As Kate declines, our conversations are changing as well. Sometimes they are more challenging. Occasionally they are puzzling. Other times they can be humorous.
We ate lunch at Andriana’s yesterday. That’s the restaurant with the mugshot of Frank Sinatra. We hadn’t been seated long before she asked who he was. I told her, and she said, “It’s not a very good picture.” I said, “Mugshots usually aren’t.” Then she wanted an explanation. I told her that police take photos of the people they arrest, and they aren’t concerned with getting a flattering picture. When I told her he was arrested, she wanted to know what he had done. I told her, and she said, “Who was the woman?” I said I didn’t know, and I told her that in this day and time, he probably wouldn’t have been arrested at all. She said, “Who?” I said, “Sinatra.”
This is a small thing, but it is an example of the kind of complication we can have in conversation. It requires a lot of repetition on my part. In this particular case, her memory wouldn’t let her hold on to Sinatra’s name long enough to last the duration of the very short conversation. As I have reported before, she asks me his name multiple times while we are there, but who we are talking about obviously gets forgotten in a conversation about him as well. This is the kind of thing that most other people would not notice because of the nature of their conversations with her. The fact that it is just the two of us offers her the opportunity to ask more questions, and I am very happy about her interest in knowing about the things she sees around her. It does, however, affect the flow of conversations. It can be one explanation after another.
That leads to another challenge in conversation. It is very difficult for her to understand almost any explanation because it often requires more information than she is able to process. I try to keep things simple, but it’s a challenge to do that and to do it all the time. Two nights ago we had our regular pizza night. We sat at a booth where we have eaten quite a few times. There is a poster on the wall above the table that advertises a flavored seltzer. She responds to this the way she does to Sinatra’s mugshot. She tries to read it but can’t understand and asks, “What is that?” I tell her, but she doesn’t know what seltzer is. That gets us into “Too Much Information.” After my first effort several months ago, I now just say, “It’s a flavored beer.” She gives me a look that expresses just how unappealing that is to her.
Between patiently repeating information and attempting to make things simple, it can be work. On the other hand, there is an element of pleasure seeing her interest and also succeeding in satisfying that interest, at least trying to. I do pretty well on the patience end, but I find it more difficult to explain things to her.
At lunch on Saturday, she looked me over. Then she said, “Your glasses don’t do anything for you.” I jokingly said, “Some people think they make me look more handsome.” She burst out laughing. I said, “You don’t agree?” She said, “You’re a nice guy, but you’re not handsome.” This has been a continuing theme for quite a while. I don’t expect it to lessen now.
Yesterday afternoon I was seated across from her while she rested on the sofa in our family room. She opened her eyes and stared at a bench located between us. She looked as though she might be dreaming. I watched a moment and then asked what she was looking at. She tried to explain but couldn’t do it well enough for me to understand. She mentioned something about a “Lin.” I didn’t know what that was, and she couldn’t think of how to tell me. I asked her a series of yes/no questions like “Is it a type of clothing?” She was finally able to say that it was something you put in something else. She looked toward the patio, and I asked if it might be a flower pot. It wasn’t, but she said, “It’s something you put in the ground.” Then I asked if she was talking about plants. That was it. From there I determined that she wants to buy some flowering plants and put them “someplace.” She continued talking. What she wants is to put them in the front yard.
This kind of conversation does not happen a lot, but it is becoming more frequent. It appears to me like she has had a dream that she thinks of real and talks with me as though I know what she is talking about. As her aphasia gets worse, she has more trouble explaining what she wants. As in this illustration, the words sometimes won’t come to her. Most of the time, I don’t understand her. We both reach a point at which we say it is time to forget it.
The good news is that we are still having conversations though I must say that she is not talking as much now as she did a few months ago. I miss that.