Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tripod Charlie

Round eyes stared. Charlie half sat, half crouched, back against the wall, obviously ready to scramble to any exit that may become necessary and available. He absorbed the total scene critically, drawing it in as if with the power of twin tractor beams. Clearly, he was suspicious. No swish of the tail. No purring. Not even a twitch of his Hitler-like mustache. Only watching. Waiting, it seemed, for some threatening move.

He had every reason to be cautious, concerned and guarded. There were eight people in this particular room of the house. The fact that two of them were familiar did not outweigh the risk presented by an invasion of six strangers. As might be expected, it was the men he scrutinized most carefully. Although they seemed to laugh loudly and virtually ignore his presence, they worried him. Sometimes these older males seemed to struggle with jerky, stiff and uneven movements. While they did not signal danger, there was no sign of safety either.

But there was another reason Charlie was skeptical. While not obvious as he hunkered against the wall, as soon as he moved his limp betrayed his vulnerability. It was his left front leg. It was not hurting him, unless with phantom pain, for the leg itself was gone. The amputation had left a barely noticeable stub. But it was reminder enough of his once smooth, stealthy movements. Now he was rendered somewhat clumsy and in need of protection. No longer was he remarkably capable at hunting, climbing vertical surfaces and scrambling to a hasty retreat to escape any predator’s jaws. These abilities had been stolen from him by two angry and vicious young men who had thrown him against a wall, crushing bones and mangling muscles. The loss of a normal life was the result.

But perhaps in some ways the men in the room could understand Tripod Charlie. For their lives had also been changed forever by a devastating and vicious enemy; Parkinson's. But the reason that Paul the Shark, Big Gerry, John and I had gathered together with our spouses Saturday night betrayed the differences between Charlie and us.

Our informal group met to share laughter to dispel tomorrow's uncertainties, tell stories, most of which had little relevance to our common experience with PD, and communicate that regardless of how independent each of us might appear we were there for one another whenever the need arose. It is a type of brotherhood, forged in the solitude of walking what might otherwise be a lonely path. We are unique, but understood. At least to a point.

By the end of the evening the wine and laughter had warmed the room. Comfortable familiarity had begun to permit us to relax and know that it was safe enough to draw closer. Even Tripod Charlie allowed us to get closer, to comfort him as if he knew somehow that we shared the common experience of redefining what is normal.


  1. thank you for the post, and thank you for your leadership in bringing this extraordinary group together.
    I was there and experienced tripod charlies reluctance and hesitation... but as evening progressed and the wine flowed I could see that each of us has plenty to share in our journey. The journey which you say, could otherwise be a lonely path.

  2. T- Charlie's lesson to me:
    .. forgiveness, trust despite adversity, and living for the small kindness's that enrich our experience of life .... Paul
    .. when hurting, all living things need refuge, love and understanding and perhaps an evening celebrating a form of gratitude with our loved ones is what I enjoy most.