She said eight and I said twenty-one. Key to the door and all that. She said eight and I said eighteen then. She said eight and I said sweet sixteen. She said eight and I said thirteen. To mark becoming a teenager. Final offer.
So it was that, in the summer holiday before she started Year Six, when she was – well, nearly ten, InfantPhenomenon and I set off to get her ears pierced.
There’s a traditional family jewellers in the town: Scintilla’s. They’ve been there for donkey’s years and even appeared on TV. They were the ones with the broken windows behind the rioter carrying the trainers. Yes, that’s them.
At the back of the narrow shop, old man Scintilla sits in the corner doing things with watches. The younger Scintillas arrange shiny objects. And Mr and Mrs Scintilla make holes in people’s children.
They are just lining up the gun thingies when InfantPhenomenon yells “Wait!” She takes a few breaths. “Sorry, ready now.” More lining up of gun thingies and then “Hold on!” InfantPhenomenon is now bright red and I start apologising. There’s a bit of a queue gathering with mumbling from would-be fiancés desperate to get a ring and pop the question. I suggest to InfantPhenomenon that we leave it for the time being but no, she really wants to do this. More lining up and … “Stop!” This time we do leave, sheepishly.
I attempt to be bright and cheery in the coffee shop but InfantPhenomenon is having none of it. She wants to have pierced ears but doesn’t want to have her ears pierced.
I can relate to that. Sometimes you just can’t face the means needed to get to an end. When, back in the summer, I was diagnosed with PD, I was desperate to know more about the condition. I could hardly know less. But the breezy advice given by the consultant – “look at the Parkinson’s UK website” – felt impossible. I might come across something which confirmed the suspicion that I’d just been given a death sentence. I now know that the website is sensitively designed and would have allayed many of my worries. But at that time, I was too scared to look. Not even from behind the sofa.
Can you check the website for me? I texted DearHeart. What do I need to know?
And back from the Yorkshire coast came the texts. Beep beep: drink lots of water. Beep beep: do Pilates. Beep beep: there’s a PD nurse close to where you live that no-one has told you about. Here’s her number. Beep beep: PD is not a terminal disease. Here’s a positive story. And another. And another.
Which reminds me, I must tell DearHeart about Sue Brown, whose mother-of-all positive stories I caught yesterday on Twitter. Sue is now aged 68 and was diagnosed twenty years ago. She’s made a point of spending the intervening time engaging in all manner of extreme sports; climbing Everest, sky diving, walking on aeroplane wings and shark-baiting being among her escapades. Apparently, she wants to show that “having Parkinson’s is no barrier to leading a full life.” 1
‘Full’ is one word for it. Speaking as someone who found the Mad Hatter teacup ride a high adrenaline experience, I can think of other words. But all credit to the woman, we need the popular perception of PD to be challenged. And goodness, is she doing that!
Six months on from my diagnosis, I now know that many thousands of people with PD are just getting on with lives: working, looking after their families, socialising. They have symptoms so well managed that the condition is only evident if they happen to be wearing a Proud to be a Parkie hoody. So, it’s all too easy to restrict one’s view of PD to just the stage where symptoms can no longer be fully managed. A frightening prospect when you’ve just been diagnosed and have a mortgage to pay.
Eyebrows raised as we walked in to Scintilla’s for a third time. “You could wait till you’re twenty-one,” I mumbled.
This time, Mrs Scintilla took charge. “We’ll line up the holes and mark them with pen first. Then you can check that you’re happy with the position.” InfantPhenomenon nodded. The Scintillas lined up the gun thingies, exchanged a look and…
“Aah!” Then “I’ve got pierced ears!” Then a big grin and one happy InfantPhenomenon.
See, not so bad once you’re in.