September 27, 2017: First Day At Tai Chi Group

~by Louis Templeman


I made it to my first Tai Chi group today. It wasn’t easy. My experience with Parkinson’s Disease makes it difficult for me to negotiate the mornings with either enthusiasm or ease. Some mornings have the eerie nostalgia of when I used to show up for Pee Wee baseball where sides were chosen and I was not picked. My easiest choices were to go back to bed or sink into a chair and let others do the living.

Nevertheless, I thought it through and imagined myself several hours later feeling disappointed and listless. It would hang on me like a dark cloud. I decided to overcome and walk past my symptoms of fatigue. So, I made it to the 8th Street Hospital complex. I had no idea where the group met, except that it was held in a room in one of the two 10 story twin buildings. Not a good start.

I went to the round little man at the lobby desk – the Answer Man, or so I assumed -  and asked for directions. He pointed to a door and said, “Sometimes they post a note on that door if they are having one and it tells you where to go.” I looked at the door. Completely blank. A stained door with six little wood sashed window panes. Clean as a washed white board. “That one?” I pointed it out to him. Without looking up he said, “Yeah.” If I had not kept bugging him that would have been the end of the conversation. I looked at the door again, and then at him. The sign behind him read, Information Desk. I wanted to ask him if he’d seen the “Information Desk” sign and if he knew where this information could be found. He saw I was not leaving so he pointed to a hand lettered sign for a support group for stroke victims. He said, “I bet if you go to that group they will know where the Tai Chi class is.” I stared at him and foolishly replied, “You’re kidding? I should go to the stroke group to find the Parkinson’s Tai Chi group?” He smiled. I could hear him thinking, “Yeah, buddy! I earned my money today.” If only he could have heard me thinking, “I wish I was packing …”. I am glad my mental filters occasionally work. I thought to myself, “Finally, I have met him. This is the guy known as Twiddle Dee. I knew if I stayed any longer I would be born-again as Twiddle Dum.”

I went to the room where the monthly support group meets. It is a large room and there I found a few women sitting at a desk. Tiny women at a tiny table in a large institutional-type meeting hall.  I don’t know much about Tai Chi, but that did not look like an Oriental exercise class to me. Four sad looking women looking at me with blank stares wondering, who in the world gave that old guy a ticket to join their tea.

I walked out and tried to phone someone who might know, when a friend, Stan, strolled by. He had encouraged me to do Tai Chi and there he was. This wasn’t even part of his normal schedule. He lives in Orange Park and goes to one there. He directed me back towards the sad women at the small table. He would catch up later. He was being escorted to the restroom by his 65-year old prostate.

And so, I made it to the group. My first impression was wrong. It was a great bunch of people. Lots of smiles and laughs. The exercises are very graceful and beautiful when expertly done. We got in a circle of ten and followed Elizabeth, the Chinese Tai Chi instructor. An Asian named Elizabeth, who’d a ‘thought?  I am surprised how winded I got doing the movements. It was a lot of fun and a good work-out. I am not as self-conscious as I used to be. I really tried to keep up and mimic the movements. I mainly watched the instructor. Whenever I thought I was looking awkward all I had to do was look at my peers. All of us with the palsy no less. It was like a gimp fest. But, it was serious fun.

Now, to work the class and the exercises into my daily schedule. Maybe, in the afternoons long after the morning has stumbled away.

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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