Saturday, December 25, 2004

Mix Ups

We are back in the UK at the moment, staying with my parents-in-law. About a year ago my father-in-law had a stroke and he is slowly recovering his capacity of speech. It is a frustrating business for him. He doesn't find it very easy to understand the TV any more and conversation is hard work. However, he still enjoys doing puzzles, as he always did, particularly if they involve calculations.

Today, I had to drive down to Burford to rendezvous with my parents who were on their way to my brother's house and who wanted to exchange some presents for the children. I invited my father-in-law to drive down with me as an opportunity to practice his conversation. His wife is not very patient with him and often says that it is like having a child around the house. I have always enjoyed chatting with him. he is a gentle, good-natured chap and if you give him time you can have a proper conversation with him.

Occasionally he mixes up words and sometimes these mistakes are truely worthy of the name malapropism.

Before we set off, we were all sitting around in the kitchen, drinking cups of tea. My father-in-law was looking through the Christmas post, noting the dates on the postmarks to see how long the letters had taken to arrive. Suddenly, he spluttered and held one of the letters up. "Look at this." he said. "This card has taken fifteen days to arrive, and it was sent by first crap post!"

We headed off to Burford, driving through the wintery Oxfordshire landscape of large fields with tumbledown dry stone walls. We were talking about the children of my wife's sister and I asked him whether they has started school yet. "Yes," he said "she takes them to the mercenary every morning."

We had just passed Stow-on-the-Wold and were descending a long hill with large trees lining either side of the road. Indicating the gaps between some of the trees with his finger, he said "Last Christmas, a strong gay knocked down a lot of trees along this road."

A bit later, we were talking about his therapy following the stroke. By this time, I was getting quite interested in the processes that were going on in his head! He told me that he had a woman therapist. He recounted the story of someone he knew who had had a much worse stroke than his. The only thing he was able to say afterwards was: "Here, you remember you promised to tell me about..." and that was it. He couldn't remember what it was that anyone had promised to tell him about, but he knew there was a lot of things that people should have been telling him. In fact one of them concerned his own therapist, who was a man. Every time he treated the afflicted patient he would bid farewell and then go upstairs to continue the affair that had developed with the man's wife.

My father-in-law's therapist, however, is a woman and very helpful. He told me he has: "an hour long session with his spirit every week".

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