The dank, dark hockey bag of an adolescent stuffed with sweat-soaked gear that ferments between games. The green compost bin that collects rotting food waste and percolates in the hot summer months. The spilt milk at the back of the fridge that has coagulated into a brownish-yellow sludge. The aroma in early spring rising up from a winter’s supply of dog excrement. Nauseously riding a packed hot city bus through Chinatown while your seat mate eats ripe durian. The urine-soaked stench of a run-down rooming house in a seedy part of town. The dental assistant’s gloves after cleaning a plaque-filled, grungy and bloodied orifice.
The perfume that wafts from the blooming lilac tree. The scent of fresh-baked bread from the bakery early in the day. The woodsy odour of the moss and cedar-covered campsite after a rain shower. The smell of a freshly cleaned, powdered and pampered baby. The pungent aroma of well-aged parmigiano cheese and a full-bodied glass of red vino. Hot-buttered popcorn served popping-fresh. Crisp linen brought in from a wind-whipped clothesline.
I once knew the difference. Today, they are pretty much all the same to me. For many people with Parkinson’s, sense of smell is one of the first things to go. In fact, for many, it comes as a precursor to their diagnosis of PD. Such was the case for me. I can recall not a total loss of sense of smell but definitely a deterioration through the years leading up to my diagnosis. Some 15 years later, it’s pretty much a done deal. I can drive by a freshly fertilized farmer’s field and feel like I’m at a florist’s shop. Or I can walk through a farmer’s market and it might just as well be a sterilized hospital ward for all my nose knows!
This is sometimes a blessing – sometimes a curse. Those sweet smells of life I can only experience as fond memories whereas my olfactory challenges give me an immunity to vile and rotting odours. It sometimes does present me with personal hygiene concerns as I wonder how we’ll I “cleaned-up” this time. On the other hand, I can use public restrooms with impunity and single-handidly orchestrate a full range household garbage duties. Need a dirty diaper cleaned? I’m your man! Need something retrieved from that abattoir dumpster? How deep should I dig?