, so far, is remarkably under control. Carbidopa/Levodopa is a frigging miracle drug. Most days I can kid myself that everything is fine. The stuff that goes on, well, I can compensate.
Brockle is an obsessive ball playing freak. I keep it from becoming a vice by saving his ball for a reward, so we use it a lot for training and getting through the off-leash area without killing any other dogs. I also use it on the days I'm too tired to walk as far as he needs.
I throw the ball, he brings it back, we mix it up with some obedience drills, but on those tired days I just want to wear his ass out, so I throw, and throw and throw. Sometimes, out of the blue, the slapstick element appears and the ball will fly up in the air and in a direction nobody is prepared for. Me, Brockle, and whoever may be with us, search the sky with our mouths hanging open until one of us figures out where the heck it's headed.
Twice now, I have been changing my clothes, and as I pull the clothing on or off over my head, I send it flying, much like Brockle's tennis ball. Both times it has landed in the toilet. Yep, twice. There's the stinking Slapstick Element, what part of me was aiming for the can?
It's like my brain says, "Body, pull on the T-shirt," and my body yells "Psyche!!!"
Being the control freak I can be, this internal rebellion pisses me off. Except it also cracks me up. Because pratfalls are funny, even in real life. Nope, I'm not crying on the inside and laughing on the outside, I'm too old for that nonsense. I just have a sick sense of humor and get tired of feeling sorry for myself.
I was crawling up on an examination table in the doctors office when, without warning, my feet stood me up on my tiptoes. The little devils. All by themselves, they put me on point like a prima ballerina, which trust me, is not a good place for me. I fell forward in slow motion and did a face plant on the table, then, slowly, ever so slowly, while the MA squawked, rolled off the table and hit the floor. With a very loud thud.
I propped myself up on my elbows and looked for the MA, who was standing in the corner doing a great impersonation of Munch's painting, The Scream.
"I swear officer," I said, "I only had two Margaritas at lunch."
The poor little MA fled the scene.
"Are you sure she's drunk?" I heard my the thump of my doctor's cane as he shuffle stepped to the rescue. "What do you mean you don't know? Did you just leave her on the floor?"
He came in the door, saw me grinning at him from the floor, and asked, "Are you hurt,drunk or both?"
"Nope. My feet yanked me on my tiptoes and I lost my balance."
"You idiot!" He shouted down the hall, "She has Parkinson's!"
He extended a hand to help me up, suddenly, up on his toes he went , and yep, you guessed it, fell right on top of me. See, my Doc had Parkinson's too, and the tippy-toe thing comes under the "Shit happens," clause for all of us.
What did I tell you? There it is again, the Slapstick Element.
Here's the thing. I don't get to quit at the end of the day and rethink my routine. The routine is in charge and it makes up it's own rules.
The random body movements and jerking hands don't bother me, except when it comes to my horses and dogs. Because training is about timing and balance and consistency. As a matter of fact, I think if you've got those three, then the rest is fluff. Those three things are what PD specializes in destroying.
The good news is, for now anyway, my symptoms get me when I'm tired or distracted. If I'm in tune and focused they leave me alone. Also, muscle memory is an absolute amazement. Once I'm in the saddle, it's all there. If I don't ride as well as I used to, it's because I'm out of practice, not the disease. I can still sit a spook or a buck and my horses can trust my hand. Riding is a vacation from my new slap-stick self. I get to hang out with my healthier, thinner, tougher self, and I'm grateful for it.
With the dogs, it's a bit harder. Dog training is new territory for me, between my own weaknesses as a trainer and my lack of muscle memory to hold me steady there have been some hurdles. But I have some great dogs and they're willing to wait for me to get it right.
Do I fear the future? Of course I do. PD doesn't go away. It's a lifetime on Vaudeville. I dread the day I no longer talk to my horse through my spade, the first time it launches on it's own course will be the last day Madonna rides straight up in the bridle.
That day hasn't arrived. I don't think about it much, but it lives in the shadows. In the mean time, I'll keep working horses, cattle and dogs and appreciate every sure and steady move of my romels, both of my quiet legs, and my solid seat.
"Life is a tragedy when seen close-up, but a comedy in long shot." - Charlie Chaplin