I’m a Better Listener Because of Parkinson’s
I’ve always liked attending different events, such as movies or concerts, or having lunch or coffee with friends. But I don’t get out to socialize much anymore. It’s not that I can’t or don’t want to. I merely am hesitant and for one reason or another usually talk myself out of it.
You do that when you have Parkinson’s disease (PD). You feel like you’re constantly yelling because your voice is no longer heard. Skirting older people with canes and walkers while trying to balance a plate of food takes skill when balance is a struggle. And then there’s the work of trying to keep up with a conversation. Before you can organize your thoughts to respond, the people around you have changed topics 12 times. So you listen.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to accept an invitation to dinner at the park where we live. My neighbor asked if I was attending because she needed a ride to the clubhouse, and I said yes.
The festivities started at 5 p.m., but the invitation said 4. Frustration spread among the neighbors who gathered for their free evening meal, as they were mostly over 70 and used to eating at 4 p.m. Their graciousness began to dissipate and was overtaken by grumbling and complaining.
I turned my attention to the front, where boxes of various sizes were stacked atop one another and wrapped with bright, colored paper and festive ribbons and bows. Santa and Mrs. Claus sat by the Christmas tree in the corner waiting for a photo-op with children who might come, of which none had yet.
Dinner is served
A Christmas caroler and country soloist began to tune his guitar. He readied himself for the audience to chew in rhythm to the tunes of “O Christmas Tree,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and more. But people gobbled their food and mumbled about not wanting to sing at the same time, so the music stopped. We were left to chatter between bites. I listened attentively to the woman next to me, as no one else seemed to be paying attention.
We were nearing the end of our meal when the country boy drew us back to singing carols. Another woman across from me sang with gusto, loud and strong. Her vibrato was much like mine, thanks to PD, and was made up of short bleats like an old, tired sheep. That’s the sound of your tremor, showing up in your vibrato.
The evening was coming to a close, and the raffle had yet to occur. Winners were chosen (everyone but me and one other person), and attendees opened candies, cookies, and beef sticks. Then people began to leave, taking their leftovers and prizes home.
Reflecting on the night
When I arrived home, I thought about my evening. I realized that I have a greater tendency to withdraw now, for reasons that are justified or imagined. But I also realized that I am happy to listen and observe. I honestly enjoy myself.
Why am I OK to merely listen and observe? My voice doesn’t carry enough to be heard anymore. Combine that with the fact that most of my neighbors need hearing aids they forget to turn on, and I better be content with listening and observing!
I may find that PD makes me less talkative, and I may find it harder to keep up with conversations, but that’s OK with me. My neighbors often want someone who will listen, and PD enables me to be a better listener. And that’s a good thing.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.