The Stare

It’s bound to happen. You know – that dreaded moment when a stranger can’t stop looking at you because you can’t stop wiggling. If only you could sit down and put your hands under your behind, it’s likely no one would notice. But it doesn’t matter – you’ve been found out. You can respond to this moment in your life in a positive way, or you can get in his face and scream, “What’r you lookin’ at, dude?”

Well, it happened to me. The other day some friends took me to lunch. As we stood and waited to be seated, this man, about 50ish and also waiting to be summoned to a table of his own, just kept staring at me. Well, specifically my The arm. I was late in my meds and beginning to feel ‘off’ and it was more than obvious to those around me.

I didn’t say anything to him. Most people will just blurt it out. “What do you have?” Or better yet, “What’s wrong with you?”

So, I’m standing there, waiting. And I feel like someone is watching me and lo and behold, I’m right. Mr. Dude can’t stop watching my arm move around like a chicken with its head cut off. I usually have something on with pockets so that I can put my uncontrolled limb inside and no one is the wiser. Not this day – this day I had no pockets. I was on my own.

I’d like to tell you I walked over there and said, “I noticed you were staring as if perhaps I’ve been drinking. The fact is I have Parkinson’s Disease, like Michael J. Fox, except that I’m a girl and he’s not. If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them, Mr. Dude. Otherwise, I’d appreciate if you quit staring.”

I began clenching my hand as I find after a few seconds it relieves the tightening of the muscles enough that they let go and relax a bit.

That day, Miss Wimp let Mr. Dude’s rudeness get the best of her.

This is what I have to look forward to, I thought to myself.

The next day I went to the hardware store. I love the hardware store. I could spend the whole day in the hardware store. I was on the aisle where the lawn fertilizer is when I noticed a man standing nearby. He turned and looked at me. I kept looking to find what I had come for and I felt him look at me again and then noticed him walking toward me out of the corner of my eye.

“Have you hugged a Parkie today?” he asked inquisitively. I had my bright yellow PD shirt on with the shaky bear on the front and he read the caption outloud. “What’s a Parkie?,” he added.

“A person with Parkinson’s.” Straight and to the point.

“Oh, that makes more sense now.” He got his whatever it was and walked away.

Makes more sense? I mulled that over for a while wondering what he meant by that. Did he even know what Parkinson’s was? Was he aware that it was a disease? Did he think I was supporting the homeless people who hung around the park and was part of a campaign to make them feel loved, calling them ‘Parkies’ in the process?

Whatever he thought, he was like Mr. Dude and once again, I played Miss Wimp.

I mulled that over, too. The part of Miss Wimp. Why didn’t I say more? Am I embarrassed? Afraid? This is the conclusion I came to:

I don’t necessarily like talking about it. If your tremor’s out of control, it invites questions from well-meaning people who don’t understand. If your speech is below an auditory level, they don’t understand why you seem to insist on talking softly. I suppose I could give Mr. Dude and the hardware man the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they do understand and they care for someone with a disability or at least know someone who does.

I try and go easy on the dudes. I use to be a dude myself (in the sense that I thought of and reacted to people with disabilities as Mr. Dude did – stared) and I’m not really a wimp, as I will talk about my disease if someone is interested in listening. But what has happened since having PD, is that now I am not afraid to go up to the person with an obvious disability and ask them questions about how they’re doing.

A few weeks ago, I was walking into the supermarket and an older gentleman was in front of me. Then he fell. A younger guy sauntered over, followed by a little older guy. I was helping the man to stand back up and it was obvious he was embarrassed. The two younger guys left as quickly as they had come. I walked the man into the store. He was shaking like crazy on his right side. I asked him if he had Parkinson’s. He said he didn’t know as he’d never been checked for it.

Keep that incident in mind while I tell you about this weeks. I’m standing in line at the grocery store and the older woman in back of me is struggling to put her groceries on the belt. When I say struggle, that doesn’t begin to describe it. She’s hardly able to grasp the items with her fingers. I began helping her as the clerk began scanning mine. She was very appreciative and I asked her if she had Parkinson’s. She didn’t know what it was.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about those two incidences. Did they both have PD and yet, because of their ages the doctors figure there’s not a lot of options anyhow so why bring it up? I hope not. I told them both to go and get checked. If it is PD, whatever their doctors can do for them may make the last part of their lives a little bit easier. It’s times such as those that I feel this little monster (aka PD) has a purpose.

I guess I’m not so wimpy after all. But, I have my moments. Fortunately there’s a lot of dudes out there, so it balances out.

2 thoughts on “The Stare

  1. I just finished reading this article and I can relate to it as I also am a Parie and get stared at often. More than once I have been going out for a meal and my arm started to attack me or beat me up. I was waiting for a bus with my wife when it started and by the time we got off my arm and cane were really going. I could not use it to help me walk. We were sitting in the station waiting for her brother who was taking us to the restaurant. Other people would go by staring at me and pointing at us for other people. Her brother came and away I went to his car with the cane going all over. When we got to the restaurent it was still alive as we waited in line. We got our seats and I tried to hide it under the table but really got stares. Only yay to stop it was give the cane to my wife while I put my unruly hand under my bum. Eventually it gave up and we enjoyed our meal. Many times whewn we go out to eat and I am trying to eat my hand is everywhere as you know. The food may or may not end up in my mouth. I have grown a thick skin now so I no longer get embarrased but at first it did bother me. Now If they don’t like how I eat or get upset when food goes everywhere I say nothing but think if they do not like what they see they do not have to watch and if they get really upset then they can move. I am there for my meal no matter how it looks or how long it takes. I took my wife out for Mother’s Day and tried something. I am left handed and when I would hold it witrh my right hand. For the most part the meal went quite well. I have balance problems and use a rolator for walking. When my meds are not working my speed drops and I tend to wander over the sidewalk. People watch wondering if I am drunk. Otherwise I feel that I am very lucky. If I am taking the bus most people have seen me and are helpful even going to the point of asking people to get up to let me sit. Coming back to our apartment so many ask if they can help me go upstairs but I tell them no but thank you very much it is something I must do myself. Very few in our building know why I use a rolator to walk and unless they ask I don’t say. It is much worse now as I have some comression fractures in my lower back. They see I am in pain and try to help but I must do what needs to be done alone.

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