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Chapter 8: Observations and a Suggestion

Another thing I learned as a listener to WGUC. When my wife died, I truly understood for myself how necessary it is to have music to turn to in a time of sorrow.

I’m going to mention the Sacks book about the brain and music again. One of the many notable things he writes of is the case of a British musician who had lost all memory, save the most recent fifteen or twenty seconds. Yet when his family put him near a piano, he played as if nothing had changed, but didn’t know he had done so. He even rehearsed and directed a choral concert, but didn’t know anything about it later. Another case mentioned is a composer with a similar brain problem, but who still composed original music. I’m not yet up to a chapter that I’m looking forward to, but that brings up the slings and arrows I mentioned some time ago.

Never ask someone my age about our health. We’ll bend your ear as long as you let us. I’ll try to be quick about it, and I’m not complaining, just mentioning things that are relevant. I’ll only briefly mention my prostate cancer in 1995, because it was caught very early and taken care of, but this gives me the opportunity to tell all the men who haven’t yet been tested, do it.

Well, now I’ve read the chapter I was wondering about: “Music and Parkinson’s Disease.” I was diagnosed with that condition four years ago, and I think I’m still in the early stages. I look fairly normal, so I’m told, and any tremor I have is reduced by medicine. Dr. Sacks in the Parkinson’s chapter mainly recounts what he’s already written of before, about the effect hearing rhythmic music had on patients who normally could not move their legs to walk, and nothing that I was hoping to find there. So it goes. The dramatic moment of seeing those patients move has been shown in some movies you might have seen. The effect is not fiction, though.

The growth of Music Therapy for many other diseases and conditions owes much to those unfrozen walkers. There are many symptoms that we Parkinsonians display, but no two people have identical problems. I’ll just mention that I use a cane for balance, and I do have symptoms that show sometimes, and the times between dosages of the L-Dopa based medicines when my brain slows down are getting longer. Other minor symptoms, which seem major at times, include lessening of the senses of taste and smell. So food doesn’t taste as interesting as it once did. (But now I can eat cooked carrots, which I used to hate.) It has progressed far enough that I no longer drive a car. That, combined with the arthritis I haven’t told you about, restricts my ability to get from here to anywhere these days.

Until a couple of months ago, except on rare days my voice had lost the bottom octave. I found a speech therapist, and a friend tells me my old voice is mostly intact (if I remember to do my vocal exercises.) I think Parkinson’s has something to do with the fact that I react much more viscerally to music than I had before. I will move my body to the music. Those who have known me in the past will find this curious. This extends to TV watching. I find my head jerking around if there is a fight scene, and when there is a long pass in football, or a tackle. “That’s not ME,” I say. But I guess that now, it is me.


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