This past weekend, I drove my family (6 of us total) down to NC to visit my mom’s mom who we lovingly refer to as “Grammy”. Several weeks ago, Grammy had a massive stroke which essentially wiped out most of her brain. I was there with her within just two days of the stroke and hadn’t seen her since. I knew I was in for quite a visit. She has moved from teetering on the verge of death due to her initial inability to swallow and her clearly documented desire not to be attached to any type of artificially life prolonging equipment, including a feeding tube–to now able to somewhat look around, recognize people, and speak–well, kind of.
When we arrived at the nursing home, we walked to the hall where her room was and could already hear her. My mom had told us that her speech is very limited. In fact, her two words she’d repeat are “No Way!” So, I could hear her speaking long before I saw her in her bed. But to hear her speak was wonderful simply because it is her voice. It’s astounding to see her respond to questions and things we say–all with a variety of inflections, intonations, and emotions wrapped up in those two words, “No Way!”
I turned the corner of her room door and looked in. When she was able to focus on me, she stopped talking and just puckered up. I leaned down and kissed her and sat and talked with her for a few minutes. Well, as long as the response was “No Way”. What astounds me is that when we’d begin to sing a song, she could sing anything beautifully. As long as a word was in the context of a song, she could form it. We sang “You are my Sunshine”, “America the Beautiful” and even “Happy Birthday” since it was my Mom’s birthday that day.
What is it about the brain that would chain her mouth to only speak “No Way” and yet unchain her mouth to sing any song you’d like? It was simply incredible to watch.
Ironically enough, it is the same situation we’re in with our youngest son, Hudson. He can sing any tune he knows, but can’t truly carry on a conversation with you. I shared with my wife this morning how baffling I find that and she told me that its because those two things (singing and speaking) are not cerebrally related to one another at all–they literally come from two different parts of the brain.
The doctors and those caring for Grammy have said it may be as many as 6 years before she returns to normalcy in speech and functionality. 6 years.