Author Archives: Amy Sommer

Ask a Parkie: a PD Q&A

“Let’s play ‘Ask a Parkie,” I say, helping my mother to pull herself up to the room service breakfast table. “What?”
She asks, pouring us coffee with a hand steadier than mine will ever be again. “Ask me anything about Parkinson’s Disease, anything.” She starts to tap dance. “Do you like your doctor?” “Yes.”“How often do…

My God Is….

God is the glue that connects us. She/He/It is the whisper in our heads imploring us to be better, to do better – to strive for excellence, to walk the path of our higher, best self. God is in the ephemeral breeze that cools, a laugh shared with a stranger, a friend’s encouraging text on…

The Language of Lemons

“I brought you some lemons,” she said, showing me a bowl brimming with sunny spheres. “Thank you,” I replied to my longtime housekeeper. That’s one of the blessings of living in Southern California, stuff grows. I mean everything, everywhere. Citrus trees are fecund with fruit. “One tree will serve a whole family,” says my husband….

Familial Fantasies

I do not have the children I expected. They’re like me in ways I wish they weren’t. They express traits of their father’s that are not amongst my favorites. But, on some days I can see the best of myself and my spouse shimmer within them. I treasure those days. Even then, when I am…

Legacy Upended

“It’s been 30 years, “he said turning the page in his calendar.  “30 years …” his voice trails off into the purgatory of what might’ve been. Parents are not meant to survive their children. And yet there are many who exist in this backward world, having outlived those who should be our legacy. Life’s natural rhythm…

Awareness

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. I am quite aware I have Parkinson’s. I bet other twitchers are too. What good does awareness do? Does it help the outstretched hands of non-profits? “Now that you’re aware of fill-in-the-blank will you write a check?”  Maybe. Every day of every month someone is trying to make me aware…

COVID Tree: Part 1 Thanksgiving

COVID coping mechanisms are copious chez moi. Compulsive cleaning is among the more productive of our pandemic proclivities – one that has revealed actual floor space in our basement. But it is space that reopens an old wound. “Do not even think of asking me to put that monstrosity together,” my husband admonishes, pointing his…

The Faraway Nearby

“Georgia O’Keeffe moved to rural New Mexico, from which she would sign her letters to the people she loved, “from the faraway nearby.” It was a way to measure physical and psychic geography together. Emotion has its geography, affection is what is nearby, within the boundaries of the self. You can be a thousand miles…

Pandemic Fatigue

I am not a demonstrative person by nature. And yet… I want to French Kiss strangers, lick handrails and discard my mask. I am done with hand sanitizer, socially distant outside dining and doing my own nails. I hate COVID-19. I weep in frustration about this pandemic-imposed reality. I weep when this killer plague’s statistics…

Quarantine Family Court

“Dad, I said I was ‘sorry.’ Can you please just spank me now?” pleads my daughter with the overwrought exasperation that only a quarantined 16-year-old can muster. Family Court is in session – and will be 24/7 for at least the next month or two. Or more likely three. At least. We’re here all day…

Hand’s Solo

This post originally appeared on the Parkinson’s Community LA Blog in the fall of 2019. In honor of James Parkinson’s birthday (April 11, 1755) I am reposting it here.  My left-hand dances to a beat all its own. It doesn’t need a partner or even music. The digits just flutter.  Constantly. Faster when I’m cold,…

We Are One

Stupidity is hard to tolerate under the best of circumstances. In today’s so-very-far-away-from-even-okay-times my tolerance for the idiotic is nonexistent. Stupidity is now lethal. Our Orange-in-Chief disbanded the White House’s pandemic response office, proposed brutalizing the CDC in Washington, slashed its staff in China. We’ve known that China is an unreliable reporter – their government…

Prescription Hope

On November 5, 2015 – the anniversary of Guy Fawkes and his Catholic crew’s attempt to blow up the British Parliament in 1605 – my world was blown up with a diagnosis. “Could it be anything else?”
I asked the head of UCLA’s Movement Disorder Clinic “No, it’s Parkinson’s Disease,”  he replied. There was never denial…

Certainty

The dishes whir in the dishwasher, the sun retires from this hemisphere. My husband responds to emails, the children collude with their computers to complete work while the dogs nuzzle them.  I am alone in the spotless kitchen. I listen to the rain and debate what will sate my soul’s parched tongue. I claim this…

Mom Time: Part One

]There are many roads to the Mecca of motherhood. All are bumpy.  All lead to the rollercoaster of emotions that is parenthood. The blessed and life-affirming firsts; baby’s first step, first tooth, first love and its inevitable denouement. Then there are the less savory firsts …. first time they lie, their first speeding ticket…. the…

Connect

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these,  ‘it might have been’.” Sadness that you no longer walk upon this earth washes over me. When I’m driving a familiar route or moving through mundane tasks, my conscious mind finds room to wander, and there you are.  What might’ve been, what should…

Neuro Normal…

On a crisp November morning, an esteemed neurologist confirms what I already know. “It’s Parkinson’s Disease.” “Could it be anything else?” “No. You have PD. But I have patients who are in their eighties and nineties – and I know that you’ll be one of those too.” Learning that one has a neurodegenerative disease is…

Oh, Christmas Tree…

Sometime between washing the last pan and the first dollop of the leftover Thanksgiving stuffing, our thoughts turn from gluttony to gifting. Whether your tradition deems the verdant branches a Christmas Tree or a Chanukah Bush, let’s stipulate—for the purposes of this story–that a pine-smelling plant is the perfect antidote to winter’s dark chill. My…

Pizza, Fries & Skiing

“I don’t think that you enjoy anything until you’re good at it,” says one of my oldest friends, trying to entice me to move out of the children’s ski area. It is the spring of 2000, that sweet spot in the aughts. The fears about the turn of the new century have fizzled and September…

Crazy?!

I am losing my mind. Am I’m losing it to my Parkinson’s Disease?  To age? To maladies yet to be diagnosed? I stare into space, trying desperately to remember what was right there, right there, on the tip of my tongue just moments ago. Then it hits me: I have children. It’s not the Parkinson’s…

Narcissist-in-Chief

Yet another thing I hold against Donald Trump: he has raised the level of how people view narcissism to such a degree that it’s hard to recognize, let alone acknowledge, a garden variety narcissistic personality-disordered human. “Sloane is such a self-involved, narcissistic bitch,” I complain to Eleanor about a mutual, childhood friend.  “Really? Narcissistic?”
 “Textbook.”…

It Takes a Coven

It’s said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a definition of insanity. But it’s also widely acknowledged that, because randomness makes children feel unsafe, routine is essential to the task of parenting. And, naturally, it’s not a routine unless it’s repeated. Regularly. I routinely ask – nay,…

Flu Fret

“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” Well, then, I am lacking. I am afflicted. But so are many. My conditions are my constant companions. They’ll shuffle along this mortal coil with me for as long as I shuffle along upon it.  But there is a gift in my conditional state: my chronic ailments…

Parkie Steps

There is no challenge that duct tape can’t overcome in the right hands. My husband has such hands. There is a pesky, Parkie peculiarity pertaining to stairs. Specifically–walking down them. When I look down, I see the step as if I’m wearing reading glasses and looking at a distant object. The challenge is heightened when…

Plans

Off the cuff. By the seat of your pants. Just wing it. Impromptu. It’ll work out. Don’t sweat the details. Everything is going to be okay. The mere act of typing these phrases nauseates me. I plan. God chuckles. I plan again. God snickers. No plan survives contact with the enemy.  Mine makes the first…

Q-Tip Fret

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. And when this drought-conscious Californian vacations in a state with ample water, the showers are long and luxurious. I revel in this watery heaven enveloped in lavender steam with warm water pouring down from a rain-shower head. But these indulgences have consequences: annoying droplets of water that worm their way…

Trait Fret: Part 1

The ‘must do’ nature of homework sometimes gives us strong-willed sorts pause. If it’s too easy, e.g. Spanish, it’s a waste of time. Too challenging, a longer essay, say, in English… possibly with the Odyssey as its subject… well, then the Frustration Monster and her bestie, Anxiety, rear their raging, irrational heads. “You’re not helping….

The Touch

I Have the Touch* Of a community that doesn’t want me afflicted. Of literal embrace. Of phones that would be answered in the middle of the night. I am touched. “Have you heard?” “No, what?” “I have Parkinson’s Disease,” I share my then-recent diagnosis as I join the parent posse outside of our children’s school….

Threaded

Love is the thread that tethers me to my children.  And husband. Like is just not strong enough. Not tonight. Not on rushed, late-for-school mornings or at doctor’s appointments where needles are needed. Love is the thread that pulls me to make the appointments, to hustle us out the door, to set limits. Love loves…

Semiconductor Fret

There is a “law” in the semi-conductor industry that semiconductor speed — since extrapolated to knowledge — will double every 18 months. True. The technology in my phone exponentially trumps the semiconductor speed and knowledge that originally sent man to the moon.  Extraordinary… Frightening? Inspiring. So, why do mothers everywhere, across generations commiserate about the…

Do The Right Thing?

“Excuse me sir.” “Yes.” “I think there’s been a mistake.” “Oh?” “Yes. You forgot to charge us for the Arnold Palmers.” The waiter took the check from my hand, “Oh I did. Oh ma’am, oh thank you so much.” “I cannot tell a lie.” “I know, mom.” “I would’ve asked him to correct the bill…

K-a-k-a

How does anyone know anything? With cries of fake news and opinions rechristened as facts, how does anyone know anything? “Did you know that there is an animal called a kaka?” “Huh? No.” “Seriously, this game I’m playing said so. I typed in k-a-k-a and it said that it’s an animal.” That was also almost the cause of an accident, so…

Delusion-Less

“Do you have delusions?” asked my husband while we were watching TV, reacting to the commercial that just aired. “No!” I said emphatically. Delusions of grandeur? Perhaps. But the people who are in my room are there in the flesh.  And they’re usually asking for something.  True, I do hallucinate occasionally that my children aren’t…

More

“The lipstick you were wearing yesterday wasn’t right.” “I wasn’t wearing any.” “Well, that’s the problem.  Here. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a gold tube emerge from her purse. “Try this one, it’ll work better on you than it does on me.” My concentration broken, I look up from the computer…

Enough

“You have to get back on a schedule.” “Uh, huh,” said my chipmunk-cheeked 13-year-old. “It’s still a time to learn,” I replied, knowing her sass was confirmation that her mouth was healing well. “Uh, nah.” “Yes, it is.  Life is for learning!” “Uh, nah.” It was then that I knew my daughter was fully recovered…

A Terrible Beauty

Throughout time, great physicists and soldiers put their heads together to create.  In Wuppertal-Elberfeld Germany in 1938, in Los Alamos in 1945. They combined their superior intellect for its seemingly highest purpose— to create a stronger pesticide, to split the atom—all to improve our lives. Instead they gave us the threads to sew our own…

Calling Home

“Hello, mother, it’s me.” “Hello, how are you?” “Well.  You?” “Good.” Then it begins. The recitation of mundane minutia about meals with people whose faces I imagine as still in late middle age where I am now. Family friends who I hope are still mobile and present. “What?” She asks. I start on my abbreviated…

White Picket Fence

I had a vision for my life.  Perfection of the sort seen on big screens and small greeting cards everywhere.  I had a vision of my life – and then I lived it. The white picket fence with the blended family of four – two steps, two bios — all living happily together, memorialized in…

Wrong Fret, Listen Fret

I was wrong. Turns out that that young onset Parkinson’s Disease starts at 50 not 40. That explains why the medical community hasn’t jumped at the chance to use the term ‘Precocious Onset Parkinson’s Disease’. On the plus side, at least ‘young’ is a descriptor that I can still claim on one front. I’ve been…

Election Apology

At a recent school meeting our headmaster reported that he’d apologized to the older students for the tenor of this presidential campaign.  Unable to use this race as a teachable moment — like normal elections — he’d told the children that adults had failed them – and urged the assembled adolescents to do better. He’s…

Compliment Fret

“That’s a pretty necklace,” I said to a random woman with a lovely heart pendant who I passed on a bathroom run.  “Thank you,” she replied with a smile.  And the intersection of our lives was over. I ‘practice’ yoga as much as the next privileged gal in search of a stretch. I think kind…

Claw Fret

I’m a huge fan of Jim Carrey’s “Liar, Liar,” about a workaholic attorney who loses his ability to … well… massage the truth… and in so doing becomes a better person and father.  I’m particularly fond of Carrey’s Claw routine when his arm is possessed by a loving ‘Tickle Monster’. My husband and I enjoyed…

Room to Fail

“…becoming insolvent or bankrupt” is a definition of failure per Dictionary.com.  Our two party political system has failed.  We are in the tail end of a presidential campaign between two candidates with the highest unfavorables in history.  The resulting negative campaign has been a horror to watch.  I read the news as if driving by a car accident…

Laughter Fret

I think about mortality as much as the next 51-year-old – maybe more so because I have a neuro-degenerative disease that may result in disability, dementia or death – but not now. I’m here and quite alright now. And now is the only gift that we are guaranteed so hope that you’ll join me and embrace it….

Parkie Reveal Part II – Shop Away the Fears

The day after we told my mother about my twitch was sunny and beautiful. The type of Saturday that makes Palm Beach appealing even to those of us from postcard-worthy LA. Naturally, my mother and daughter decided on an indoor activity – shopping.Shopping is my daughter’s and mother’s ‘thing’. As my daughter puts it, “I…

Morning Fret

I wake up early every morning to enjoy the quiet of the house before the family rises.  My dogs and I head downstairs — after I’ve taken my Synthroid with the requisite eight ounces of water.  I open the backdoor releasing ‘the hounds’ to their ‘exterior toilet’ hoping to simultaneously breathe in cool, consciousness-inspiring morning…

Start of School

Staples aired a great commercial in August and September. As an adult male dances through the store’s aisle gathering school supplies, Andy William’s Christmas classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays. Genius. By the time the September rolls around I, for one, am done with attending to my children’s needs, trying repeatedly…

Sex Ed Fret

A recent “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver highlighted the lack of standards for teaching our children about their bodies and how our species reproduces. Yes, it’s true that while parents, teachers, politicians and others debate the Common Core, no one is talking about the lack of standardization amongst various sex education curricula. We use…