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, slower when I’m well-rested. Sometimes my hand’s compass points north, then gyrates south; sometimes it boogies east to west. My hand – like most Parkinson’s patients – is still only when I slumber, yet another neurological oddity on this disease’s idiopathic path.

Progression is inevitable, but not necessarily terminal. As my dopamine-producing cells continue marching into That Good Night, my body will offer a plethora of dancing partners.

First a pas de deux with only my hands as principals. Then maybe a quartet of limbs (don’t know whether my arms or legs will join first) and likely, at some point, my torso too. I have no idea who, from the company of dancers that is my body now, will take the lead first or last. I just know that each will have a moving role. And, yes, I did intend that pun.

But not today.

For now, I have some control. I dance with just my hand. Today we start in allégro as my daughter streams Riton on our way to the school bus. Later, my hand and I slow to an adagio as we navigate the last mile home after a long workday. Our repertoire grows. My talent… well, not so much.

Dance may have been the hidden language of the soul for a revolutionary talent like Martha Graham, but my relationship with movement has never been graceful or coordinated. In fact, where my klutziness ends, and my Parkinson’s begins remains a matter of constant debate.

Nevertheless, I have always danced. In my 20s my friends and I would go out to clubs, long-since closed, and dance the night away We had the foolish energy of youth. We’d shimmy our shoulders and shoot come-hither glances, go home to shower and even be early for work the next morning.

Nowadays, I dance in the car. “Hey, kids, this is a long light!” I announce as my hand gyrates, shoulders start moving and my kids cringe. “Come on, Dance Party!”

My teen daughter actually looks up from her phone: “Mom, stop!”

Buddy, you’re a young man, hard man
Shouting in the street, gonna take on the world someday
You got blood on your face, you big disgrace
Waving your banner all over the place

“Seriously, Mom,” adds her tween brother. “Someone might see you.”
“Or be arrested,” retorts the Teen.
“Yeah, Mom, they can lock you up for insanity,” says the Tween.
“And child abuse!” adds the Teen.
At least I can unify the siblings.
My shoulders still and my twitchy hand slows to grip the steering wheel. “I am most certainly not abusing you.”
“That’s ‘cause you can’t hear your voice,” grunts my Teen.

The light turns green and off we go, the Teen and Tween rolling their eyes. Me? I’m smiling like the cat who ate the, ‘yeah-you’re-stuck-with-me-for-life’ canary. I am thoroughly amused.

Once they’re through adolescence – when everything and anything parental is a mutual humiliation — I hope they remember these ‘stoplight moments.’  I hope these moments remind my kids not to take themselves too seriously. I hope that they laugh about them. Together.

I still love to dance at parties whenever the music’s beat invites. Usually with other women.  Occasionally, a reluctant husband joins us for a moment or two – likely to curry favor and win a more intimate dance after the party.

Purposeful dancing helps to slow my unwitting dance’s progression.  Whether it’s the dashboard or a dance floor, I move with as much purpose as possible.

I dance while I can because I can. Join me. I bet the music is already in your head.


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