“Emotional Incontinence” and My PD

My “Parkie Pal”  Laura Crawford unloads great phrases that snap me to attention. I often borrow them with pleasure and her permission.

Take the one on PD being a “pesky tenant.” Writes Laura: “My uncle Rodrigo (who  has PD)  was the first family member I called the day I was diagnosed. I was very scared because I had just goggled the chart and the word dementia at the 5th level had terrified me. But my uncle advised me to consider PD as a pesky tenant living in my body. A horrible nuisance, yes. But no longer that monster I had imagined.”

Another Lauraism: Emotional Incontinence. Technically, EI appears to mean uncontrollable crying in PD or a Parkinson-like disease. I experience EI differently.

Case in point was last weekend’s 60th reunion of my high school class at the Milwaukee Day School (now part of the University School of Milwaukee.)

It was a pleasantly emotional two days of beer and fellowship with my 12 classmates (out of 28 graduates.) I have written previously about their frontal assault on Ivy League colleges and their eight earned doctorates and six law degrees.

The final dinner was my EI downfall. I ached so much I could not stay seated. I had to roam and stretch. I was viscerally offended by one spouse’s unending inanities. I could focus only on the pleasing prospect of sleep.

I had overdrawn my emotional bank account with 48 intense hours of interpersonal engagement and no breaks for introverted solitude and battery charging.  It didn’t help that I had organized the event and was intent on it succeeding.

I explained my “Parkie Moment” to the table and retreated.  We arrived  at our host’s house and blessed sleep soon engulfed me.  I felt refreshed the next morning. My first identifiable experience of “emotional incontinence” passed with minimal damage.

Having given you the prelude to the reunion, a closing note is due. What follows is a modified version of the electronic letter I sent to my classmates in attendance, headlined nostalgia.


/nɒˈstaldʒə /

▸ noun [mass noun] a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past:

As in , I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my days at Milwaukee Country Day School.

Oxford Dictionary of English

The first symptom hit Friday (June 24, 78th birthday). My submerged Packers fan erupted. That 1947 green-and-yellow cap leaped from the Lids online catalogue. I clicked and bought.

It crescendoed Sunday. I could not leave without two University of Wisconsin T-shirts from the airport gift shop.

Dr. Robert Miles Schmidt, my surgeon-chauffeur, talked about people we knew from childhood as we rode up and down lovely Lake Drive. He was encyclopedic in telling life stories. What had happened to Pepper Read? How about Bob Littel, the crushing halfback/linebacker? Turns out Bob wrote children’s books before his passing.

I thought about the six cities where I lived over my journalism career. Bob’s experience in one was deep and resonant. Mine were on-the-fly immersions. For the moment at least, Bob’s deep dive trumped my repeated, intense journeys to adjust and understand my new community.

Ours, for the most part, appeared to be a crew that lives modestly. Consider two of our “rides.” Bob Schmidt, the surgeon, had sported a ‪2003 Buick Park Avenue (127,000 miles). It was retired recently, with honors, after chronic rustitis. Replacing it is a 2015 Ford Focus, purchased used from Enterprise. Retired municipal judge Carl Backus’ ride is a 14-year-old Ford Taurus.

An encounter with retired lawyer John Hazelwood showed the limitations that distance had imposed on our knowledge of one another. Before the weekend, I had shared a piece by a Washington writer I know and respect. John fired back, telling me never again to dump such trash on his electronic doorstep. He appeared to believe I was a typical media liberal.

‪Saturday afternoon‪, the beach talk touched on the infamous Duke lacrosse case. I shared the disdain that my Duke classmates and I had for our president.  He had botched the matter and flung the team under the proverbial bus.

I took John’s surprised expression as solidarity on political correctness in the academy. (We in fact had both read and admired Stuart Taylor’s searing indictment of press-administration-legal failings. “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case.”)

God speed, gentleman, until our next encounter.











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