My dear friend and Walking Woodstock co-author, Michael Perkins, has been afflicted with Parkinson’s for some time. In our first years of walking together, I didn’t even know of his aliment. Then he fell and dislocated his shoulder within sight of Kaaterskill Falls, a terrible accident, and I became aware of what he faced. Since then, the disease has taken a crippling toll. Michael hasn’t been able to join me for a Woodstock walk for several years now. I find it heartbreaking to see him hobbled over, yet I also believe that he’s teaching me an invaluable lesson about the human spirit in the way he has handled this curse with such dignity and fortitude.
I expressed my feelings in a prose poem that the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan has now published in its web magazine. I share it in honor of Michael.
He does his walking in the kitchen now. His little box of tricks, a silver snap case of pills in chalk and orange, now plays its own tricks. But his mind hasn’t aged a day in years. He pins his latest aphorisms to the fridge.
“Having a neurological disease like Parkinson’s is like dancing each day with a new and sadistically energetic partner who has two left feet.”
Parkinson’s wants a divorce.
Parkinson’s is the raging monkey wildly shaking his simian arms to get out of this tree, or refusing to live in this zoo and freezing up in a pout.
We prefer to talk about library politics.
Last week he fell for no reason. The bruise beside his eye is as green as the Gowanus canal, not that we have any reason to think of the Gowanus canal.
No coffee this morning, but he has orange juice to offer.
He manages the carton from the fridge to the counter, but his step becomes a stumble that is life on his feet. He grips the counter for a railing, holds forth the glass.
The orange juice is a choppy sea.
I drink it like medicine.
Something else keeps us alive.