Posts Tagged ‘Parkinson’s Disease’

How’s Your Sniffer?

October 17, 2013

Everyone I know has their nose in their peanut butter jar. A recent study has shown people who have Alzheimer’s or later develop the disease couldn’t smell peanut butter while plugging their right nostril and sniffing with their left. (There are exceptions: if you have nose polyps, Parkinson’s Disease, or have had head trauma you won’t be able to smell the peanut butter either.)

I knew Parkinson’s would be an exception. When I was a child, my father never could smell anything. Bad milk in the frig? Dad would start pouring and Mom would grab the glass before he brought it to his mouth.

Scared skunk in the back yard? Mom ran to close the windows as Dad unknowingly opened them. I wonder now – – was this an early sign that in Dad’s later life he’d suffer from Parkinson’s? Did Michael J. Fox have a poor sniffer when he was young, too?

I inherited my mom’s sniffer, occasionally to unfortunate consequences. As a person who suffers from migraines which can be set off by scented chemicals, the overpowering smells of perfume, hairspray and cologne and have been known to make me change seats in church, movie theaters and actually leave places if the mixing of aromas are too strong. When Dad moved out to California after my mother passed away, it was the last of his Old Spice days for the poor man.

Supposedly, we choose our mate on the basis of scent. Diane Ackerman, in Natural History of the Senses, says, “Each person has an odor as distinctive as a finger print.” And: “We smell always and with every breath.”

In our writing, the sense of smell is easy to overlook. Although we may not naturally include this sensory image within our first draft, we need to remember to include moments of them within our rewrites.

Here’s an example of using the sense of smell to bring a setting alive. This paragraph is from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

“The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell–as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft up overhead. And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep.”

Writing Prompts:

1. Look through a writing project of yours. Is there a natural place one or more scents could be woven within the manuscript?

2. Go back to your past. It could be a long-ago classroom, childhood room, or a favorite place. Meditate so that YOU ARE THERE. Include as many specific scents as you can.

3. Create a poem based on the scents of a setting of your choice.

4. Go ahead. You know you want to do it. Go smell that peanut butter with your left nostril. But don’t get freaked out if you can’t smell it. You may have a cold, allergies or some other issue at work. If you can smell it, eat some and then use all of your senses to describe the experience.

Temptation within your reach . . .

March 25, 2009

“Number three,” bellows out the bingo caller.

Dad’s hand reaches across the bingo board, shaking slightly. I help him hold onto his card so his right hand can slide the plastic window closed.
“Way to go,” I say.
He smiles but his eyes don’t leave his cards.
“Hey! Only one more number and you’ll win,” I point out to him.
“Number 70,” yells the caller.
“Bingo,” says Dad.
I clap.
“Another one!” says his friend.
I congratulate him. It’s his lucky day. And my father’s favorite activity at his nursing home.
He’s only recently had to move here, since Parkinson’s Disease has robbed him of his ability to swallow food properly. Repeated aspiration pneumonias have required permanent tube feeding.

Can YOU imagine never, ever tasting another piece of your favorite meal again? When you’re thirsty, not being able to take a cool drink? Not even a sip?

Dad chooses his bingo prize. “We’re running out of prizes,” says the bingo caller. He mentions that potato chips was a prize.
“He couldn’t have that anyway,” I say.
“What do you mean?” asks Dad’s friend, Phyllis. “He chose that prize first. He ate some and loves them!”
I look at Dad. He stares at his hands in his lap.
At least he didn’t choke to death. But will pneumonia follow in a few days? I’m stunned he ate them. Did he forget?
He looks up. But he doesn’t meet my eyes.
“I must have forgotten,” he says.
I stare at him which forces him to look at me.
His eyes water.
“It’s okay, Dad. “It would have looked good to me too.”
I rub his shoulder. And hope.
Later, I have a talk with the staff.

I know if it were me, and food were my choice, I’d have licked my fingers clean. How good those salty, crisp chips must have tasted after the past three months of not eating anything at all?

I’m glad he cheated. After all, if he hadn’t cheated, the other option would have been worse. It would have meant he had forgotten. To forget something that important is something I don’t want to think about.

In December, my father chose this tube. If placed in this same situation, I’m not so sure I would have made the same choice. But who knows? I’ve discovered the decisions we make at 50, change at age 90.

Writing Exercise: 1. When has temptation lured you into a choice, decision, or action? 2. Write a short story about a character who is tempted by an object or another character and this propels the plot forward.