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December 27, 2012

Rolling toward a stop


That brake was a safety mechanism. When the driver pressed down hard on it, curved lengths of wood pressed just as hard against the turning wheels to quench increasing speed. And, friends, just now I need to press down on my own brake, slowing down my own horse and wagon.

In fact, my whole rig was doing just fine, well into my 60s. Then I took on a passenger. I didn’t know his name as he climbed into the back, and I was a long time finding it out. Turned out to be Parkinson.

He’s been rough company. In short order, the horse was in serious trouble, and the wagon was soon faring no better. At the same time the driver began to feel dazed, unsteady, ready to fall right off the seat. He had to struggle to hold his balance, and he’d get worn out, just trying to keep eyes fixed on the road ahead. Just driving the rig was wearing him out.

And worse: The first thing that Parkinson monkeyed with was the wagon’s brake.

OK, I’ve worn out the analogy, and maybe your patience. So, for a minute, here’s the straight skinny: Parkinson wouldn’t be aboard, wreaking havoc with the whole shebang, if my brain hadn’t diminished production of dopamine, a substance that’s a natural governor for the central nervous system, controlling bodily and mental stop-and-start, fast-and-slow in a myriad of operations.

Long before I knew Parkinson’s was with me in the wagon, my dopamine had been diminishing, for perhaps seven or eight years. But my brain, bless it, had been compensating; and it wasn’t until 2007 that suddenly shaky hands made me realized someone had climbed aboard my wagon and, in fact, was trying to take control away from me.

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