I was once told: “write what you know.” Perhaps subconsciously I already developed this motto because from the moment I received my first video camera I pointed the lens not towards epic backyard battle scenes, but my mother’s visits to my Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s home.
After three years of filming, writing prose, and taking black & white photographs, I produced a documentary that was as much a tribute to my Grandmother as the beginning of my desire to tell stories, stories that I know.
Parkinson’s affects over 1.5 million people in the United States. Those who are afflicted carry the burden of a hidden disease, each diagnosis saddled with the story of an eventual decline into a wheelchair.
This was the story my father was told upon his diagnosis ten years ago. It was the roadmap laid before my cousin, and what my Grandfather must have experienced well before we spoke openly about such taboos. With this well-defined narrative, depression and shame can quickly follow for those facing Parkinson’s.
In Ride with Larry we will show another road; change the story.
I first heard about Larry and the town Vermillion from his niece Katie and her husband Ricardo (my co-director and producer) who shared their idea for a documentary. We took a road trip from California to film for two weeks. What I found was a narrative arc that defied the downward spiral. It soared upward.
The experience was seminal to my own acceptance of Parkinson’s and the belief that you can surmount any obstacle, be loved, and matter to your community. Through Ride with Larry, we want to share that empowerment, this powerful philosophy, to others with Parkinson’s.
Life should never be defined by a diagnosis. Rather, life should be measured by the way in which one confronts and surmounts the obstacles now presented to them. In Parkinson’s, every step can be a challenge and therefore every step can be a victory. I see this with my father when he rises in the morning, when he takes his train to work, and when he comes home in the evening. It’s the small moment-to-moment triumphs: the compassion of a loved one, the support of a friend, and the embrace of a community. This sense of hope can easily be lost in the overwhelming nature of confronting any life-changing illness.
In the spring of 2011 Larry, an avid cyclist, will bike across South Dakota, pushing his limits and expanding the boundary of possibilities for those with Parkinson’s. Weaved amongst this journey will be an intimate portrait of Parkinson’s, illuminating the day-to-day fight of those diagnosed, their families, and caretakers. We will interview experts and find other compelling stories while being a resource for Parkinson’s patients searching for an improvement in their lives. We will make a film worthy of all those stigmatized or mired in the darkness without a cure. Larry and his wife Betty refuse to be defined by this diagnosis, proving that sometimes the best cure is living life to its fullest.
We’d like to invite you to be a part of this important cause, which will help improve the lives of many people.