My nephew, YC, and I played doubles with my husband, C, and his brother, J, who both have Parkinson’s Disease. In their day, the brothers had killer shots. But on this summer sunny Sunday morning, it wasn’t their shots that failed, it was their legs.
J was my partner. He fell several times. Even though he landed face first on the clay court, he usually returned the volley within our opponent’s white lines.
“I’m fine. I’m fine,” J said as he struggled to stand. “Keep playing.”
“The point’s over. We won,” I said. He and C’s shots were still, many times, unreturnable.
I glanced across the net at YC, who is about to be a college Senior. We smiled at each other, asking with our knit eyebrows, “Should we keep playing? Is this crazy?”
Just last summer when playing one of these tennis games with my husband, he fell and we landed in the ER. He had dislocated his pinkie.
That day, C had said to me, “Just pull my finger. It’ll be fine. Then we can keep playing.”
“No, I won’t,” I said. I have my limits and apparently relocating a dislocated pinkie is one of them.
So I knew that tennis with a Parkinson’s partner was fraught with possible negative consequences. But this summer morning we played on. My nephew and I continued smiling, almost laughing, sympathizing with one another. We were trying to take our cue from each other. But neither of us wanted to call off the game. We all wanted to keep playing, to stay competitive, to win.
Fortunately, I had to shower before Sunday chapel service. We didn’t play much longer. There were no serious injuries; although there were minor ones, like scraped knees.
While the people with Parkinson’s may believe they’re “fine, fine, keep playing,” those around them may wonder if that is true or wise.
If you ever do play mixed doubles with two brothers who have Parkinson’s Disease, I advice you to smile a lot. Even laugh. Because life is ridiculous. And everyone wants to keep playing for as long as possible.