The phone rang.
“My doctor thinks it’s Parkinson’s.”
The five words travelled across my Eustachian tubes, dropped behind my uvula, and tumbled through my esophagus into my duodenum.
“Will you drive me to the neurologist for the test?”
Since her words were plastic, I determined to push enthusiasm into mine.
“Of course I will!”
“March 10. 9:00 a.m.. Be here at eight.” She didn’t shove her words at all.
“It’ll be fun,” I said. “Maybe we can do lunch.”
After he scrubbed his hands at the sink, the neurologist turned to face us. I had a thought as I watched him wrestle a wad of brown paper towels. Why, he’s a little dried-apple doll with magic marker hair, and whoever made him brushed him with butterscotch sundae syrup, to moisturize him.
As he extended his hand to her then me, his grin took up the whole bottom half of his face. I couldn’t take my eyes off his large even teeth. I squinted at their shine.
“So, your family physician thinks Parkinson’s is a possibility, eh? We shall see. Walk around the perimeter of the room please.”
She glanced at me. I didn’t think I should hold her hand so I shook my head slightly. She circumnavigated the space with her hands out, fingers splayed. Her shoes made shushing noises on the carpet.
When she completed her route, he stepped in front of her. “Smile for me.”
I cringed at the result, the lack of it.
The doctor used his clogged foot to scoot a stool in front of the exam table.
“Please to sit here?”
“Please to sit here?”
I held her fist as she climbed up. The table paper crashed and rattled as she settled. On her lap, she death-gripped her purse.
“Release your handbag, ma’am,” the doctor said. “Extend your arms please. Very good.”
He made marks on the sheet of paper on his clipboard.
“What day of the week is this? Excellent. And who is the President of the
United States of America?
Take your time. Correct. And tell me the sum of seven plus three plus eight.
That’s right. Excuse me please, one minute, ladies.” He eased the door shut
She tried to raise her eyebrows. “So?”
“Did I do good?”
I shrugged. “I think you did.”
“I like him. He’s nice.”
I smiled. “Me too.”
The dried-apple doctor returned. He crossed the room and stood beside a white board, dry erase marker in hand. Up in the corner someone had scrawled the release date of the final Harry Potter book. A crude cartoon lion roared, “Gryffindor!”
The neurologist uncapped the pen and printed a word in capital letters, drew down arrows on either side of it, put the marker top back on.
“It is believed, ma’ams, that the cause of Parkinson’s is a decrease in dopamine production by neurons in the brain. This in turn affects the movement of muscles and we often see the onset of typical Parkinson’s behavior—shuffling feet, hand tremors, also what is called flat affect, that is to say, a certain lack of facial expression.”
As one, she and I sagged.
With a flourish he again removed the cap from the dry erase marker and slashed a large red X over DOPAMINE. When he turned to face us, his eyes how they sparkled. He poked the pen in her direction.
“However, ma’am, I am not willing to give you a diagnosis of Parkinson’s at this time. It is my opinion you are merely presenting behavior that is also typical to old age.”
After he helped her off the table, he rubbed her upper back briskly. I steadied her when she tilted forward.
“Do you feel better now, ma’am?” he asked. “Are you relieved?”
She blinked slowly, worked to get the corners of her mouth to lift. She nodded.
“I do. I am.”
He gathered her hands in his, thumbed her knuckles.
“Listen to me, ma’am. I need you to tell your primary care provider something.” He turned to me, raised his chin till his gaze met mine. “You pay attention too, young miss.” He gave her hands a gentle shake. “A small portion of the population experiences what is called drug-induced Parkinson’s. Your family physician needs to review the list of prescriptions you are currently taking. I am hoping in doing so, he may find the cause for the recent downturn in your health. I cannot guarantee this, but it is certainly worth investigating, yes?”
We both nodded. “Yes!”
Two months later, the phone rang. I checked caller-id. It was her.
“The high school drama department is putting on West Side Story this weekend. Will you go with me? To dinner and a show?”
I glanced up at the ceiling, lip-synced thank you. “Like you even had to ask. Of course I will.”
(This is Part II, a happy ending to the story Gris.)