Last Friday (March 12, 2021), we had a screening of Boys of Summer: Short Stop online with the kind support of the Oakland A’s and AARP California. In the Q&A following the screening, my dad, the star of the show, perked up as he often does in these situations. He’s told me over the years how he’s amazed and humbled by how many people enjoy our story as it’s told through the three documentaries that currently make up the series. Over the nearly 20 years we’ve had screenings for Boys of Summer, we’ve engaged with fans of all ages, walks of life and levels of interest in baseball - some love the game, some have never been to a ballpark. The leveling factor amongst all those we’ve spoken to over the years is the films’ humanity - highlighted by my dad’s and my relationship and the universal mythologies of aging and family.
During the Q&A, many people complimented my dad on his strong and clear voice. His voice has been a sore spot for him as it is for many people with Parkinson’s (PD). Three vocal conditions associated with PD include:
Dysarthria, which is a motor speech disorder or impairment in speaking due to PD affecting the muscles required for speech
Hypophonia, which means soft speech, is an abnormally weak voice caused by the weakening muscles
Tachyphemia, also known as cluttering, is characterized by an excessively fast speed of talking and a rapid stammering that makes it difficult to understand the person speaking. (source)
The loss of one’s vocal clarity and power has a tremendous effect on quality of life. It can cause a loss in confidence, anxiety, isolation and depression. My dad has expressed surprise and frustration at his lack of vocal quality and clarity in the last two films. It takes intent, focused effort and training for my dad and many people with PD to speak in a way they can be understood. Programs like Samantha Elandary’s Parkinson’s Voice Project, which my dad is enrolled in via Nevada State College’s online program, offer this training.
But even with training, one needs a reason to be motivated. I’ve noticed this several times with my dad when he’s been in a rut - he’s thinking about what’s next, worried about the next thing PD may take from him. Staying present and positive about what’s possible with the ability he has today as well as having a goal to look forward to are keys to wanting to train. My dad is currently focused on and quite excited about our Boys of Summer Celebration at the Field of Dreams Movie Site on July 25.
In Second Base, the second film in the Boys of Summer series, my dad spoke at his father’s funeral. He talked about the confidence his father had in him and how it shaped him as a young man. At the Q&A following our screening of Short Stop on Friday night, my dad compared the confidence I have in him to that of his father. At that moment, with his clear and intentional voice, my dad took my breath and my voice away.
Please join us this Friday, Mar. 19, for a special, free encore online screening of Boys of Summer Short Stop at 6p at our website, www.bosmovie.com. We will have a Q&A following where my dad will happily show off his voice. You must register for the Q&A and you'll have a chance to win one of our "It's just F'n Parkinson's" t-shirts.
If you want one of the great "It's just F'n Parkinson's" t-shirts to help fight PD stigma and support the fourth film in the Boys of Summer series, please visit our kickstarter.