January 31, 2010

Lunch in Aphasia Land

It was a cold but sunny and beautiful day when we backed out of our driveway. Destination: out for lunch and to the post office. I asked my aphasic husband where he wanted to eat and as he often does he replied by using hand gestures to indicate the turns I’d have to make on the way to wherever it was he wanted to go. Those turns with varying lengths of straight-aways all gestured with appropriate sound effects for braking and speed didn’t help me understand. I named five or six of our favorite places and each time he’d say ‘no.’

“Have we been there in the last week?” I was trying to narrow down the field of choices.


“Have we been there in the last month?”


" In the past six months?”


Oh, great that helped a lot.
“Oriental?” I asked and I got a ‘no’ in return. The same negative response came for pizza, steak, Thai, breakfast, and hamburgers. At this point Don drew the type of food he wanted using his finger in the air.

“Square food? Toast with bacon and eggs?” I asked completely baffled by this latest clue. “Am I going the right direction?"

“No. Yes. No. Yes," he kept repeating. You'd think after all this time I'd learn not to ask more than one question at a time.

“Fine,” I replied. “We’ve got a full tank of gas. I guess we’ll get there before dinner." I was headed for ‘restaurant row’ a place where there are million places to eat within a five mile stretch. Eventually he gestured for me to turn into a shopping mall.

“Pee,” Don said which translates to: “Find me a place around the back where I can use my urinal.”

“Not today,” I said as I turned in. “You’ll have to make an appointment for tomorrow. I have an opening at 4:15.” I always give him a hard time about his ‘pee’ commands and he usually laughs at my tired jokes when I tell him things like he’s reached his quota of pee times for that day or last call for peeing was a half hour ago. Once I told him there is a cork in the glove compartment, "Use it!" Sometimes I even shock myself with what comes out of my mouth. Around the back of the mall, I stopped near a sign post hoping if someone comes along afterward they’ll think the yellow circle in the snow came from a big dog with a bad aim.

I got back on ‘restaurant row’ where eventually Don directed me to turn into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant. I thought back to the clue he was trying to give me with his finger drawing in the air. Square food? What do they have at a Qdoba's that is square? I finally decided that he’s finger drawing dyslexia and he meant to draw a circle for a taco salad which is what he usually orders. But in reality it’s not unusual for people with aphasia to come up with what I call false clues. In their brains they are searching for the right word or gesture but all they can come up with is a category of similar words, one of which is the word they are trying to communicate. Round, square, triangle---they’re all shapes and ‘square’ was the only word Don’s aphasic brain could express on Saturday when we had lunch in Aphasia Land. ©



gugge1 said...

I know what you mean - right after my husband's stroke he watched a lot of tv when I was working and waited for me to come home and make him dinner. I'd ask him what he wanted and he would point to the tv and say "that" - it took a while to guess what commercial he was watching when he was hungry. Now he has a little bit better speech and still makes me crazy when I give him a choice of what I should make for dinner and he says "Yes but No" - I'm never sure which it is the first time so we go through the many questions so I can guess what he's hungry for this time. He doesn't cook by himself anymore since he left a burner on one time and I forbid him from using it without me at home. I usually make enough for dinner that he can have leftovers for lunch the next day. The only problem with that is I have to put it in a regular size portion because he has no off switch. He once ate 3/4 of a meatloaf for lunch because it was in the container and he just put it in the microwave and ate it all. That should have been at least two more meals. I don't think he even knew that he ate too much.
It must be kind of funny to listen to us go through those many questions every day too. I always wish he would at least give me a food group to work with. He once told me that I should know what he wants because I know what he likes so he looked at me like - what in the world was wrong with me and why couldn't I figure out what he was thinking. It's so strange how his mind works now after the stroke. He also mixes up shaking his head with his words - he'll say no and shake his head up and down and yes and shake his head from side to side.
He was very proud of himself last week when he was able to go through the drive thru and ask for a "Number 3 wis a coke"! I'm not sure what it was but he was sure proud. I think he must have been practicing before he went. I'm glad he was able to do that now. We're constantly playing that questioning game and I think we will be forever. I'm just thankful he's here to argue with.
Take care.

The Bee Folks - Lori Titus said...

Maybe he was trying to indicate corn chips?

Dorothy Rimson said...

May be...!!!