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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Unsung Hero (12/07/06)

TITLE: My Singing Hero
By Marita Vandertogt


My Singing Hero

His fingers slide across the keyboard, his left hand smooth, his right jerky, hesitant. Some of the keys don’t get hit, and the music has spaces. He stops and starts the song again, his body shifting on the piano bench. Then stops, and starts again. He looks at me. “Sorry,” he says, as though he were failing somehow. And starts again.

I watch him, his face intense, focused. He wants me to hear the song. He’s just put the lyric together and he sings it with a voice that moves along with the keys of the piano. But not with the strength it once had. His body is thin, the shirt he’s wearing too big.

The man is my brother, and he has Parkinsons.

He’s had it for the last 10 years. He got it around the same time Michael J. Fox made his announcement. And I’ve watched him change with it. From a simple shake of one hand, “I think I need fries with this shake,” he’d laugh at the beginning, to a body now that can’t sit still. That moves, his arms flailing without his permission. To the point where people watch him out of the corner of their eyes. He knows they’re watching. And we know he knows. And nobody says anything. We don’t know what to say.

I’ve watched him go from living a normal life, to having to be driven around now because his muscles could freeze up at any time. The timing of his medication becomes a major focus. And he has to depend on other people now, has to wait until they’re ready or have time to do what he needs to do.

He laughs when he tells people the number of pills he has to take a day, makes a joke of it. And how he has to watch just how much protein he eats, and calculate the worth of a juicy hamburger before deciding to eat it. And he doesn’t complain.

He keeps creating the music. It doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop. The melody. The lyrics.

And the songs he writes are about moving forward. And about hope. Always about hope.

But never, during this whole journey, have I heard him say a word about why. Maybe he’s thought it. I’m sure he’s thought it. But he doesn’t say it. And he doesn’t dwell on it. He accepts, at least outwardly, his life as it is now. I know his nights have pain in them, and I’m sure they’re long. And his thoughts probably have to fight off the darkness. But every morning he’s ready to take on another day. Without complaining.

I’ve only gone through a few things that have hampered my freedom and threatened my independence, so I have a very limited idea of what his physical prison must be like.

I guess my brother is my unsung hero.

Well, maybe my singing hero!!

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Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood12/14/06
I loved this story! From beginning to end, this character came alive for me through vivid, specific descriptions (I could just see the frail man struggling at his piano playing with the one shaking, fumbling hand) and delightfully witty dialogue (loved the character's comment about his having a shake with his fries!)

I can relate to this as there are two special people in my own life with Parkinson's (one a close family member, another a good friend). This account moved me and gave me hope. Thanks for sharing!
Brenda Smith12/14/06
My Mom had PD for about 16 years. Your brother is indeed a hero. Keep on "singing his praises."
Jan Ackerson 12/18/06
What a wonderful, moving tribute to your brother. God bless him.
Betty Castleberry12/19/06
This is very touching. My father had Parkinson's Disease. You described its symptoms well. Your brother is to be commended for his positive attitude. He's truly an usung hereo.