March 1, 2008

Plumbing 101: Aphasia Style

We hear about the stroke survivors who have anger issues when dealing with speech problems, but we don’t often hear about the caregiver/spouses with anger issues.Well, I have them in this household. Not often, but once in a while the angry out-bursts come out of me from seemingly no where and when I least expect them. It feels like menopause all over again.

Last night I was working on the computer when Don wanted me to come in the bathroom. Right Now! Major important! Emergency! Everything is an emergency on the Planet Aphasia.

"Okay, the toilet is temperamental," I was thinking on my into the bathroom, "and it’s either plugged up or the chain to the flipper do-hickie is off its ring again." But after a short examination, I found out that both of these things were just fine. No real or semi-real emergency. No visible problem.

Don pointed down to the turn off valve that goes to the toilet tank. Then he gestured with his hand in a turning pattern and said, “Eeekkkk!”

“Don,” I answered, “The water IS turned on.”

“Eeeekkk,” he repeated.

So dutiful wife that I am, I turned the valve off, then flushed the toilet to demonstrate that the toilet tank will not fill up when the water is turned off. “Is this what you want?” I asked. “Why do you want the water off?”

“Eeeekkk,” he repeated more forcibility and with another hand gesture that was rotating in the opposite direction. “EEEEeeeeKKKKK!”

So dutiful wife that I am, I turned the water on again. Then I ran my fingers all around the valve and reported that it wasn’t leaking. “Did you see a leak?” I asked. I got the rotating hand gestures and sound effects again for an answer.

For the next fifteen minutes the valve went on and off a million times and the toilet was flushed repeatedly. And all I could get out of Don in the way of an explanation was that sound effect that was starting to grate on my nerves like fingernails on a blackboard. (And, boy, does that saying date me!)

It was at that point that Shrew-Lady took over my body and she started yelling that she’s going to sell the house. She hates toilets, and she hates plumbing problems. She threw in a few swear words and her tantrum was starting to make my blood pressure rise. Recognizing that out-out-control feeling, I knew that Shrew-Lady needed to leave. So I grabbed her by the arm and we marched out of the room. I threw my head back over my shoulder and told Don, “I don’t want to see you or hear you for half hour. I’ll be in the time out chair!” My sense of humor was coming back.

A half hour passed and like clock work, Don and his wheelchair came rolling up beside me and he said, “EeeeeeeKKKKK” with a hand gesture rotating one way, and then he did a short rotation of his hand in the opposite direction. “Eeekk.”

My aphasia decoder ring FINALLY broke the damn code. “You want me to turn the valve on full force then you want me to back it down a couple of turns.”

“YES!” Then the kissy-face stuff started in as Don plastered kisses on my face and hair. It was his way of telling me that I finally figured out what was so all-consuming, damned important for him to tell me.

“Don,” I said with a deep sigh, “You forgot who my dad was. I already know that about water valves.”

“Oh,” says, and rolled away laughing.

Such is our life on the Planet Aphasia.

Jean Riva ©


jcorn said...

Reading your posts makes me both laugh and teaches me patience :)

parlance said...

Jean, I'm fascinated to know WHY you should turn it on full and then back a couple of stops. What would that achieve? Why did he want you to do that?

I have a work colleague whose husband lost his ability to talk because of a stroke a few years ago and she also manages to laugh at the things that happen.(I'm sure she cries, also, of course.) One amazing thing in his case was that he could go square dancing and follow the instructions well. I was sitting with them on a table at a birthday party and it was amazing how much he communicated with only nods and single occasional words.

the aphasia decoder.... said...


I'm not entirely sure myself but I think it has to do with taking some of the pressure off the valves and lines. Maybe a plumber will come along and confirm or correct me.

You're right about body language getting more acute when verbal language is lost.

I'm not surprised that your friend's husband could follow square dancing instructions. Lose of language and lose of intellect don't usually go hand and hand.