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Pearline, the Object of My Affliction

Monday May 03, 2021
Pearline and I met in an antique store in the small town of Cashmere. WA. She was a vision of loveliness all in white, and she sang to me in the exotic language of her kind.

 “Honk, honk, groan”  

Bewitching.

 I cradled her in my arms. We were meant to be together.

 I knew this was true, in spite of her bad reputation. She was frequently mocked by the allegedly hip, those self-appointed arbiters of cool who would never accept her for who she was, an accordion.

She and her kind were the butt of Far Side gags, scorned as the Jerry Lewis of musical instruments, and, most damning, featured attractions of the apotheosis of square, The Lawrence Welk Show,. Accordions have long been lead participants in a tragic musical train wreck.

Still, she was remarkably unblemished by her long life on the musical front lines. I fell for her, hard.

What business does a 61 year-old man with Parkinson’s have taking up an instrument that he has no experience playing? An instrument that will take years to master, if mastery is ever achieved against the weight of a progressive, disabling disease?

I could cite the usual reasons a person with PD should be trying something new, especially a musical instrument. The building of new neural paths that comes with novel activities, the need to practice multi-tasking, the benefits to the brain of not just listening to music, but playing it. Good reasons to be sure.

But there is another, more primal reason for my affair with Pearline. Learning a complex new skill is a statement about my faith in the future. It’s a commitment to the idea that I will be here for a long time yet, that I have time to make my commitment worth it.

I once overheard an elderly couple in a sporting goods store trying out winter boots for the husband. “You might as well get a good pair” said his companion, “These will probably be the last boots you buy.”  

Taking up a new skill at this stage says it’s earlier in the game than it may appear. I am not on my last set of boots, not a dead man walking, not vamping in the waiting area of a funeral home until the undertaker arrives to take my measurements for a pine box. I will wear out many pairs of boots before I’m done. It's a gesture of faith in the future.

And why shouldn’t one have faith in the future? There has never been a good time to be alive, There have been wars and disease, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, floods and cyclones, droughts and locust plagues since before we first painted the walls in caves in the south of France. And yet, here we are.

You have faced the humiliations and dangers of Parkinson’s Disease, skirting depression, falls, choking, isolation, and the thousand and one indignities  that go with PD, and yet, here you are. Who is to say you won’t be here many, many tomorrows after?

For my part, I am looking forward to a long and satisfying involvement with Pearline. And when the time finally comes for me to lay my accordion down, I intend to be buried with her, my companion for eternity.

That’ll be one less accordion for the world to be afraid of.

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

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