The book title, Parkinson’s Blues, seems rather depressing and in fact, author John J. Clayton talks about what he expected in old age and what he got instead: a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He describes his symptoms in very human, often cruel terms we understand.
“I’d write about my exhaustion from Parkinson’s, but I’m too exhausted. Some joke. My chief symptom, doc, isn’t the shakes. It’s torpor. Sluggishness, lethargy, thickness in the head; what it feels like when you’ve got the flu.”
And yet…his book is also a victory of sorts. Clayton can still write even when spoken words are sometimes not easily recalled. Given a keyboard, Clayton shines. He talks of Parkinson’s, of course, but he also takes an autobiographical look at his past. Clayton’s subjects run back and forth. One thought triggers another and then he deals with more symptoms. In the end, we learn to admire this gentleman because he is us.
I suppose because Clayton is a writer and I am a writer, this book had special appeal. I’ve always written about subjects in my life, supposing, if given the opportunity I would write about illness as well. Clayton has done that and I only wish I could do as well. He was honest, angry, sometimes funny and always interesting.
“My grandparents speak from their frames. Studio portraits of each family to send back home to Odessa, to a little town near Kishnev. And pictures of myself speak to me — pictures from thirty, forty, fifty years ago. My old selves, there on the wall. I let my old, gone selves address me. I’m not ashamed of them. I feel affection and even respect for the poor fool there on the wall. He’s smiling, trying to please, trying to appear strong — though we both know how incomplete he is, the young man in those pictures.”
Much more fills out Clayton’s story. He lost a son to illness. He had two ex-wives. His current wife became friendly with both ex-wives and their husbands and they even spent Thanksgivings together!
Yes, everyone has a story…and I loved reading Clayton’s.