Special Series: Fast Forward

Facing Down Parkinson’s

By David Kattenburg

Rob Kendrick — aka Shakydad — is a highly successful guy with Parkinson’s Disease. I’ve known Rob for years, since the days we volunteered together at CFMU, McMaster University Radio, in Hamilton, Ontario.


Oddly, there’s nothing terribly specific about my memories of Rob, back in those late seventies/early eighties days. What I have is a fluidly shifting, composite image of the guy — darting around the radio station, attending to organizational business; bouncing around on a ball field, pony tail tied behind, hanging down to his butt; drinking a pitcher of beer at the local pub; watching Saturday Night Live over at a friend’s place; making sense of political struggles big and small.

Stephen Dale and Rob Kendrick

Stephen Dale and Rob Kendrick (David Kattenburg)

Years later, fifteen years ago, I clearly recall standing with a group of friends on a promenade beside Burlington Bay, in Hamilton, hearing about the biopsy that would soon confirm Rob’s worst fears. “Good Vibes” Kendrick had been suddenly struck by Parkinson’s Disease — a pleasing and successful life transformed in an instant, in an entirely unexpected and scary way.

Rob Kendrick & his Brazilian coffee machine

Rob Kendrick & his Brazilian coffee machine (David Kattenburg)

At this point, living out in Manitoba, I didn’t get to see much of Rob. He was busy as a man could be in southern Ontario, working on social services and planning for deaf and hard-of-hearing people; teaching kids with disabilities; enjoying local arts and entertainment; traveling to far off festivals and gigs. All the while monitoring his body for telltale signs.

It wouldn’t be for another handful of years that I would see my old friend Rob Kendrick again, this time at a party over at some Toronto friends. We had a long chat, standing in the living room. Rob swayed back and forth in front of me, and my head followed. I had to avert my eyes at one point so as not to get dizzy. What struck me the most was the half-full wine glass in his hand, swinging like a pendulum in the air, nary a drop spilled.

Rob & Son

Rob & Son

Thankfully, an innovative Duodopa delivery regime has relieved Rob’s dyskinesia. Numerous other challenges have cropped up over the past fifteen years — large and life-transforming; small and mundane, though just as vexing.

In April 2015, Rob Kendrick launched a blog — telling it like it is. Read about Rob in his own words, and listen to him here.

Fast Forward: Stories of Challenge & Change is produced with the generous support of the Government of Canada, the Social Justice Fund of Unifor, and the Community Radio Fund of Canada. Thanks to Roger Dumas for his wonderful human brain ‘sonifications’, one of which appears in Fast Forward intros/extros. For more information about Roger’s Pieces of Mind CD, go here


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