"Shoes on Again" -- What I've Learned
Now that our film is available online and the broadcast premiere is just a few days away, I've been thinking a lot about my experiences over this past year and a half of production. When I was taping an interview about the film for NPR's Fresh Air (to air on Monday or Tuesday afternoon), Terry Gross asked me what I'd learned along the way. In my last few posts, I'd like to reflect a little on that question.
One thing I've been struck with time and again is how people with Parkinson's still accomplish remarkable things. Of course I think of my brother Peter, who despite receiving a Parkinson's diagnosis while still in his forties, has gone on to publish more than a dozen books about American Indian history and has received numerous awards including a Guggenhem Fellowship. As Regents' Professor at Arizona State University, he's successfully guided more American Indian history PhD students to completion than anyone in the field. As he says, "It's my 38th year as a college teacher and I still think it's the best job in the world."
And I think of someone like Time Magazine columnist Michael Kinsley, whose acerbic wit and extraordinary writing talent make him one of the keenest observers of American life. If you see Mike Kinsley's name on the byline, it's worth reading. And of course there's Michael J. Fox who's probably done more than anyone to raise both the awareness and the dollars it takes to fight Parkinson's. As Michael notes in the film, "Parkinson's has asked so much of me that I would never have asked of myself." Parkinson's may ask a lot, but nobody has responded quite like Michael J. Fox
But I also think about less well known people we met, like Tom and Madeleine Shearer, who personify perseverance, humor, adaptability and positive thinking. Tom has PD. He was once one of San Francisco's most accomplished tax attorneys and Madeleine had a career in medical publishing. Today they focus on more mundane challenges, like getting into a car or putting on your shoes. But it's Tom who articulates -- with three short words and a smile -- an attitude that perhaps best sums up how to face the future: "Shoes on again," he says as another day begins.
All of these individuals look forward with courage and determination. They inspire me. And it's been the great good fortune of those of us who worked on the film -- including my colleagues and friends: co-producer Michael Schwarz, executive in charge of production Kiran Kapany, editor Gail Huddleson and photographer Vicente Franco -- to spend time with these individuals and all the others we were privileged to meet. We are honored to tell just a small part of their story. And we invite you to please tell yours in the comments section of this blog.
More on this topic next Tuesday...