Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Price of Admission

The long street was lined with clubs. Not the kind that attracted lonely man who yearn for something or someone to transport them outside of themselves. These were proper establishments with brass plaques on their doors, although some were written with indecipherable script, while others were chiseled with bold letters on granite columns, and still others finally etched with such a thin engraving that the words were barely discernible. Some of the associations were fraternities, other sororities, but most of the clubs required proper identification for access. Admission was sometimes gained by merely appearing at the building entrance, whereas other times entrance required special passwords, secret signs or unnatural motions. Some of those who traveled this long boulevard were members of many clubs with inexpensive dues, while others could only gain entry to only a few, and then only at a very high price. Some memberships were open to a diverse and international group of individuals, whereas others were very small, impenetrable and exclusive.
Although we lived 6800 miles (10,700 km) apart, and had never met, Daniel and I were members of the same club. That was enough. Despite a litany of differences, we became friends. Remarkable when you think that we did not share citizenship (he is Israeli. I am Canadian), living circumstances (he lives in an apartment in heavily populated Jerusalem. I live in semi-rural British Columbia), our flexibility (he is passionate about tai chi, I am about as pliable as a 2 x 4 piece of lumber), our faiths (he is Jewish, I am Christian), employment (he is on permanent disability from his aeronautical employment, whereas I seem to work too much at the practice of law). While we are generally about the same age, both have been married more than 35 years, and we have three children each, some adopted, it is unlikely that we would stop on the street to engage in conversation were it not for our club membership. You see, Daniel has had Parkinson's disease for 12 years. I was diagnosed a little more than six years ago. We are, to some extent reluctantly, part of an international community of people with Parkinson's. Membership came at quite a cost.
As I shared a very pleasant evening with him and his wife in their home, I was fascinated by how we were drawn together by a common theme: doing what we could to improve the lot of people with Parkinson's. He does it by engaging others through teaching tai chi (see: I attempt to relate to others to this blog and other interpersonal engagements. It was our shared disease that kindled these passions.
One refrain that has been repeated by people with Parkinson's who are impacting their communities, their countries and the world is this: WE ARE NOT ALONE. As in battle, the odds of success improve as we stand together. Families, friends, alumni, fellow workers, team members, congregations and communities are all really just clubs. Whether we voluntarily join or are conscripted, they provide opportunities to deal with life in relationship to others. To share our days whether vanquished or victorious, downtrodden or domineering, happy or heartbroken. The truth is, not only do we function better together, we need each other.
As I walked to the hotel door on that cold and cloudy Jerusalem night after exchanging a hug with Daniel I knew my life had been enriched, my understanding deepened by gaining this new friend.  I smiled broadly. I wondered what PD club members I would meet in my upcoming trip around the world. Unquestionably, those experiences would be life-changing.


  1. Aren't friendships wonderful? May ours grow and deepen with time.

  2. Well I'm a AD or DD member, alzheimer's or dementia, due to caregiving, but I loved this post so much I put the link on my latest blog. Here is my link in case you want to see what I said about you: