When my brother was a toddler my mother kept him in a harness with a leash attached much like the modern version in this photo. The only difference was my brother’s leash was a lot longer and using them on a child back in the 1940s didn’t raise eyebrows like they occasionally do now. No one called them ‘cruel’ or ‘demeaning’ or thought they stifled a child’s nature curiosity. My brother needed to be leashed when my mom took him shopping. He was always getting into trouble doing things like prying up floor registers to shove the cat into the ducts. Once when he was three he got up early in the morning, stripped off his pajamas, put his Robin Hood hat on and went for a walk stark naked. A police officer brought him home to my still sleeping parents.
I was reminded of all this today when I took my husband to the bookstore. It’s one of those large yuppie places with a Starbucks inside and overstuffed chairs where you can curl up in front of a fireplace to read. It’s one of our favorite Sunday morning stops and I don’t ever want Don to get banned from the place like he was from a grocery store in the area. I knew we were headed towards trouble when we got to the door and several customers coming out held the double doors open for us. Don, in a deep bellowing voice yelled, “Oh boy! Oh, boy!” In aphasia speak that’s as good as saying, “Thank you for your kindness.”
As I often do when we go some place where he really wants to go I reminded him that he needed to use his inside voice and he sang his Okay Opera back at me: “Okkkkaaayyy! Okayyyyy! OH, oh, ooooh kay.
“Next time we’re planning to come here,” I teased, “help me remember to cut your antidepressant in half.”
He wanted a coin magazine. We found him a coin magazine. He wanted to look at a book in the art section. We found him the book. All the while he’s ‘oh, boying’ this and ‘oh boying’ that at the top of his lungs. People are looking at us. Don didn’t care. He was the center of attention and he loves that. I was thinking maybe next time we come to the bookstore, I’ll take Don’s antidepressant.
Finally I decided to take him to the coffee shop, get him a cappuccino so I could go off to the bathroom and maybe browse a few books along the way. When I came back Don had managed to table hop his wheelchair over to where two girls in their twenties sat.
“Are you lost?” I asked him.
“Beautiful, beautiful” he replied as he pointed to each girl in turn as if he was introducing a Marcia and Mary. Then he pointed to me and I held my breath until he said, “Wife.” He’s never done it, but someday I half expected him to introduce me as ‘homely.’ But his language problems still have him categorizing all women as cute or beautiful and he doesn’t hesitate to let strangers know which category he’s files them in.
On the way home I decided that rather than a leash hooked up to the back of Don’s wheelchair maybe I’ll see if steering wheel locks will work on wheelchairs. If they do I could say, “Sit, stay!” knowing when I come back my wayward husband will be right where I left him. ©