Fork, Comb, Key

Excerpt from STROKELAND by Lynette lamb


August was in full steamy swing when I stopped by Sister Kenny one morning to accompany Rob to speech therapy. By now he had been living at the rehab center for two weeks, receiving daily physical, occupational, and speech therapy, as well as occasional—if not always well received—sessions of music, acupuncture, and other nontraditional therapies.

But of all those efforts toward recovery, speech therapy loomed the largest. Learning to talk again was the most important thing in the world to Rob (and to me), and I knew he worked hard at it daily. But I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly Rob did with his speech therapist, given that he still had trouble understanding most conversation and his vocabulary was stalled at two words: baby and bible. (Incidentally, because automatic speech, which comes from the right brain, is the first to reappear, most people start by blurting out swear words. Certainly, if I had been the stroke victim, the air around me would have turned blue. It was typical of my sweet-natured husband that his early vocabulary was so pure.)

Rob’s speech therapist made a point of asking me to attend his next session, and I was nothing if not dutiful. And curious. I pushed Rob’s wheelchair down the beige hallways to the tiny, windowless room that served as his therapist’s office. As we arrived, I wondered, as always, how much more therapeutic a beautifully designed space might be—for any patient, but especially for an architect like Rob, so sensitive to his surroundings. I was certain that every day he spent in this colorless, institutional space crushed his soul a little.

But the design details of the Sister Kenny rehab center weren’t the most pressing matter at hand. Mentally shaking myself, I redirected my attention to the painfully earnest speech therapist facing us across the desk.

What transpired next was probably the most excruciating 30 minutes of my life. I can’t remember what the speech therapist said; indeed, I can’t even remember her name. But I will never forget the exercise she set forth for Rob that day.

On the desk between herself and Rob she placed a fork, a key, a comb, a hammer, and a pen. She didn’t ask him to come up with the names of these items or pronounce them; she asked only that he point to each one in turn as she named it.

Which he was unable to do.

To sit there and watch my brilliant husband flummoxed by the task of distinguishing a fork from a pen was the lowest point of the stroke odyssey for me—and probably for him.

The desolation I’d been running from for weeks overwhelmed me. Caring for the girls, filing paperwork, making daily hospital visits, writing the CaringBridge blog—these tasks had been my frantic armor against despair. But here in this colorless shoebox, I confronted the enormity of all that Rob had lost. And what I had lost as well.

Strokeland Memoir
Strokeland Memoir
Strokeland Memoir
Strokeland Memoir (1)