Parkinson’s Disease – “a chronic progressive neurological disease chiefly of later life that is linked to decreased dopamine production in the substantia nigra and is marked especially by tremor of resting muscles, rigidity, slowness of movement, impaired balance, and a shuffling gait” – Source
Women never cease to amaze me. Working in fashion retail means coming in to contact with ladies who have sass. Women who own businesses; run companies; care for their families. Women who have walked through hardships and joys that I know nothing about.
One particular woman who frequents the store is in her late 70’s. She is immaculately turned out and wears visors inside which amuses me to no end. She still has gin nights at the house during the week and travels to Sydney with “her girls” for shopping trips. We all marvel at her as she swings out the door, parcels in hand.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of serving a woman who comes in every now and again. I approached her and asked if I could help her look for anything. She replied that she needed a party dress for her birthday. I buzzed around and picked out a few things for her whilst she trailed behind me. As we approached the fitting room, she said to me…
“I will need a little help in there”
“No problem” I replied.
“I have Parkinson’s” she tells me.
“Ok” I say.
I studied Parkinson’s, motor neuron disease and Alzheimer’s when I was completing my postgraduate diploma in neuroscience. These conditions both fascinated me and broke my heart. I had noticed this woman the last time she visited the store. Slightly bent over…shuffling…a tremor. All of a sudden I was transported from the fashion counter back to the university library, pouring over a textbook.
In the fitting room, I helped her into numerous dresses. She tells me that she has had Parkinson’s for 16 years, but has only just gone into care.
“I’m doing alright aren’t I?” She says.
“You sure are!” I reply, pulling a dress over her head.
“This one’s lovely! I will have to get up a little earlier to get it on by myself.”
She tells me she still comes out on her own – she takes a taxi to the mall. I notice she is wearing jeans and a chambray shirt. The woman is chic.
We settle on a sundress with a white cropped cardi.
“This one shows off your waist.” I tell her.
She examines herself in the mirror happily. “Yes, I still have one of those, let’s show it off.”
At the counter she tells me that everyone at the care facility are very nice “but they are all so old!”
I laugh and tell her she will just have to come and visit us more often for chats.
When this woman left the store, I couldn’t stop thinking of her. I didn’t feel sorry for her, I looked up to her.
To have a condition in which your nervous system is failing you. Your neurons are degenerating and you struggle to walk. You have a resting tremor and rigid muscles.
And to haul yourself out of bed, get dressed beautifully, put your make-up on and get in a cab to buy yourself a party dress. It’s pretty damn inspirational.
It also helped me to appreciate the body I have.
Too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall – who fucking cares. It gets me to the shops to buy dresses so it deserves a whole lot of love and kindness.
I think it’s time we had a few gin nights and celebrated that.
Much love XX
Photo: Katie Appleyard