Sam’s black eye

Went to see Uncle Sam today, and does he have a shiner! He fell last week, right into one of the tables, but says, “You should see the other guy!” He doesn’t seem too much the worse for wear, but he isn’t looking forward to another round in that boxing ring. I told him I had five (count ’em, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!) head injuries as a child and it was too late for him to join the competition. Just give up now!
His speech was really clear today, maybe cuz I’d just caught him after nap? (Actually, I woke him up, he was in his “nun gear”.) Betty helped get him up, and did she ever talk a mile a minute! I haven’t seen in her…about a year , and she was jazzed. Sam says she’s always like that, but I don’t remember quite that level of effusiveness. Anyway, she told us about her son taking her up to Maine for a week. She had a blast. ­čÖé
After she left, Sam said he’d lost his touch at small talk. I said, nah, you’ve just decided to put your energy towards other things. He had a medical report from his hospital trip a while ago to check out his swallowing. Neither of us understood the medical terminology – bolus, valliculae – but he knew “aspiration”. He said it had to do with drawing breathe into his stomach when he swallows. The dictionary definition isn’t so clear, but maybe I should check a medical definition. At any rate, he wants everyone to know that the results were “very good!” – he doesn’t need a food thickener.
Pat – he’s loving that CD by Josh Groban. He says Josh has a “particularly well-suited voice for singing Spanish.” From my quick glance at the cover, it looks like about half n half, half the songs in English, half in Spanish. (‘Am I right?) ­čśë
I told him about my mom’s partner, John, who died last week. Sam told me he doesn’t think about dying (this is a BIG change from his first year in the nursing home). He listens to the tv a lot. He can’t read – blurry vision – so the tv is really it. When he’s bored, he sleeps. And he sleeps well. Doesn’t remember his dreams. Says he sleeps a lot. But he was also “disturbed about John.” I guess I have some mixed feelings too, and I know my mom does, but they made the decision together to send him to the nursing home because of the level of care he needed. What we need is a world in which people don’t feel they have to send their loved ones off to die alone because the economic system doesn’t tolerate human feeling.
We talked about the blog; he’s especially interested to know if people are posting comments. I told him most of the responses were via email, but a few people had posted direct comments. I explained that I’ve been summarizing the emails and posting them as comments so folks in Sam’s circle can also get news about each other. We talked about ways to widen the reach of this blog, so that Sam’s still in touch with more people. You know that being social was the mission of his life! We thought about putting some kind of announcement in the World Learning newsletter (formerly, The Experiment, am I right?), and also at his old church. We know he has good friends who have organized the guest list for the last couple of parties – he had two living memorial ceremonies. They were a hoot! Anyway, we’re definitely in the market for more email addresses to anyone who knows Sam.
Nora, Sam did get Cory’s thank you (and said he would also be pleased to receive a check in the mail as a gift!), and hopes that Cody is ok, wherever he is. Sam wondered what George Young’s wife was doing in Colorado? Or did you travel somewhere to attend her funeral? Sam was already aware that Kelly is going to school to become an RN and wishes her the best of luck.
I read a letter from Sam’s sister Edith to him. It included a couple of jokes: Bush’s 9/11 Commission and their task to develop a Cliff’s Notes version, and 30 reasons men should prefer dogs to wives. If you didn’t know already (!), Sam has a w-i-d-e breadth of apprecation for humor. He particularly likes them the more insolent and outrageous they become. (His mail has been censored by the nursing home. He hasn’t decided to sue them yet for infringing on his civil right of access to free speech…but if they give him too much of a hard time….well, YOU know Sam!)
One thing I wanted to check was this “diagnosis” that Sam and I thought we figured out a couple years ago. (I have some posts about Sam that aren’t yet catalogued in the “Sam” thread. Sorry – hope to get to it soon.) We always figured it was aphasia – similar to Ram Dass’s experience. But the swallowing report today listed his history as “dysphasia. basal ganglia.” The basal ganglia (I typed banal the first time!!!) is, I’m guessing, the cerebellum. That’s the part of his brain that is deteriorating. We were trying to decide today if that deterioration counts as “brain damage” or not. That’s part of the (apparent) conditions for aphasia.
Well, it turns out dysphasia is a milder form and probably more accurate a description of what’s going on for Sam. The thing that bothers me about these definitions is their highlighting of [lack of] comprehension, because Sam has lost NONE of his, and I think it’s the same kind of prejudice that hearing (“normal”, non-deaf) people have about the Deaf. That they somehow don’t understand. But Sam understands perfectly, there’s just this damn motor coordination thing with his mouth. The trick is, Sam understands through his ears (no need to increase volume, at least, I haven’t noticed this yet. Today he asked me a couple of times to repeat myself, but I think my voice may have been quieter than usual.) Deaf people understand with – via – their eyes. The channel of communication has little bearing upon the capacity of the mind.
We haven’t had an incident of Sam coming up with the wrong word in ages. Not that I noticed, anyway. There have been a few times when it was clear there was No Way I was going to understand what he was trying to say. %-) I suspect there’s a combination of the less-than-perfect motor control of speech with some emotional and intellectual frustration. Emotional, cuz haven’t you had the experience of trying to get something that seems simple and basic to you across without the other person getting it? And intellectual because in Sam logic whatever he’s trying to say Makes Perfect Sense! It’s logical, and why can’t we follow his logic?
I notice I’m generalizing. I am assuming that it’s not just me who doesn’t get it sometimes. Maybe you miss something different than I do, which means you catch some things that I don’t, but it’s awful dang possible that I catch some things that you miss too! That’s why I’m advocating a team approach.
Some of you I miss a lot! And I know Sam does too. You’ve got to admire his spirit.

4 thoughts on “Sam’s black eye”

  1. Nice to hear about Sam we are college friends of his….tell Sam Emily is going to have another catherization and expect they will do an immediate repair or replacement of mitral valve…not good, but something has to be done…life does have it challenges as Sam well knows…..will try to write him from time to time..if possible will try to drive down to see him…but right now I can’t…Dick Bisbee

  2. Thanks Steph for all your efforts and willingness to send out the info for everyone. It is really a blessing to have someone like yourself who is computer literate and willing to spend the time.
    Sam,I’m still working at the church, actually volunteering, on Mondays to count the offering taken on Sundays; I also help with sending out mailings. Bible study is quiet for the summer but will start again in about two weeks. Also, my computer class will resume at the same time.
    Hank sent me a couple of pics of you and Clara when you visited her in Denver at the rest home. I’ll try to get copies of them made and send them to you ASAP. I’ve been dog-sitting for Itsy while Jennifer was in China w/ James. Itsy has been fine while Chelinna was ill for a week, but now after my wallet is thinner w/ trips to the vet, Chelinna’s doing much better.
    Current household news — I have termites!! House will need to be tented for 3 days. Guess I’ll stay with Tom and Doran in Palos Verdes.
    Emma sold her house and is moving into a retirement home. Susan talked her into selling her furniture and buying new, Emma sounded excited about the move. Albert Walker is living in the same rest-home. That’s the news for now, wish I could have visited this summer, miss you.
    Love, Edith (“hatch” —- remember this tag??)

  3. hi sam…so good to get all the info on the website..glad the eye is returning to normal–just back from Proviincetown–tons of e-mail–mostly junk- top go through. Molly LOVED the ocean–we went each morning early and sheran and ran–got soaked and was thrilled by it so she says–firs week was not great weather but it was carnival week so it was a hoot–2nd week was glorious–sunny and dry and cool at night–at home to the worst heat of the summer–will be up soon–love, P&L

  4. Steph, I am reading the above from August of 04, and imagine I may not of seen it before. Now its February of 05! I will mention this when I write you directly. There was a whole lot of gibberish about online poker and other junk…EJK

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