The Plea Chapter Forty The Magnitude of a Disaster


There’s not a damn thing anyone can say to make it better. No one can make it right either. If my brother were not in federal prison and receiving quality health care Parkinson’s disease might not have progressed to the stage it’s at now. It’s not just a movement disorder. Besides causing tremors and other motion-related symptoms, Parkinson’s disease affects memory, learning, and behavior. It’s notorious for so-called motor symptoms like muscle rigidity, tremors, slowed movement, and unsteady posture and gait. Less well known — even to some doctors who treat the disease — are the effects of Parkinson’s on thinking. These “cognitive” signs include a general slowness of thought, “tip of the tongue” forgetfulness of words, and difficulty juggling multiple mental tasks. The physicians on staff at the medical unit at the prison tell me Rick has been suffering with Parkinson’s for at least two decades. Yet, with all the symptoms noted his step-daughter maintains he was able to have sexual intercourse with her for more than two years, every other day on a weekly basis. I’ll add that to the long list of reasons why I know he was falsely accused.

This would be a good time to mention that Parkinson’s causes impotence. Men who suffer from Parkinson’s, even in the earliest stages, are unable to achieve and maintain an erection. This is followed by impaired sexual arousal, drive and orgasm. Tell me again how he could be a child molester? That question will never be asked or answered by those that have accused him. The sickening claim was enough for the courts. That’s all anyone needs.

Rick’s medical issue began to surface after he returned from serving in Desert Storm. His teeth began to break off. According to my brother’s military health records, Rick’s “weakened swallowing ability and the risk of aspiration (choking) from some treatments typically used by dentists to preserve his teeth was hampered.” Parkinson’s attacks a person’s ability to swallow. I’ve watched him struggle to swallow and it’s heartbreaking. I think it gets worse each time I see him.

It’s Christmas time and I long for a miracle where my brother is concerned. I’ve been crying out for help forever it seems. Help won’t come, but I can’t resist asking for it. I ask it not only for Rick but for myself. I keep thinking if he could just fall asleep and go without shaking uncontrollably it might be over for me as well. That’s foolish thinking. The people who took his life and so much of my family’s life are still out there unconcerned.

Sometimes it seems impossible to go on after seeing what I’ve seen of my brother’s suffering, what happens in a prison, and how human beings can brutalize one another. Why that very knowledge hasn’t killed me is stunning. I often think of a passage from one of Mark Twain’s books, in which he tells how he reacted when he learned his daughter had died. It’s how I feel about pressing forward.

“It is one of the mysterious of our nature that a person, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like this and live. There is but one reasonable explanation of it. The intellect is stunned by the shock, and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting. The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss—that is all. It will take mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details, and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss. A man’s house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And, when he casts about for it, he finds that it was in that house. Always it is an essential—there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself balked, hampered, by its absence. It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of his disaster.”

Merry Christmas, Rick. I hope you’ll be able to leave this world soon.

I struggle with unforgiveness and pray for help always.