Shake, Rattle and Roll: Get MAD

By A.C. Woolnough
Reader Columnist

After nearly 70 years on this planet, I figure I’ve been asked, “What does the A.C. stand for?” several thousand times. It’s now time to reveal the big secret: It doesn’t stand for anything. That’s true in a literal sense but doesn’t tell the whole story. My parents (who are no longer with us) and my brother (living in Cleveland) aren’t around to contradict my story, so my version is now the truth — future historians and biographers take note. I was born in 1950 and my folks had two contradictory notions for my name. They really wanted to name me after my paternal grandfather but didn’t want to give me his somewhat unusual name: Adariah Cotter Woolnough. They were concerned it might subject me to harassment while growing up. Their solution was to use his initials as my first name, and that’s why they put A.C. as my first name on my birth certificate. Thoughtfully, they gave me a middle name as well. For some unknown and unknowable reason, they never figured a  name with only initials might prove problematic. When I was younger, I told people it was spelled A period, C period. Now that we’re in the digital age, it is spelled A dot, C dot. 

A.C. Woolnough.

Growing up, it seemed everything that happened in school was based on the alphabet. When it was time for treats, it was alphabetical by last name. I was almost always last. To this day, I love the Zimmermans in the world because there was finally someone behind me in line. When it was time for shots or some other negative experience, it was alphabetical by first name. I think the universe used both methods when it came to giving out Parkinson’s disease — a double whammy because PD is not only chronic, it is also progressive.

That makes me MAD. Over 37 years in public education, my goal was to be MAD all the time. I suspect most readers also want to be MAD. My dad (Robert—he had a “real” name), spent over 35 years in the Navy and was a veteran of three wars also MAD. He is one of my heroes who inspired me to be MAD and to stay MAD.

What am I MAD about? In my world, MAD is short for making a difference. It would make an elegant epitaph that I hope I deserve many years from now. One of my goals as an educator was to remove obstacles for both teachers and students, making it easier for them to succeed. Nowadays, I work to make a difference as a voice for the Parkinson’s community, educating, writing this monthly column, advocating, fundraising and promoting or participating in research.

My dad also had PD. Some of my last memories were of a gentle, vibrant bear of a man with a shuffling gait, tremors and soft, slurred speech, and that inspires me to be MAD. Likewise, I want to be MAD every time I think of my two sons and three grandsons. That’s why I both promote and participate in research studies. 

Many estimates show that over half of the U.S. population has a family member, friend or acquaintance with PD. Remembering that PD is both chronic (it isn’t going away) and progressive (it is going to get worse) is a good reason to be MAD.

PowerPAC (our local PD support group) is MAD. In coordination with Bonner General Health, we have officially started our Rock Steady Boxing program. This took hard work, time, money and cooperation. Almost half of our 30-plus members are participating in these 90-minute fun (arguably) workouts led by our coach, Tom Seastone. He is certainly MAD. If you are interested or know someone with PD, PowerPAC meets on the second Monday of the month at our new location in the Sandpoint library. Everyone is welcome. It’s a good way to be MAD.

Are you, the reader, getting MAD? If so, I encourage you to get on the smartphone, iPad or computer and Google one or more of the following: Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s Foundation, World Parkinson Coalition. American PD Association, Davis Phinney Foundation or MJ Fox Foundation. Once you have done that, get out the checkbook or credit card and donate. Get MAD, be MAD and stay MAD —make a difference.

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