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The Story of Judy’s Wild Beautiful Multi-Colored Coat and Just What Significance it Has (to her, at least)

Posted Mar 03 2009 2:49pm

I will share some exciting news with you about the coat in my next post but until then, here is the complete story of the coat, to date. 

My name is Judy Hensley and I have Parkinson’s disease, and I have this coat that is getting some travel time and an interesting reputation.   I want to share with you about my coat…you don’t have to understand or even read all of this, but if you do, then I thank you for letting me share with you a part of me.  

My special coat I call ‘da coat.   It has been around about 4 years now and for some special reason gives such a feeling of coolness when it is worn. Plus, it drives my dear daughter crazy. My picture wearing the coat is included in the book “Proud Hands of Parkinson’s’ along with my story about living with Parkinson’s disease. I’ll tell you the story of how I got ‘da coat, where it has been, and try to explain it’s special meaning to me.

A couple of summers ago I went in a discount store and saw some bright floral, light rain jackets with a designer name tag and an original retail price of near $200. I thought of buying it for $15 to use in skits at church. They had my size so I bought it, took it home n put in the closet. A week or so later my daughter was leaving for church camp, so I thought just in case she might be sad to leave her dear mom and dear dad for a week, I would lighten up the occassion by wearing the coat. She got in the van as i picked up a few more snacks out of the pantry and then I put on ‘da coat andsome sunglasses and bounced out to the van!

My dear daughter gasped and said “Mother, where did you get that ugly coat? and why do you have it on?” (I know I’ve really done well when she refers to me as ‘mother’–she was 12 at the time…lol) My reply was “baby, i’m sending you off in style!!” And you know the next thing she said, don’t you? Yes,   it was ‘You ARE taking that off before my friends see you, aren’t you?” To which I just smiled and proceeded to drive up to the church with ‘da coat on. Everyone at the church loved it. I couldn’t go to camp with them that year, so I told them to take ‘da coat and use it in skits or a reward (I mean, who would not want to be seen in ‘da coat!). My dear daughter left swearing it would stay at camp, but I said ‘no no’ it MUST return!

Camp was almost over and I got a call from one of the adults who went to camp with the kids. She said, ‘your daughter has something to ask you and I think she is sincere’. My dar daughter then comes on the phone and tells me in her most sweet angelic voice that she would like to donate the coat to camp so that many people all summer might enjoy it! I told her I could sense her heart was doing the right thing, so I agreed to let it stay in S.C.   The next day on my lunch hour, I popped into the same discount store in another city …..and lo and behold….there was my beautiful coat, in my size and on CLEARANCE for $7.50!!!! Now who could pass it up? I could not wait to pick up my dear daughter the next day in the coat she just loved!!! Her look when she saw me….well, it was priceless!!!!!!!!!!! To this day she dreads seeing ‘da coat come out into view.
I have no idea what this has to do w/PD, except I think the PD has influenced my sense of style???   But that is only the start of ‘da coat’s adventurous story.   It was going to either make other people cring upon seeing such a faux paux fashion statement, or make them smile like they hadn’t in a long time. 


A social experiment with ‘da coat

It seems that people either love or hate ‘da coat. I had decided to do a social experiment with it to see if my liking of ‘da coat might be due to changes in my brain from PD.    So I thought, “I’ll see if other Parkies like ‘da coat, so I took it with me to a Parkinson’s conference in Reston, VA in 2006. A couple of friends who were also going to be at the conference were very vocal about not being seen with me wearing ‘da coat (they will remain nameless at this time). You think that bothered me? nooooo wayyyyy! The first night, our hotel room was the meeting point for about 7 lady parkies. I told them to get ready and got ‘da coat out and modeled it. I then asked if anyone else wanted to wear it? And everyone did except my roommate, Flutterby (her online name to give her some anonyminity). I think the words out of her mouth were something to the effect of “i’d rather be dead than seen in that COAT!” And flutterby did give in n finally put on the coat (even had a pic made in it! but i’m not sure i’m allowed to show it, i;ll check n get back with ya on it)
I wasn’t gonna pressure anyone, so I left it at knowing 6 of the 7 ladies loved ‘da coat. They put it on and modeled it, twirled in it, laughed in it, had pictures made in it! I told you…. it is FUN to wear ‘da coat. After a couple of days people were asking to see ‘da coat so i took it to the hospitality room one nite. Much fun was had when even the guys put it on!
‘Da coat has even made a guest appearance at a PD fundraiser in New Jersey in ‘07! One of the band members wore it the whole evening. So as you can see, ‘da coat was gaining   a reputation of it’s own. For me… when I am wearing it–it makes me laugh, and I can forget the symptoms of PD for awhile. ‘Da coat has been to Central Park, NY for the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in 2008, to another Parkinson’s conference in Atlanta in 2008, and has been mailed to several locatins in the USA to friends who have Parkinson’s and wanted to feel ‘da coat’s joy first-hand.



It is because of ‘da coat’s specialness it has also been shared with many of my friends who don’t have Parkinson’s, and you know it is rare for someone to not want to put it on and have their picture made in it.   I have a photo album with over 100 pictures of friends and family members who have worn ‘da coat for me as a sign of their support and caring.   A

 I have attempted to describe what I’ve learned from ‘da coat in the section below.   I hope you ‘get it’!  
  Learnings from the Coat
I thought i’d tell you some things that my outlandishly, standoutish, wild coat has taught me.   This is the coat that brings me great joy whenever I put it on or have a new friend put it on.
 First the coat is colorful and draws some attention, and it reminds me of the bible story of Joseph and the coat of many colors his father gave him. And although I’m sure it was a treasured item because his father gave it to him, it caused some bad feelings with his brothers and ultimately was the straw that broke their backs. That coat brought Joseph adversity from his brothers; he ended up sold into slavery. He overcame that and became a personal servant of the queen only to end up in jail over a misunderstanding. He overcame that and became the right hand man of the ruler after interpreting a dream. All that started with the coat? yep in a way.
When I thought about it …wearing that coat kind of parallels having Parkinson’s. The symptoms eventually make us stand out; we may be ridiculed by others for standing out in an unusual way. But I’m here to tell you, PD may be an adversity we face, but we can turn it into an advantage in our lives if we just keep a positive attitude.    My Parkinson’s has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people; it has helped me move out of a comfort zone into an active roll in the effort to fundraise for a cure; and it has helped me become more attentive to life around me and more compassionate to others.

 Next, the coat makes me stand out and gives me an opportunity to tell others why PD makes us stand out. It is at first an uncomfortable feeling you have from standing out when you put the coat on….kind of like when you first find out you have PD. You wonder how people will accept you. I’ve found people who really don’t find the coat that appealing will still put it on as a form of acceptance for me. It also gives me a chance to tell them this may be the coat I have to wear for now, a disease I have to live with for now….. But while I’m standing out, I’m gonna take the opportunity to tell people about PD and let them know what it’s like, and hopefully they’ll be more inclined to support a cure.

Third, the coat has become somewhat of a trademark of me (or my personality, lets say) or way I am recognized–as a really crazy parkie lady! I even had my picture in the coat and a clown wig included in a published book called “Proud Hands of Parkinson’s” that includes stories of 28 people whose lives have been impacted by Parkinson’s. I’ve subtitled my personal page after getting the book “Proud Coat of Parkinson’s” lol. Wearing this wild coat has a close personal association for me of wearing the illness called PD in my life. My PD is unique to me and I’m learning to be more comfortable in it. It all takes time to cope with it and that is not possible without support from others.   Just think of these other people who have trademark clothing or accessories and how well associated they have become with them: Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans, Mr Rodger’s and his cardigan, ELVIS–enough said, Mr. T and his pile of gold jewerly, Minnie Pearl and her hat with the hanging price tag, Barney Fife and his gun with no bullet, Granny and her long dress and and spectacles from Beverly Hillbillies, and what about Tarzan and his loincloth, Daniel Boone and his coonskin hat, and Batman with his hooded face cover and those gloves and shoes? Soon to be added to the list: Judy with PD and the multicolored coat.
 Can you see my point?   The coat is not just one dimensional; it encompasses alot of feelings and emotions —just like having PD does!.

Since I started sharing the coat with others and letting them ‘feel the love’ it brings to each, it is like there is a comraderie amongst those who have worn the coat.
 It often brings a smile to one’s face as they try to recall just why they would ever don such a coat and let Judy take their picture in it!

It provides a chance to smile in the middle of an otherwise dreary illness or day. It is something out of the ordinary and quite fun to do…wear ‘da coat and strike a pose.

It gives you liberty to talk back to PD…and say ‘see you dumb disease? …you cannot make me feel any goofier than putting on this coat does!’   (I have no idea what it lets people that don’t have PD say…except “why am I doing this?”   LOL)

So that’s what I think ‘da coat has shown me in the time we have shared.   I cannot tell you how much fun I have had seeing others put it on or drape it over their shoulder and smile while I snap their picture.   There are a few people who I know who have refused to wear the coat, but I just tell them, “your loss!” Who would have ever thought I’d have so much fun from a wild, outlandishly looking coat that I bought for $7.50?
Judy in coat - Unity Walk  08 with Annie Konopka (NJ) and Janet Reno

Judy in coat - Unity Walk 08 with Annie Konopka (NJ) and Janet Reno




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