My World of Parkinsonian Delights

I Did It Myyyyyy Waaaaaaaaaaaay!

I got a VERY nice note from a friend of mine on Facebook.  I won’t reveal her name, but the note moves me to comment.  The occasion of the note seems to be my status update on Facebook about right wingers practically praying for the downfall of America so they can blame it on Obama.

Here’s the note…

I suppose you could classify me as one of your new “right-wing” friends if that is what a follower of Jesus Christ is. I am Christian and have been since I was 4 1/2 and I am now 54. My husband Larry is Christian as well. Speaking as one, I would like to tell you as all apples in a basket are not rotten; it is unfair to place all of us “right-wingers” in a basket. Speaking for myself alone, I do not pray for the fall of America….though many an empire in history has fallen due to turning from God and turning to moral decay as we witness in America. I pray the LORD God will change all our hearts back to Him. As far as electing a Republican, I am a registered Republican, however I do not vote now or ever for the party…I vote for the man running – His integrity, his political experience, his heart for God. If he follows the laws of God as in our New Testament Bible – this nation will become strong again and be one we can be proud to be a part of. I am a firm believer that if the morals of a country are corrupt…then so shall the decline and decay of the government evidence itself. Every man has the power and the right to choose what he thinks is true and right….as only that one man will be eternally responsible for the result of that thinking. In true love, we must give every person the right to choose for himself what he believes and thinks is right.

Deep set anger with name calling (“Bill Schmalfeldt never ceases to be amazed at how his right wing friends hope and pray that America fails, just so they can elect Republicans”), will not solve the issues at hand. I will pray you can be set free of all your anger expressed whether in blogging or day to day life. As life and death can be given from our tongues…what we say is what we become. Our words written and spoken have much power as I am sure you know and realize. Many read what we say, many are influenced by what we say, and ultimately we are responsible for that influence.

I sense in the midst of your humor – fear, cynicism, and hopelessness. I care about you, Bill, though we have just barely met. I will have hope for you….and I will pray your fear will cease, your hope will grow, and you will come to know the love and peace of God.

There is so much more waiting for us after this life.

My husband, Larry, whom also has Parkinson’s, shares in my feelings and views.  He does not enjoy computers in his daily endeavors, however, but wishes to express  his support and friendship through this letter as well. We have enjoyed 29 wonderful years together on April 4th, and it is a gift to share a life with someone whom your heart  is bonded with forever. I so appreciated reading of your family. You are blessed.

It was a truly lovely note and beautiful sentiment and is greatly appreciated.  But she’s wrong in a couple of areas.  She’s also RIGHT in a couple regards.

Blessed?  You BETCHA!

Am I a cynic?  Oh, YES I am!  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been one of those “question authority” types.  I used to get kicked out of Sunday school classes for asking questions — not smartassy ones, either — that the priest couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.  I spent more than my fair share of time with the principal (who turned out to be a very good friend of mine) when I challenged my teachers on the things they taught us from their books.

So, “cynic?”  Guilty as charged.

But “hopeless”?  “Fearful”?  You got da wrong man, lady!

I admit to some anger.  Anger over this disease that has taken over my life.  Anger over the eight years wasted in research because President Bush chose superstition over science in the Embryonic Stem Cell Debate.

I admit to frustration when I try to say something and end up sounding like Porky Pig.  When I swallow a sip of something and it ends up in my windpipe.  When I try to record a podcast and have to edit the hell out of it because of the phlegm that gets caught in my vocal cords.  When I try to walk and my feet freeze to the floor.  When a slight, playful tap from my wife makes me have to grab on to her arm to keep from falling.

But dear friend, and gentle readers… I don’t have TIME for “fear” OR “hopelessness.”  If you were to read my book about DBS surgery (and if you haven’t bought your copy yet, why not?) you would know that I charge headlong into the breach in the fight AGAINST fear, AGAINST ignorance, AGAINST prejudice, AGAINST hopelessness.  If there is any story that I would hope my life would tell, it is that I LIVED.

I was thinking about this very subject last night as I was drifting off to sleep.  Look at this list of things I have done in my life — (not all of them are what one would call “family friendly” but are included here).

I have traveled nearly 3/4 of the way around the world.

I’ve dangled by my crotch from a helicopter, and have jumped out of said helicopter into the ocean wearing full 782-gear.

I was once almost killed by a mistakenly-thrown white phosphorous grenade.

I lived in Japan for 18 months.

I’ve been inside the Great Buddha in Kamakura.

I once took a train ride from Pusan to Seoul, South Korea, because I didn’t want to hang around with my friends and chase hookers.

I once had sex on a revolving stage in Japan.  In front of paying customers.

On New Year’s Eve, 1983/84, I had drinks in a Tokyo disco with a guy from Libya.  We clinked glasses and toasted each other.  “Ronald Reagan is an asshole,” he said.  “Yer right,” I said.  “So’s Khadafi!”  “You’re right,” he said.  Later that night, I was so wasted I asked a girl to dance with me and it turned out to be a guy.

I’ve had a kneecap removed.

I’ve been in all 50 states.

I’ve been married three times.  This last time for 20 years and counting.  (She’s a keeper.)

I’ve had a novel published and have self-published four other books I’ve written.

I had a national radio audience when I worked at XM Satellite Radio.

I have six children — some of which love me, others of whom are ambivalent at best, others who hate my guts.  I have two grandchildren, one I haven’t seen since he was a baby, one I’ve never seen.

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 1974/75, I kissed a stripper in a Jacksonville Beach strip club who was old enough to be my mom and had half her nose missing from skin cancer.

I had a national radio audience when I did the “NIH Health Matters” segments heard on XM and on radio stations around the country.

I’ve stood in Dealey Plaza and on the grassy knoll where President Kennedy was killed.

I’ve been a newspaper editor, columnist and reporter.

I’ve been on top of the Empire State Building.

I’ve been a radio station program director, news director, talk show host and disc jockey.

I’ve participated in the search for a cure for PD by having volunteer brain surgery as part of a Phase I clinical trial.

I’ve been to Disneyland.

I’ve flown in a plane that landed on an aircraft carrier, grabbing the cable with a tailhook.

I sat in a grass-roofed bar with no walls in the Philippines, sipping 10-cent rum and cokes during a torrential rain storm.

I’ve done stand-up comedy in New York City.  Manhattan, yet!

I’ve been to Tokyo Disneyland.

I’ve set foot in Spain, Italy, the Vatican, France, Lebanon, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.

I’ve been to the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio

I once ran for elected office, coming in second out of four candidates.

My ex-wife and I were on the pilot for a game show shortly before we broke up.

I’ve been to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

I’ve stood in the majesty of the Sistine Chapel.

I’ve walked in the Roman catacombs, seeing the bones of early Christians.

I had late night sandwiches with a German couple a friend of mine and I met during a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in an ancient ampitheater in Taormina, Sicily.

I’ve been propositioned in the apartment of a beautiful German girl in Naples, Italy — and said no.

I took part in the evacuation of Americans and Lebanese nationals from Beirut in July 1976.

I once saw a guy get his head lopped off by a helicopter blade.

Front Page of the Waukesha Freeman's Entertainment Section, with me as the lead in "Life With Father"

I once took my wife for a drive all the way around Lake Michigan.

I went to Wrestlemania XIII with my late twin brother and his son.

I was once a contestant on “The Price is Right”.

I mourned the death of my father, a twin brother, an older brother, an older sister, and the abandonment of her family by my youngest sister.

I’ve had Parkinson’s disease for 10 years.

And I’m only 55 years old.

When my time comes, which I hope is no time soon, I will leave with no regrets.  I’ve already donated my mortal remains — all of ’em — for the furtherance of medical science.  (Actually, I hope I get “plasticized” and posed in some bizarre fashion to be placed on display in some art gallery where someone I knew while alive, checking out the exhibit, will tell his companion, “doesn’t that one kinda look like Bill?”)

To quote “Old Blue Eyes…”

“I did it all.  And I stood tall.  And did it My Way!”

So, dear Facebook friend, thanks for your offer of “hope”.  I’ll take it and add it to the pile I already have.  And best wishes to you and your lucky husband.

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