After a Gaudi-filled trip to Barcelona, my cousin Julie Goell came home and created this bright-colored tile mosaic on the floor of her bathroom.
Julie can do anything, really. Build a funky chandelier out of paper. Paint, glue, hinge, and sew together amazing puppets. Sing opera. Or at least she could, before she got Parkinson’s disease.
Julie used to play the bass in a Klezmer band called the Casco Bay Tummlers. I was always amazed by the way she’d carry around her instrument, which was about four-times larger than her own petite frame.
Playing bass was one of the first things Julie had to give up as her symptoms progressed.
Julie excels at physical comedy. She performed her one-woman show, “Carmen the Mopera,” in Italy, Spain, London, and York. In her Mopera, Julie played an opera house cleaning lady who mounted an after-hours performance of Carmen. The Mopera cast consisted of Julie herself and a company of brooms, feather dusters and other cleaning supplies—all of which Julie puppeteered into cast members.
As Julie’s fine motor skills and vocal control declined, she had to give up performing, too.
This would be the point where most people would give up, but not Julie.
Julie works hard to keep active. Exercise is the only way to slow down the progression of her disease. Use it or lose it applies to Parkinson’s patients in the most literal sense. Also Julie still teaches physical comedy, and she’s working on a new puppet show. She won’t be a puppeteer on this one, but she’s creating the most amazing characters out of wood and fabric and cardboard and yarn. Her puppets even have moving parts—the spiky-haired woman swings her purse, the man’s tie wiggles, and the little boy’s hat flips up.
Julie inspires me. Despite the Parkinson’s, she continues to do the things she loves to do. Yes she is sad and angry and frustrated. But she also fights hard to continue to do the activities that bring her enjoyment.
Julie teaches me so much. She reminds me how important it is to travel and create art and live while you can. That you never know what’s coming tomorrow. And never give up, even when life turns awful.