Life Love Laughter and Learning

By Jo Collinge

I Love my Life, especially when it is filled with Laughter. I’m Learning to Live my Life with Parkinson’s, to challenge it as well as accommodate all the uncertainties that it brings.

It’s been quite a while since I have woken up in the middle of the night with a blog there in my head, ready and waiting to be written. When that happens, I have to get up, log on, and type it up before I forget what I want to say. The result is this, and replaces its former version, originally drafted about a week ago but not published, and titled “Exercise and Parkinson’s”. How dull is that, and my boring rambling spiel on the benefits of exercise and endorphins has been well and truly ditched in favour of this.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke, as usual, stiff and in pain, somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning, in urgent need of a call of nature. Having managed to lever myself out of bed, thanks to the re-positioning of my bedside cabinet about a month ago, I shuffled off to the bathroom, stopping off en-route to the loo for my usual early-morning bleary-eyed inspection in the mirror to count the bags accumulating under my eyes and the latest crop of grey hair springing up on my head. The sight that greeted me on that particular morning was not as expected. Instead of looking like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards as per usual, my hair was standing straight up on end, Jedward style. After my initial shock, I started to laugh. 15 minutes later, I rolled back in to bed, tears still in my eyes and chuckling to myself. My husband and two children had slept straight through and hadn’t heard a thing.

Later, over the breakfast table, my off-spring regarded me with suspicion and I was informed I was unusually perky and chipper. On explaining, the response I got was, typically, “Yeah – what’s funny about that Mum?” Ah well, the innocence of youth. One day, I hope, when I am long gone, they will look back, smile fondly to themselves, and understand at long last what made me laugh on that particular morning. Well, I can but hope can’t I? Having texted one of my Parkie friends later that morning with an account of my early morning hysterics, the response that came back was “Not so much Jedward, as Joward”! We Parkies understand each other – it’s an exclusive club and one which is for keeps. It was the best start to my day for a long time, and I hope there will be many more like it.

This year is an epic one for all of us. London is hosting the Olympics and Paralympics, our Monarch is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee and long may Her Majesty continue to reign over us, and most importantly of all I turn 50 at the end of July. Being in the grip of my own personal mid-life crisis, I have decided that it’s about time I learnt a martial art. After all, I’m at that time of life where middle-age spread is no longer a joke, its reality, and everything is fast heading south. Most of my jeans no longer fit me, and I dread looking like my old Geography teacher, Miss Gage, who had b**bs that, unsupported, had long since passed her belly button on their never-ending journey south! She had obviously burnt her bra back in the days when it was fashionable to do such things, and hadn’t bothered buying any replacements. As God is my witness it’s true – as Jo and Niki who were there with me will testify. The mind boggles!!

Since Antonia started Tae-Kwon-Do a year ago, I have been hankering to have a go myself. I always fancied myself as a Mutant Ninja. Three weeks ago, I finally plucked up the courage to ask the instructor if he would mind if I joined in for one session, and fully anticipating the response of “Sorry – far too old and doddery” I was encouraged to participate. An hour later, I crawled out, sweating buckets, gasping for fresh air and water, having had the time of my life. I absolutely loved it, and so far I am still going once a week. What’s more, Antonia loves my being there, joining in with her.

OK, so it’s going to take me twice as long to learn the moves, it’s unlikely I will ever make Black Belt, but I really don’t care – I’m having fun. The exercise is hard work, but doing me the world of good, and for the first time in ages I feel more like my old self before the Parkinson’s took its insidious hold. I must admit, the youngsters are eying me with suspicion and a couple of weeks ago one young lad half my size who could have felled me in the blink of an eye even had the temerity to request the instructor if he could have a different partner when he was partnered with me for the second time in 15 minutes. Oh the cheek! On being refused he rather grumpily put up with me until time-out was called.

So, watch out – there’s still life in this doddery old Mutant Ninja than you could shake your stick at! Bring it on!