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One Grunt, or Two? A Parkinsonian Dialogue

Friday February 08, 2019

One Grunt, or Two? A Parkinsonian Dialogue

In my 17th post-diagnosis year the most aggravation I get on a daily basis from Parkinson's is from problems with speech. I wonder how other animals get along without talking. I certainly can’t. I try to schedule events where I must talk, like visits to the doctor, for the morning, when my speech tends to be more clear than it is later in the day.  

But I still need to communicate around the clock. Talk with friends, family and others needs to go on whether  I am in good speaking form or not. To give you an idea of what this can be like, I present the following dramatization. This dialogue is imagined, but uncomfortably close to the frustration that my wife and I both feel with my inability to articulate when Parkinson’s asserts its control over my ability to speak most aggressively, and my ability to talk falls apart. 

As partners for over three decades, my long-suffering wife and I long took the ability to communicate for granted. We didn’t always say things the other agreed with, but at least we understood what we were saying. I got deeply in the habit of thinking she should be able to understand me. She is in the habit of thinking I should  express myself clearly. Neither of these is necessarily true anymore. This is a recipe for frustration. But we keep trying. 

The Scene: A middle-aged couple (ME, and my LONG-SUFFERING WIFE) exit a restaurant after enjoying a meal, and stroll toward our car, which is parked several blocks away.  

ME: (Inaudible.) mumble, mumble, slur, (inaudible)

Long-Suffering Wife: What? Slower and louder, please.

ME: (Louder, yet still unintelligible). mumble, mumble, slur (cough. cough, cough)

LSW: What? Enunciate, please! Lips and teeth!

ME: (Still louder. Still inaudible.) SLUR! Something, something, emphatic mumble. (prolonged coughing fit)

LSW: What? Try one word at a time. 

ME: (unintelligible)

ME: (Inaudible)

ME: (Grunt!)

LSW: Grunt?

ME: GRUNT! GRUNT! GRUNT!

LSW: OK, Here's an idea, how about you grunt once for “yes” twice for “No”?

ME: Grunt

LSW: Now we play charades until I get the answer!

ME: Grunt!

LSW: So…. second word… sounds like… food…dessert?…  PIE!…

ME: Grunt!

LSW: SKY!… TRY!… BLIGH! …FRY…FLY!…

ME: Grunt!

LSW: FLY? Great, second word is “fly”.  Alright, third word, short word… be?  Of?… As?… Is?  IS?

ME: GRUNT!

LSW: OK! Now what? Last word?  Last word, 2 syllables…first syllable… round?… No?… circle? No… Oh!… OH!

ME: GRUNT!

LSW: So last word, first syllable is “Oh”! Now, Last word, second syllable… stick?… no. Prick? no… Nail?… no…jab? No… Pin? PIN! PIN!

ME: GRUNT!

LSW: So that’s Fly is oh pin?  Fly is… open?  MY FLY IS OPEN?! Oh fer cryin’ out LOUD…Why didn’t you just SAY SO?! 

ME: (inaudible) Mumble, mumble, slur, (inaudible…) cough, cough, cough…

 

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

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