What Does Parkinson’s Sound Like? My Dad Sounds Like a Little Boy

On my way home from my dad’s, I realise that he had been speaking like a little boy – perhaps the little boy he was.

Anna is slowing down. He is sleeping more and walking less. Most days when I go to his apartment in the morning (before work) and in the evening (after work), I am never sure if he is going to be awake or asleep. A couple of weeks ago, I reached his apartment at 7 am after my morning walk. My signature double-tap doorbell ring normally announces to Anna that I have arrived, so I am not surprised to see his eyes are open when I lean over his bed.

Me: Anna? Are you awake?

Anna (looking at me, but not really looking at me): mumble...gurgle....mumble

Me: Good morning!

Anna (still just looking straight at me without seeing me): mumble...mumble....mumble

Me: Anna, I can't understand you. Wait a minute. Let's get you up so that you can drink some hot water.

We lift Anna so that he is sitting up in bed and he drinks a full glass of hot water.

Me: Anna, did you sleep well?

Anna says something to me in Tamil. I don't understand.

Me: Anna, I can't understand Tamil. Say it in Kannada.

Anna continues to talk in Tamil. I understand only a few words. Something about boys and playing and football and thirst.

Me: Anna, what happened? Tell me in English.

Anna (in a complaining whiny voice): He hit me!

I am instantly worried. It is almost a physical reaction. I have always feared that I would be unable to prevent Anna from getting hurt or worse still not even know about it, as I am not physically present in his flat all the time.

Me (concerned): Who hit you, Anna?

Anna (still looking at me, straight through me): He did.

Me (thinking it is best to wake him up with coffee to get a more cogent response): Anna, do you want to get up and have coffee and tell me about it?

Anna (in a voice that should be accompanied with a pout): I don't want coffee. I want milk.

Whoa! My father does not want coffee? Now that's a first! I am really surprised.

Tairas (his housekeeper) gets him a warm glass of milk with Ensure. I hold the glass to his lips for him to drink and he gulps it down thirstily.

Me (after he finishes): Anna, you sure liked the milk. You were telling me about getting hit. What happened?

Anna (singing): Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Me: (laughing): Whose birthday is it Anna?

Anna: mumble....mumble. His eyes start to close.

I tuck Anna back into bed and wait till he closes his eyes. I finish the chores in the house and walk home letting the morning's events run through my mind.

Half way home I realise that I don't hear Anna's voice. I hear a little boy's voice. Maybe the little boy he was.

(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)

Related Links in the Series:

From a Real Life Piku: Looking After an Elderly ‘Child’
My Anna Holds on to his Bata Sandals, Even as He Loses his Memory
Who Knew That Nutella Would Convince My Old Dad to Take his Pills?
For a Dad with Parkinson’s, I’d Get Him All the Junk Food He Wants
Pray, Why Does My 87-Year-Old Anna Need an Aadhaar Card?
When Anna Forgot the Words for Pain & Medicine & Suffered Quietly
I Have a Dad With Parkinson’s (& Here’s What I Don’t Need to Hear)
A Dialogue: The Day I Saw My Dad For the Feminist That He Is
Why I’m Going to Research Organ & Body Donation For My Brave Anna