Richard was a fine basketball player. He started with the varsity team when he was a freshman in high school, and it was his passion. His friend George put it this way: “Richard did things that no one else did. Hit the open man, dribble through any defense, and hand out jockstraps after the drive.”

When he blew out his knee in college, he was devastated, and he never truly recovered. We shot hoops together a lot over the years, and he was a passionate Washington Husky basketball fan.

Parkinson’s puts serious constraints on one’s body. Arms don’t swing like they should; people stoop over, take tiny steps, and get frozen in place. Richard has all those challenges. Big time. But put a basketball in his hands, and he turns into a different person. He becomes much more agile, with better posture and balance. Muscle memory is an amazing concept. We play ball almost every day. As Richard’s diseases progresses, we can’t use the basketball hoop as much, but it makes a nice lamp.

When friends and family come over, we always play basketball, passing and bouncing the ball to each other. It puts Richard on an even playing field with the rest of us. He can’t hold his own in a conversation. That is impossible. But with basketball he is as good as or better than the rest of us. His self-esteem rises because this is something he is still good at. It is fun, a good social activity, and a good workout. More than once my arms end up burning, but there is no way I will stop if he isn’t ready.


You will find my book Parkinson’s: A Love Story with Dementia for Dessert on Amazon.  Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.

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