"I'd like you to meet Ollie," says his wife. She beckons. He comes forward, a little slowly, a little stooped.
Ollie Fox is asked how he feels that day. He leans against a wall, looks at the floor and begins to weep.
"I feel depressed," he says. "I feel my life is over." He pats his jacket pocket. "I'm just a dope fiend. I just carry dope around in my pocket."
What Ollie Fox is talking about is Parkinson's disease - his disease - a very subtle, very mysterious, very discouraging illness.
Of course, Ollie Fox is wrong. His life is not over. Parkinson's disease itself seldom kills anyone, and it is a long way from killing Ollie Fox.
But what he means is that the disease is chipping away at him, hanging over him like a fog. His wife of 37 years, Betty, describes it this way:
"He doesn't seem to have any fight any more. He falls a lot. He has trouble doing things.
"I've watched him change from Jolly Ollie into a very sad man."
But just as morale is much of the problem, so it has become the newest aspect of Parkinson's disease to be addressed. With the help of the medical and social work staff at the National Institutes of Health, there is now a Parkinsonian Society of Greater Washington.
It is of, by and for the victims of the disease and their families. It has bylaws, dues, officers and minutes. The other day, it also had a Christmas-Chanukah party.
The idea was to perk up wavering spirits. And there in the back of the auditorium was Ollie Fox of Falls Church. He was singing along to a few Christmas carols - and smiling.
Window dressing? Not to the Parkinsonians."Without the help and support of everyone in this room, the friends and the families, it woul dbe just so hard to make it," said Ben Filipski of Arlington, another victim of the disease.
"Just look at the turnout," said Ruth Kaneshiro, an NIH social worker who helped begin the society and has seen it grow to 70 members in six months. "It went far beyond my expectations. I didn't have any."
Neurologists have never had any, either. They have developed drugs, chiefly L-Dopa, to control Parkinson's, which is a degenerative disease of the automomic nervous system. But a cure remains undiscovered. SO, for everyone in the Parkinsonian equation, it is a matter of hope, and test, and hop some more.
And chuckle. That's what Ben Filipski does. He chuckles because he knows he has already beaten the odds.
"I was always pretty athletic," said Filipski, 62, as spouses and children passed pounch and cake around the rec room of St. Joseph's Seminary in Northeast Washington. "So I guess it was appropriate; I first noticed it golfing one day."
Filipski couldn't control one arm. Nor could he follow through on his swing. When the problem lingered, he consulted a doctor, who broke the news.
"I said, 'What the hell is Parkinson's disease?' I'd never heard of it. He started hemming and hawing, you know, so I said, 'Doc, give it to me straight.'
"He did. He said, 'In seven years, you're going to be a corpse or a vegetable."
Filipski chuckled. "That was nine and a half years ago."
Sidney Dorros has lived with the disease even longer, since 1963. For a long time, he says, he tried to live despite it, or in competition with it.
"I wouldn't acknowledge it, because I was so missionary about my work," said Dorros, 52, of Bethesda, who is president of the society. "When I would have trouble walking, I'd bend down and tie my shoes." The idea was that maybe no one would notice.
But, inevitably, those close to him did. In 1971, he was forced to give up his job as director of publications for the National Education Association. "The final blow came when I froze up during a meeting," Dorros recalled, "and couldn't even take my medication out of my pocket."
Unlike many other victims of the disease, Dorros said his coworkers treated him "amazingly well in most cases." All too often, other victims say, coworkers will be patronizing, or will look away.
But family members cannot look away. Ben Filipski says he drives a car "only on days when I feel ideally in control." How often is that? "Not very." So his wife Val must pinch hit.
What is Filipski able to do every day? "Very little. Once in a while I can set the table or take out the garbage. But a lot of the time I tremble and drop the damn silverware."
The resulting dependence on others can be an especially difficult adjustment. As Ruth Kaneshiro points out, most Parkinsonians contract the disease after 40, "when they are used to being stable, self-sufficient adults.
They feel this humiliation. It's almost as if they say, 'I can't do things like I used to, so why do anything at all?'"
Doctors stress, however, that the current generation of Parkinsonians is vastly better off and better treated than any before.
"A lot of these people you see in there would probably be whellchair-bound, it not bed-bound, without modern treatment," said Dr. John Nutt, an NIH neurologist who has many society members as patients.
But it is still no picnic at all. And parties are the exception, struggle the rule.
"My mother says you're not supposed to ask why," said Betty Fox. "But I do. So often."