Blog 9: LOST for MORE than WORDS

As time passed, Bill moved on from his health fears.  He pushed them to the back of his mind, I suppose, as he realised that no one could help him and that his problem with reading was probably inevitable.  After all, we had studied Angela Berens’ book, The Aphasia Guide, and we knew that people with aphasia often found it hard to  “understand words, speak, read, spell, write and use numbers” ( p.12).  I think, though, that we had hoped that we would stave off much of the decline with our earnest and enthusiastic participation in ongoing speech therapy sessions and our continuing efforts to involve ourselves in our usual social activities.  It was disappointing, then, that in spite of all our hard work, the brain losses continued to occur.

In this year of 2008, the decline was evident, not only in reading, but in all other areas of literacy and numeracy.  Reading was no longer automatic and Bill had to concentrate really hard to get meaning out of the words.  Often, passages had to be re-read and, eventually, he gave up reading anything complex or wordy and confined himself to flipping through magazines that contained plenty of pictures e.g., Caravan World or National Geographic.

It was when we took our trip out to Camooweal that we discovered that Bill had trouble with more than reading.  We found, in fact, that Bill could no longer interpret a map.  The process of “reading” the map and translating it to reality now escaped him, as did the ability to discern left from right.

Such problems, too, did not stop at maps.  When we were getting ready to go to Europe, I found, with dismay, that Bill had lost the ability to measure length.  We had to measure our suitcases to ensure that they were not oversized and Bill could not do it.  This man, who was a carpenter by trade and had, from the time he was sixteen, used a measuring tape every day of his life, did not know how to clip the tape on to one end of the case and pull it along to the other in order to read the length.

Bill could not measure and, as well, he was having trouble with money.  Though, for the past twenty years, he had been treasurer for various clubs, he now no longer knew the value of notes or coins and could not count them or add them.  As was our custom, we tried to overcome the problem by practising.  We took our hoard of coins that we had been saving for a rainy day and we practised.  We practised equivalence.

“What silver coins could we take to make up fifty cents?” I asked.

“How many fifty cent pieces would you need to make up two dollars?”

We practised giving change, practised counting by fives, tens and twenties, practised buying three apples at ten cents each, and so on and so on. In the end, however, just as it was with reading, we had to face up to the fact that Bill could no longer handle money in the way that he used to.

Amazingly, through all this loss, Bill always remained brave and resourceful.  He still managed, for example, to go shopping, overcoming his money problems by taking with him, to the hardware store, or the lighting place, or to Rotary, a huge wad of money.  He would hand the whole wad over to the “shopkeeper” and would trust that the shopkeeper would give him back the correct change. And he always did. People were always so good to Bill.

  1. Fay

    There was a time when I was sitting at the table reading the newspaper when Bill looked at me and said: “I wish I could do that.”

    December 18th, 2012 // Reply
  2. Delwynne Hughes

    It is amazing how you both coped with Bill’s illness and never gave up. You were both so positive and tried in all ways to include Bill in everything. The things that you have written here could be so helpful to other people who are suffering in a similar way. You said people were always good to Bill,but he was always good to other people too.

    December 20th, 2012 // Reply
    • Fay

      Dear Delwynn,
      It’s so lovely to hear from you and to know that you are following Bill’s story. We were all such good friends in those days in the 70s when fate threw us together. In spite of Bill’s demise, we had a great life, Bill and I, set up in part by those good years we had in PNG. I read you comment with a warm heart and remember you fondly, Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  3. Lois Morrison

    Dear Fay, Your story about Bill is very moving & so sad. I remember the days when he & Pat ,my sister & I
    playing cricket in the street after school. Pleased to read you had some nice trips away & enjoyed life even
    through the struggles. Our best wishes for 2013. Regards. Lois & Doug

    January 3rd, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Dear Lois and Doug,
      Thank you for taking the trouble to write that comment. Bill always spoke very warmly of you and your sister, even before you became reacquainted at that Condell Park reunion. He would be quite touched to know that you remembered those early days of play so fondly.
      Kind thoughts,

      January 7th, 2013 // Reply
  4. Lesley

    I would like to say I find this very moving. I feel your pain, but Ithink you are both so brave so many people would have given up by now and just excepted it without a fight. Regards Lesley

    January 12th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      Hello Lesley,
      Thank you for taking the trouble to follow Bill’s story. Your interest is valuable to me both because of your occupation and because you are a family member. I hope you keep reading, Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  5. Barry Hishion

    Remembering Bill in 2006, when he told me about building his boat, it did not appear then that his memory would fail him in such a way. You have shown to Marie and to me, the heartache you later suffered in caring for Bill. It is indeed, a story of true love. May there be others who read your case history, gain inspiration from it. Barry Hishion.

    January 18th, 2013 // Reply
    • Fay

      I wondered what year it was, Barry, that you visited. I remember that Bill was really quite good then and very much enjoyed your company. There were little things that were a worry ….. mostly speech …… but, by and large, all was well. The articles tell us that Vascular Dementia usually kills within 5-7 years of diagnosis. And that prediction proved true in Bill’s case. Thank you for your comments and your ongoing interest. Say hello to Marie for me. Tell her I think of her often. Kind thoughts, Fay

      January 21st, 2013 // Reply
  6. Sonia Hendy

    Ed used to tell me the same story of Bill going to Rotary and getting out a wad of money to pay for his dinner. He used to have a word to the people on the desk to make sure they understood what was happening. Bill must have enjoyed his ongoing membership of Rotary where he had some good mates.

    February 4th, 2013 // Reply
  7. Harold and Nola

    Such a ‘together’ couple, we salute you!
    This written with a big smile because we know it to be true.

    March 16th, 2013 // Reply

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