Going back years, not long after her neurosurgeries, when she was still able to talk, one of the side effects was
that she developed repetitive behaviours. Part of that was in telling stories or comments over and over again. One day I was walking down the esplanade of
Redcliffe with her and she was about to launch into the same retelling of the same group of four different stories. I'd lost count of how many times I'd heard them.
killing myself laughing, joyful tears running down my cheeks. We had that sort of relationship where humour was an integral part of our communciation. She looked at me and asked what was the matter. I said that I had heard
the stories before .. and she said: “Which ones?” .. and do you know, for the life of me, having heard them over and
over again .. I couldn’t remember them ! I had a total mental blank. That sent me into more peals of laughter and I had to say “Tell me again !”
Shows how much we listen to words. To this day, I still can’t remember what the 4 stories were !
As a matter of course, when people meet her, I explain straight away that she can’t talk – which is true but on rare occasions, she will totally surprise me and say a word or two as clear as a bell. One night I was just prattling on, talking to her as I would an ordinary person, and asked her what she’d like for dinner – I thought it was just a rhetorical question and certainly didn't expect an answer. I said: "What would you like? Chicken, fish or meat?" .. and she answered clear as a bell “Everything!” ..
And that was the only word. I was stunned but it was a moment of her making me laugh. I understood that it wasn't the regaining of her speech .. but enough that I would remember that moment! Since she lost her speech over a period of two years, I would have only heard her speak less than 10 words. But that in itself is amazing.
Another time visiting someone in a nursing home, a lady came up to speak to her .. I began with my line that she couldn't speak .. and most people will say, "That doesn't matter" and they'll proceed to talk to her just as they would everyone else. This lady asked Dot how she was ... How surprised was I when Dot answered her by saying "Fine thank you." They're moments not easily forgotten. All of us began laughing.
Another moment was feeding her a meal and because a taxi was coming, jokingly said to her "Quick, quick" because she eats very slowly. I turned around to get something and out came one of those unexpected words. She said "Quick!". That's all. No other word. But she sure grinned.
In the period of her recovery after the neurosurgeries, there were many things we had to overcome. One was that she didn't understand where she was and if you turned around, she was just as likely to wander off. In all the times that happened, Dot only encountered beautiful people who took care of her and ensured she got back home. As a precaution, I had made personalised lanyards with big flourescent tags attached explaining her medical condition and listing phone numbers for family and police so that people who found her knew where she lived.
The lanyards became more and more flambouyant so that they would quickly be noticed .. some were flourescent green with sequins and a green flourescent tag but one time I thought of buying a bought one. I picked out one that had what I thought were palm leaves on it. As she was a bush type person, thought that was appropriate.
While wearing this, she had wandered off and the person who found her took her to the hospital. It was only when I was talking to the staff did I get a laugh. The nurses looked at me rather quizzically and I couldn't work out why. They said that Dot had their attention as soon as she came through the doors. The reason being was that the pictures on the lanyard were MARIJHUANA ! That was embarassing! but so funny that a lady in her 60's was wandering around with a marijhuana lanyard without us knowing that that's what it was. Won't live that one down in a hurry.
An interesting postscript to the story is that many years later, Dot was visiting another lady in a nursing home and when we joined her in the dining room, she was sitting with a table of friends .. I sat Dot in a random seat and the lady who was sitting opposite her introduced herself as "Dorothy" .. the same as Dot's full name! Not only that, but that Dorothy was wearing the same marijhuana lanyard! As I began laughing, I did explain to her why I was laughing.
The lady with the same name
sitting opposite with the same lanyard.