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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

The Show Must Go On

Terri Reinhart

The other day, when I was at the grocery store, I made someone laugh. Not just a little giggle, but a deep, belly laugh. And the fact that it was a little old lady made it all the better. Making a little old lady laugh like that could be considered my good deed for the week. In fact, depending on who I talk to, I am sure I am earning the jewels in my heavenly crown and/or filling up with good Karma. I make people laugh a lot nowadays. I’d like to say that it’s my incredible wit or my charming sense of humor or maybe even my skills as a storyteller. Usually, however, it is my own unique style of moving that gets people going. Like many great comediennes before me, such as Lucille Ball and Patricia Routledge, I excel in physical comedy.


If only a Hollywood talent scout would discover me someday, I might actually earn a living at this. I don’t know if Hollywood talent scouts have ever looked for their next star in the cheese aisle of the local grocery store, but if they have, they might have seen something like what the little old lady saw that day. I turned, picked up a package of cheese (medium sharp cheddar, if I remember correctly), and when I turned back to put it in my cart, I suddenly froze. I stood for just an instant and then started walking backwards very quickly. That was it. It might not sound all that funny but physical comedy is really impossible to describe properly. It has to be watched. Good comedy depends on all those little details of facial expression (I could have sworn my feet knew where the shopping cart was parked), body language (boy, did I have a few choice words to tell my body), and exactly what kind of cheese one is buying. Based on the laughter that followed, this was one of my more successful forays into the world of physical comedy.


I have other comedy routines that come up quite frequently but the best one had to be the night we took our good friends out to dinner. Since we were treating them, I had decided that I would order something to drink from the bar. I was being a good hostess and making sure that our guests knew that they could order drinks, too. I also wanted to try a Marguerita. Having lived in Colorado nearly all my life, surrounded by some excellent Mexican restaurants, I felt funny admitting I had never tasted a Marguerita. So I ordered one.


I am not a drinker. Since my son graduated from Bartending College, I now know that bartenders measure liquor in ounces. I measure mine in teaspoons. My husband says I’m pathetic. I am the “sniff it and get tipsy” type of person and I swear I can feel the alcohol in an O’Douls. The waiter brought TWO Margueritas. I thought for sure it was a mistake and asked who else at the table had ordered one. That brought the first chuckles from my friends. They knew all along that it was Happy Hour. Both drinks were meant for me. So, as I grew up a good Catholic girl, learning that it was a sin to waste anything, I slowly and carefully took my first sips. I continued sipping while I was eating and while we were talking and while a few members of our party ordered desert.


By the time we were ready to go, I had managed to drink all of one Marguerita and most of the other one. It was also that time of night when my Parkinson’s symptoms are at their worst. I got up from the table slowly and walked very stiffly out of the restaurant and out to the car. I did not drive home. In fact, I fell asleep in the car and slept all the way home. The next time I saw my friends, I learned that I had inadvertently provided them with a delightful comedy show. I tried to tell them that it was just my Parkinson’s but it was no use. That just made them laugh all the harder, clutching their sides to prevent hurting themselves, “You were great! I didn’t think you were going to make it to the car!” And when I protested further, they said, “Yeah, right. time...stop at one, okay?”


And have them miss out on the comedy?


I figure that this is one of the many gifts that I’ve received since finding out I have Parkinson’s. I’m sure that Lucille Ball and Patricia Routledge had to work much harder to develop the physical comedy skills that I’ve come by naturally. There is always a silver lining and I know that falling now and then just means that I’m well grounded. I hope that, whatever else happens in my journey, I will never lose the ability to make people laugh.


“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”
~Erma Bombeck

“What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke.”

~Steve Martin