I read today about a weird type of brain damage that exhibits with linguistic problems. I mean weird. They aren’t memory issues that are common with Alzheimer’s, but, instead, crop up in word usage errors, like a monkey at a typewriter.
In one form, you lose an understanding of or an ability to use – no one knows for sure – connecting words. Speech comes out like a telex script: “Food. Table. Sit.” The speaker doesn’t appear to know they are talking like this but believes they are chatting away like normal. Do they wonder why people around them scrunch their faces and never move to the table? I don’t know. As difficult as this has to be, there’s hope here: folks with this condition can improve, and, I’m guessing, but people you live with can learn to understand you. If the brain is good at anything, it’s filing in blank spaces.
Other folks, though, have injuries that seem to sever a more general association with words. They utter pure gibberish. People with this ailment also think they are carrying on a conversation, but their speech is a mixture of words that are both real and made up and in no discernable order. It’s as if words in the brain are stored in numbered files and an evil genie snuck in to jumble the numbers. When the speaker says, “Say, Jane, shall we chambre the wine? Jane hears “Bluster mid lamp lamp rain otit.” How to live with this I haven’t a clue. From either side of the conversation, it has got to be weird. I don’t know how reading is affected, either, but I’d start carrying a chalkboard everywhere I went. I also wonder how it would affect sign language?
How heartbreaking would it be if my wife had such an odd condition? Or my child? How hard has it got to be to live with someone like this, with such confusion? How impossibly hard for the person with the condition to be trapped inside a world of people who seem to have lost any understanding of your words. It’s a Twilight Zone episode.
Thinking about it all gives me a sense of deep humility. I’ve had a brain injury and seem, by most accounts, to be on the mend. I’ve experienced – my wife and daughters more than me since I was comatose for five weeks – the instantaneous fading of everything I love. All the things we worked for and earned and our family, it can all fade like a morning’s fog, When my Dad was dying, he told me on a particularly rough day, that whatever I wanted to do? – do it today. Now. You might think you have tomorrow, but it comes and goes almost too fast to see it.
Cheers. Well, kind of. Prayers maybe. And selah.