Electra, and I were startled upon hearing the phone ring in the house. So, I left my red engine plane and our passengers, stomped through the heavy snow and returned to the front door. By the time I arrived, the ringing had stopped. I heard a familiar voice say, “ Hello,” and although the door was stuck, I managed to shove it open. Upon entering, I viewed my past self talking on the phone. Quietly, my present self listened to the one sided conversation, while my past self heard both sides. Once again, I was an invisible observer of an earlier me. Thus, I already knew who was on the other end of the phone and what she, Marat Moore, Editor of the “ASHA Leader” (“American Speech Language Hearing Association”) would ask.
MARAT: “Hi Dylan, it’s Marat. I’m here with some of the ‘Leader’s’ editorial board members.”
ME: “What a nice surprise. It’s been a while since we last spoke. How are you and my old ‘ASHA’ buddies?”
MARAT: “We’re all good. Just finished conferencing about our next edition of the Leader magazine. Your name came up and we were wondering how you and Dave are doing. It’s been five years since the publication of your award winning article, ‘Side by Side.’ Are you still using newspaper articles to communicate with Dave?”
ME: “Ahh, I’m as well as can be expected given Dave’s condition. He’s declined significantly over the past five years. In fact he’s now on hospice. His ability to communicate using newspaper prompts lasted about two years. And even during those two years, I had to adjust the program to meet his declining abilities.”
MARAT: “Oh Dylan, I’m so sorry to hear this. But given how long it’s been since Dave’s diagnosis, I’m not surprised. I think it’s been about 10 years, is that right?”
ME: “Actually, Dave was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease 12 years ago. But, don’t forget, I started seeing personality changes when he was in his late 40’s and I had my suspicions even then.”
MARAT: “It’s been a long haul, that’s for sure. Do you have any new words of wisdom for our readers? We have space for a short article in the ‘Leader’s’ next issue.”
ME: “Nothing directly related to oral communication. But, I did create a storybook about Dave for our 2 ½ year old grandson, Joey. The book had a wonderful effect on their relationship.
MARAT: “Hmm, sounds interesting. Do you have time to talk more about this?”
ME: “Sure Marat, I always have time for you and ASHA.”
It all started when Joey was afraid of going near Dave because the Alzheimer’s caused Dave to look, as Joey said, ‘Scary.’
MARAT: “That must have broken your heart.”
ME: “It did. But, upon realizing Joey had never seen Dave any other way, I decided to write a book about his Grandpa and include pictures of a well Dave, doing fun activities like hiking, swimming, boating, horseback riding, etc. I compared what Dave was doing to pictures of “Winnie the Pooh” characters doing similar things. I called the book, “Dave’s Tale.”
MARAT: “I like the title — it’s short and sweet.”
ME: “Well, you know me, even though it’s, as you say, ‘short and sweet,’ the word ‘Tale’ in my storybook has a deeper meaning.
MARAT: “Wadya mean?”
ME: Well, many weeks ago I read a Disney version of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ to Joey who was upset because of the sad expression on Eeyore’s face. When I suggested Joey kiss the ‘boo-boo’ on Eeyore to make the donkey feel better, he did so repeatedly. But, of course, Eeyore’s expression on the page never changed and Joey became frantic. Needless to say, I put the Disney book away.
So the word ‘TALE’ in my storybook’s title is a pun referencing both the sadness in the story of Eeyore loosing his ‘TAIL’ and the sadness in Dave’s story or ‘TALE’ of loosing his walking and talking due to Alzheimer’s.
MARAT: “How did the storybook influence your Grandson?”
ME: “After reading the book to Joey and explaining why his Grandpa Dave looked so sad, Joey’s reaction was empathetic. I suggested we sit together and read the book to Dave. Joey enjoyed this activity so much, he asked me to read it again and again. Afterwards, he gave Dave a kiss on the cheek and a hug.”
MARAT: “That’s so beautiful! Did Dave react?”
ME: “Yes, he began to focus on each picture and even remained alert as I read the story. Because of its calming affect, I started reading the storybook to him before meals. Dave was then able to take a bite of food or a sip of water which he previously had great difficulty doing because of fatigue and/or agitation.
MARAT: “Perfect!I This is a wonderful, functional example of improved nonverbal communication. It’s a great story. Can you write an article about this for the next ASHA Leader?”
ME: “Most certainly and thanks for the opportunity!”
Stay tuned to learn more …
Gail – this is so incredible and impressive. I still have a memory of you and Dave sitting in that big chair together in your living room in Cleveland – Shaker or University Heights- and reading the Sunday NY Times together. Such a tragedy. You have amazing strength.
So great hearing from you! And I have memories galore too! Miss you and Gerry. My new book, “Traveling Our Road” is out and will be available on Amazon this week. Watch for an announcement – it’s dedicated to Dave whose 15th year Yartzite is November 15!
I’m getting excited for the release of your new book.