Tag Archives: Parkinson’s disease

Someone I Never Actually Met

When I heard that Muhammad Ali had died and I listened to his chronology, I realized that his Parkinson’s was diagnosed before my kids were even born. They don’t remember Ali as I do. When I was a little kid, there were two big celebrities whose names swirled around me on a weekly, if not daily, basis: Marilyn Monroe and Cassius Clay. It wasn’t until 1964 that the Beatles eclipsed these names. For me, the name Cassius Clay itself was memorable, as was his personality and his reputation. He was a bit of a P.T. Barnum, bellowing and insisting upon attention and admiration. He was talented, and he knew it. He was handsome, and he knew it. He had the “IT” factor, and he knew it. He was also willing to stand up for himself and didn’t hold himself back, furthering civil rights by engendering in my generation the notion that OF COURSE all people should be equal. He did that with his expectations.

Then he converted, changed his name, and avoided the draft–and stirred up even more attention for himself. At that point, he tested the sympathies of middle-aged middle America. But for my generation, he showed that you don’t have to accept things just because the government says it is so. You can fight against what you feel is wrong. He showed that some things are worth fighting for. Whether you agreed or not with his political stance, it was impossible not to recognize that he was a FORCE and a TEACHER. We were young. We were blank slates. We learned so much from him.

Until very recently, my kids didn’t know any of this. The only thing they knew was that Muhammad Ali was a big name, an ex-champion, and had a vague illness.

If we don’t teach the history, how will they know that Ali’s importance didn’t lie in his boxing skills? How will future generations understand that teachers can come in unusual packages?

As a student of history, I am sensitive to history as an entity–its identity, its reputation, and its existence. Think of history as a person that you care about. I worry about the welfare of history–maybe that’s what I am saying.

The most important role of history, of course, is to remind us  of the effects of our action and inaction–and to understand the process. As George Santayana so famously said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. We don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Even through grad school (where I was working on a master’s in history before I switched to English and creative writing) and my teaching career, I saw that history was sometimes maligned or misunderstood, but had its place in the world.

I’m not so sure anymore.

I could look up a lot of statistics, but I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon and it’s inching up toward 115 degrees. It was 115 yesterday. My air conditioning can only cool my house just so much. I am fogged up with migraine aura from the heat and the thick particles of crud in the air. All I can say is I suspect that we are leaving history in the dust as we move on toward our brave new technologically driven world.

Tangent over. Back to Ali. When my kids were little, a baby in my family was born, and she was related to Ali. We were almost kin. This was exciting news. Just so you know, I am also almost kin to George Burns (“God” and Gracie’s husband) and Anton van Leeuwenhoek (microscope inventor). Anyway, Ali was gracious and generous to the new baby.

I never thought Ali would cross my path again, but I was wrong.

A couple of years ago, my son visited the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrows Neurological Institute here in Phoenix where he received a diagnosis that had eluded us for years. There he was diagnosed with a rare movement disorder called Myoclonus Dystonia. The gardener and I had been taking him to doctors since he was nine months old, trying to figure out the source of his tic. Thanks to Ali’s donations and guidance, the center at Barrows (St. Joseph’s) is world class. When my son and I walked the hall, looking at all the photos of Ali, he said, “That’s our relative!” Hah, yeah, sort of. Pretty cool.

RIP, Teacher.


On a related note about the importance of making a place for history, did you watch the new Roots mini-series? Did you see the original version? If you were old enough when the first series aired and if you lived in the United States, I’m pretty sure you watched it. Although its story is fictional, it’s based on a historical novel by Alex Haley that is grounded in historical research and based on his own ancestor. So the TV series is a wonderful teaching tool.  But if you weren’t around for that show, have you done your reading or is the history of African Americans one that you watch only in current events on your computer screen?

Did you watch the new Roots? I still haven’t found anybody else who has watched the new one. I hope you did. Even if you saw the first one, the new one has some new perspectives. For instance, Kunta Kinte, the first main character of the story, is a Mandinka warrior, not a simple villager. I like this because it gives the story and its characters a powerful guiding force throughout, and instills a sense of pride, as well. There are events, though, where I wondered if they pushed too far. If you watched it, I’d love to know what you thought about that last gunshot near the end. If you respond, please write a warning about a plot reveal!

In other news, we have the first blossom of a new hibiscus bush!


Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Books, Family history, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, History, Inspiration, Novel, Vintage American culture

Grateful x 7+

I feel so blessed lately with award nominations by other bloggers (and embarrassed, let’s not forget that part).   Being noticed by your peers has got to be one of the most satisfying (and embarrassing) feelings possible.

Although I’ve posted before about some of these awards, since then two bloggers have nominated Writer Site for the One Lovely Blog award.  They are Write Brain Trust and Terry1954.  Write Brain Trust, published by a group, is an in-depth resource for writing which focuses on marketing and publishing “in a digital world.”  It’s a go-to site for all writers.  Terry is a sweetheart who writes heartfelt stories, both nonfiction and fiction.  My favorites are about her dear brother Al, who is disabled by Parkinson’s.

If you have ever felt that you received more Christmas gifts one year than you deserved, then you know how I feel.  It’s a little overwhelming.  I want to stay focused on the task at hand and not pat myself on the back, thus losing sight of my mission (i.e., WRITING!–something I put off for too long).

Still, it’s true that I don’t feel comfortable not acknowledging these “pass along” awards because they give me the chance to honor the work of other bloggers and thus keep us all connecting with each other.  Therefore, I am forever grateful to Write Brain Trust and Terry for giving me a positive beacon in the blogosphere and also for the opportunity to pass this light on to other bloggers.


Accepting the award obligates me to write seven things about myself.  Since I’m on the theme of gratitude, I’ll focus on how much I have to be thankful for as a writer:

1.  I am grateful for my past writing instructors in all genres.  I’ve had so many favorites, but include among them John Woods, Stuart Dybek, James Arthur, Matthew Lippman, Caroline Goodwin, Kazim Ali, Carolyn Forché, and Gina Welch.   One of my instructors, Otis Haschemeyer, taught me the value of keeping a writing log.  He shows what his looks like in this WordPress blog post.  I could keep going, but I will end up looking like a lifelong student nerd (I am).

2.  I am grateful for my Stanford Writing Certificate cohorts.  You know who you are.  Love you guys (gals)!  You can read a few of their blogs at Fluent in Fabulous,  The Diarrhea Diaries, and Tanzania5.0.  Here is a great column, called From Where I Sit, written by one of my cohorts.

3.  I am grateful for my in-person writing group: Linda, Renee, and Rudri.

4.  I am grateful for my sweet and lovely friends who read my blog posts whether they got enough coffee or not and if they are having a good day or not.  I love each one of you so much!

5.  I am grateful for my friend Wilma Kahn (Jeannie Unbottled), writer and editor, who edited my dissertation and many other pieces of slop I’ve managed to crank out.

6.  I am grateful for my blog followers and other bloggers who make my world so much more lovely.  Much love to all of you . . . .

7.  I am grateful to WordPress for creating such a pleasant online experience.

Oops.  Adding another one for good measure:  I am grateful to all the lovely books I’ve read which have inspired me.

Um, one more.  I am grateful to my husband who taught me how to properly use a semi colon when we were college freshmen.

Finally, I get to nominate 15 other bloggers for The One Lovely Blog Award.  I’ve decided to nominate blogs which I have recently discovered.   Here we go–enjoy!!!

pressions of a princess

bits ‘n pieces

a Portia Adams adventure

The beauty of sharing our writing

Weaker than Water

Chronicles of Illusions

Poems from Oostburg, Wisconsin

Back Track

Saturday Evening Porch

The Puffin Diaries


Kate Shrewsday

Pale Blue Reminders

Blessed with a Star on the Forehead

My Life in Lists


Filed under Blogging