A note from Karen Mulder: Approximately 22 years ago Stan, my professor at Western Theological Seminary, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. For the past two years, Stan has been living in a care facility. His wife Nancy visits him on most days and has found reading to Stan a pleasurable—and even therapeutic—activity for both of them. Here is their story.
It began with the gift of a book written by one of my husband’s former students. The person who gifted us, a friend and nephew of the author, suggested I read it to Stan. Our friend knew that Stan’s ability to read independently was diminished due to his Parkinson’s disease. The reading journey began almost a year after Stan’s admission to a care center. A year and a half later, we are both amazed at the number of books we have enjoyed reading together.
We have devoured memoirs, historical fiction, non-fiction, “pure” fiction, and even a few poems, articles, and travel blogs sent by friends. We travel to familiar and exotic destinations, laugh, cry, and discuss the meaning of life. Stan corrects my mispronunciations, answers questions I have about word meanings (yes, he was an English major), and laughs at my attempts to pronounce foreign words/names. I have a strong, clear voice and am not afraid to “ham it up” when it is appropriate. If we don’t like a book we begin, we put it aside and try another. Some are books other residents are reading for a monthly book discussion and some are from my Reader’s Group reading list.
One of the most valuable benefits of our reading time together is that we have a shared activity to look forward to each day. Our lives have “shrunk” considerably and once we discuss the family, phone calls, mail, good news/bad news we look forward to the escape from the mundane that our reading provides. It’s really quite therapeutic! Even staff and visitors have stopped to ask what we are reading which provide connections and suggestions from others. Our lives have been nurtured and enriched by the wonderful gift of reading.
—As told to Karen Mulder, founder of Wisdom of the Wounded