Her eyes lit up, and his heart sank. Her mouth opened, and sounds came out, her face animated in the telling of her story and he did what he could. When she smiled, he smiled, when she got to a particularly funny part of her story and touched his arm he made eye contact with her and then threw his head back and joined her in a belly laugh. On the inside a part of him was tearing apart at the seams, but he didn't want to burden her with his sense of tragedy. He knew she didn't realise that she wasn't speaking English. She wasn't forming words. He couldn't lip read her incoherence.
The doctors had told him that her car accident had damaged the speech center of her brain. Inside, her mind was intact. But her verbal expression was permanently impaired. In moments like this, when she seemed so happy telling her memory, he felt the worst. The big question had haunted him now for two years. Should he tell her? Should he let her know every time she opened her mouth that no words flowed forth? Should he insist on her typing or writing her messages? Or should he allow her another day of ignorant bliss? Two years equalled well over seven hundred days of ignorant bliss, and though his heart still wrestled with the moral ambiguity, his mind knew that telling her was a selfish act. Telling her would be requesting sympathy for himself from her, and it would be a cruel act as well since there was no hope for rehabilitation.
He held her eyes with his own, a light shining in his as he forced his tears into submission in favor of shining love her way. His love for her had not diminished in these two years. If anything, he felt like they had settled into a natural rhythm even more easily than their first three years of marriage. Things were simpler now that she was so clearly dependent on him. But he felt his need for her as well. It was a symbiotic relationship, if a little one sided.
She wiped a laughter-induced tear from the corner of her eye as she came to the end of telling her story. He often found himself wondering which of her many adventures she was reliving. He wished he could connect more mentally to her. In those selfish moments, he had to steel his resolve.
(This was inspired by an old married couple I met when visiting my Grandmother about five years ago. It was the most heart-wrenching thing, as she moved her lips and touched his arm a twinkle of intelligence clear in her eye. He leaned over to me and explained that aphasia only impacts the ability to speak, not the ability to think which struck me at the time as tragic. It was unclear whether she knew of her condition or limitation, which was the next layer of tragic to me. The question of whether to depress the lady with this news, because I for one would want to know. My research is minimal, and for the sake of my story I made the case hopeless for recovery though it seems like it varies in degrees of severity and so on.)
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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.
Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...
And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...