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Sunday, December 12, 2010

This Is Where It All Began

In attempting to clean up the mess that I made for myself in others in trying to deal with three topics in one blog, I found that I had not transferred my dogs and cats posting to my aphasia blog. This essay is really where the blogging began, so here it is transferred to where it belongs, my aphasia blog.
In the aftermath of a traumatic brain episode (a blood vessel in a benign tumor exploded creating all the symptoms of a stroke) I was left with medical and the therapeutic community described as a mild case of aphasia. I know they are correct in that assessment because I know people with severe, progressive aphasia. But for someone who lived off the use of words for 40 years, it completely changed my life.
In trying to clean up my first general blog into three separate blogs, one on each of the topics of higher education, aphasia and epilepsy, I found one of my earliest postings: Words are More like Dogs than Cats.
As I reread it, I remembered the conversations that it engendered with my speech therapist when I first wrote it. That reminded me of a comment Glenn Fry of the Eagles made when he came onto stage after an intermission during the concert the Eagles gave during their “Hell freezes Over Tour.” He looked at the audience and slowing said, “This is where it all began.” The audience broke into applause before the band played the first note of the song, “Take It Easy.”
At another point in the concert, Fry gave a hint at the rationale of the title off the tour. He said, “Just to set the record straight, we never broke up. We just took a 14 year vacation.”
The next posting “Words are More Like Cats Than Dogs” is “Where it all began.”  As I worked with a speech therapist for months after my traumatic brain episode to try to regain what I thought was passable use of words and language, the following idea started ruminating in my head.
Words are not doing what I want them to do. They are being obstinate and doing what they want to do. Then it hit me. They are acting like cats. They don’t necessarily come to you when you call them. They come to you when they are good and ready to come to you.
As I discussed this with my therapist, she challenged me to describe the process that I was using to try to overcome this apparent difficulty.
As she challenged me to improve, she would have me do exercises over and over again. That’s when I remembered the things that I heard or had been told throughout my life time about practice. Slowly the stories about how and why practice was useful came back. As they came back, I would make notes about them. From those notes came this first essay that described my journey with aphasia.
As a number of individuals have noted, my 40 years in the academy show clearly in my writing. One editor with whom I have worked, accused me of having the Russian novel virus. I can’t say hello in less than 750 words.
However, as many within the aphasia community have read this essay, they have found it very helpful in dealing with their patients or loved ones. This past summer, Dr. Audrey Holland translated my essay into an aphasia friendly format. I encourage all of you to  look at her translation. It is found at
I have found Aphasia Corner encouraging and helpful. I encourage everyone I know that has the smallest tie to aphasia to subscribe to or bookmark their website  One of the first things I learned is that I am not alone. There are many others who have been touched by aphasia.
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