Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Michael J. Fox's Morning

Good Morning, Morning.
I have a mindless routine in the morning, the same routine that I follow each work day.  I am never really ready to do anything until I have had at least one cup of hot tea.  I think I definitely take for granted that I can get myself going in the morning without taking any medication and without dealing with a physical handicap.
Unfortunely, that's not true for everyone.  That concept was really brought home to me after reading a short excerpt from in this month's Reader's Digest.  Always Looking Up, is the title of a book written by Michael J. Fox, the wonderful actor who currently star in CBS's hit show, The Good Wife, who was diagnosed a number of years ago with Parkinson's disease.
Fox's morning routine and his uplifting attitude about the consequences of his degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system made me refocus and think twice about any small discomforts I may deal with in my morning.  Fox's narrative is brave and honest yet optimistic.

Here goes:

Courtesy of

My Bright Mornings
By Michael J. Fox (From Always Looking Up)
This morning my wife, Tracy, is already up, dealing out breakfasts and readying the kids for school.  I blindly fumble a plastic vial from the nightstand, dry-swallow a couple of pills, and then fall immediately into the first series of actions that, while largely automatic, demand a practiced determination.  I swing my legs around to the side of the bed, and the instant my feet hit the floor, the two of them are in an argument. 
 A condition called dystonia, a regular complement to Parkinson's disease, cramps my feet severely and curls them inward, pressing my ankles toward the floor and my soles toward each other as though they were about to close in prayer.  I snake my right foot out toward the edge of the rug and toe-hook one of my hard leather loafers.  I force my foot into the show, repeat the process with the left, and then cautiously stand up.  Chastened by the unyielding confines of the leather, my feet begin to behave themselves.  The spasms have stopped, but the aching will persist for the next 20 minutes or so.
First stop: the bathroom.  I'll spare you the initial details of my visit, except to say that with Parkinson's, it is essential to put the seat up.  Grasping the toothpaste is nothing compared with the effort it takes to coordinate the two-handed task of wrangling the toothbrush and strangling out a line of paste onto the bristles.

By now, my right hand has started up again, rotating at the wrist in a circular motion, perfect for what I'm about to do.  My left hand guides my right hand up to my mouth, and once the back of the Oral-B touches the inside of my upper lip, I let go.  It's like releasing the tension on a slingshot and compares favorably to the most powerful state-of-the-art electric toothbrush on the market.  With no off switch, stopping means seizing my right wrist with my left hand, forcing it down to the sink basin, and shaking the brush loose as though disarming a knife-wielding attacker.  I can usually tell whether shaving is a good idea on any particular day, and this morning, like most, I decide it's too early to risk bloodshed.  I opt for a quick pass with an electric stubble trimmer.  Miami Vice lives.
A bench in the shower takes the pressure off my feet, and the steady drumbeat of the water on my back has a therapeutic effect, though if I sit here much longer, I might never get up.  Getting dressed is made easier by the pills, which have begun to assert their influence.  I avoid clothing with too many buttons or laces, though I'm still addicted to Levi's 501s, making me a fashion victim in the truest sense of the word.  In lieu of proper bushing, I raise my twitching fingers up to my hairline and, raking it back, hope for the best.  Executing a slow shuffle (my legs haven't yet earned my trust for the day), I make my way out to greet my family.
At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, thre is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame.  I can't help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass.  Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see.  This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming were it not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face.
I would ask the obvious question: "What are you smiling about?"
But I already know the answer: "It gets better from here."

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