Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Killer blankets and Brain Cells

I wake up very early. Back before my knees went bad, I used that early time to walk for exercise. And I mean WALK! I walked four miles a day, every day. Eventually, my knees went bad and I kept getting up early. I figured that I'd eventually get back out there and walk again. Well, in March (2009), I had total knee replacement on my left knee. In the hospital, my whole sleep schedule was completely out of whack. I spent two weeks in the hospital (worry not, future knee-replacement patients, I was "in the hospital" because the rehab therapy place was in the hospital) and then two weeks in my parents' fully handicapped-accessible home. That was a long month for everyone, especially the Disabled Guy because he found out just how much stuff I actually do around the house.

But this isn't supposed to be about me. I just wanted to explain why my sleep cycle is messed up. Nowadays, I'm doing much better in the whole knee recovery thing, but I'm still not walking (especially not now on the icy pavement). I still get up early, but now, around 5 AM, I go back to bed. The doctors all keep saying, "Sleep when you're tired." Well, I'd sleep all the time then, wouldn't I?

Back to the topic at hand.

The other morning, I went back to bed to find the Disabled Guy wrapped up like a burrito in the sheepskin blanket (that's only for him, it is HIS blanket), the bed sheet, and the soft fleece bedspread. The big down comforter was wadded up in a ball on my side of the bed. As I was straightening it out so I could use it, DG woke up and looked over at me.

I asked: "What's all this?"

He looked at the comforter in the near-dark. "What?"

Me: "This. Why is the comforter all balled up on my side of the bed?"

Him: "Oh. It attacked me. I had to kill it."

Me: "The comforter attacked you."

Him: "It did."

I motioned to the blanket burrito he was wrapped in. "What about those?"

He glanced down and then closed his eyes. "They won't hurt me. I scared them when I killed the comforter. They done learnt their lesson."

And, for your entertainment...

Every year, we ask him what he wants for Christmas and every year, he says: "Don't get me nothing."

So, I go one of two ways. I either go practical and get him tools or clothes. Or I go joke-y and sarcastic. Like this year. I got him a Snuggie (which he likes and you've seen a photo of) and a petri dish full of brain cells. Seriously.

There's a website called ~Giant Microbes~ and they sell plush versions of various cells and germs and such. I originally wanted to get the petri dish of three brain cells and one large red blood cell. Then I was going to cram the blood cell into the petri dish with the brain cell... get it? Yeah, I thought it was funny. The kids thought it was mean and talked me out of the blood cell. He asked me: "Are these replacements for the ones that are damaged or are these in memory of them?"

The kids have taken turns tormenting him by shaking the plastic, over-sized petri dish with the three plush brain cells inside. He yells out, "Stop playing with my brain!" or "Oh, that hurts!" Sometimes, the kid in question yells: "Concussion!" and shakes it violently.

You're right in assuming we're a pretty warped family.

So, I took some pictures of DG with his new brain cells. Enjoy.

The brain cell is 1,000,000x magnified (according to the petri dish information).

"OH! I'm losin' my mind!" he blurted when I put the brain cells on his head. (Incidentally, I've been asked if he looks like he's had a stroke. On the outside, the only real way you can see it is that his right eye doesn't open as wide as his left. And this picture really shows the difference. But he doesn't always look like that. Obviously he's playing it up for the camera).

And here we have: "Arrrrgggh! It hurts so much!"

So, as you can see... he's nothing if not a good sport!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rats, with their little Nike Shoes...

This is a favorite of the snopesters. I've told this one many a time. Granted, I've tried to shorten it on message boards, to keep the length down because I'm a member on those boards and don't want to make more work for the moderators (being a mod and admin on other boards myself). I've also realized some people don't like reading long posts. At any rate, even shortened, this story is a long one. But since this is my blog, I will tell it in as much entirety as I can.

First, I announced today, that I want the kids to help me remember some of the conversations we've had with the DG because they'll have a different memory than I will of certain details. Then I said, "Oh, I have to tell the Rats with the little Nike shoes story."

DG turned to me (he's taking apart the Christmas tree) and said, with much regal air, "Yes! That one must be told! It should be shared, like a bedtime story."

I said, "Really? A bedtime story?"

He replied, "Of course! The little children can say, 'I dreamed about them, the rats in their little Nike shoes' and then they can tell the story to others."

The DG is disabled from his time in the Army, specifically his time in the first Gulf War. So he's a patient at the Veteran's Administration hospital in Madison, WI (because we live in Wisconsin). The VA hospital is not known for speedy waiting room times. We were up there for a disability reassessment because the VA gave him a treatment that didn't work (I knew it wouldn't, and I protested greatly). Not only did it not work, it made his arm worse. (It was supposed to loosen the muscles- some jerk told him "it will get your arm back" and he believed him and no matter how much proof I showed that it wouldn't work, I was ignored). At any rate, we were in the waiting room and I was reading Bill Bryson's book about Shakespeare. We were sitting side-by-side and not once did he look over at me. I only glanced at him every once in a while during this conversation. I even held my book as if I were trying to read it, but obviously, I wasn't. I didn't read much more that day, in fact.

There were several people all around. I read a part of the book out loud to Jerry because I found it interesting. It was basically saying that during Shakespeare's time, the Black Plague would resurface every ten years or so and during that time, the royal family would go to their "country estate" to get away from the danger. (This was during the time when London was still mostly surrounded by a wall). The "country estate" they escaped to was about ten miles from the city. Nowadays, that's just ridiculous. Ten miles? Really!

I said, "I guess ten miles is too far for a plague-infested rat to travel."

DG replied, "Of course it is, they're rats. They can't walk that far."

Me: "And they're sick, you know, with the Plague and the fleas that carry it."

DG: "And the road was hot, and they'd get little bruises and blisters."

Me: "Bruises and blisters?"

DG: "Yeah, they'd get little stone bruises on their feet. Blisters too. And then they'd fall over on the side of the road and die... their little stone bruised feet all swolled up. It was sad."

Me: "Really? These rats would get stone bruises on their feet and die?"

DG: "Blisters too." There he paused. I noticed that other people were listening. Some were smiling and even chuckling. Others were holding it in, but they all seemed to be enjoying it. "And they would fall down. Their friends couldn't help them, they're rats too."

Me: "Of course not, rats don't have first aid kits or first aid training."

DG: "Or course they don't! They're rats! Don't be ridiculous."

I'm not supposed to be ridiculous? I was also trying not to laugh and I was egging him on by asking him questions about the rats.

Me: "So, you're saying these rats would just drop dead on this dirt road between London and the royals' country estate?"

DG: "Yes, it was called the Road of Death and those poor little rats had no one to help them. You know what they needed?"

Me: "Help?"

DG: "Well, of course they needed help, but they really needed little Nike shoes."

Me: "Really? Nike shoes?"

DG: "Little Nike shoes. And they're rats, so they needed two pairs of little Nike shoes."

Me: "How can a rat afford a single pair of Nike shoes much less two pairs?"

DG: "Little Nike shoes. They didn't afford them, that's why they died."

Me: "They died from stone bruises and blisters on their feet?"

DG: "No, don't be ridiculous, they fell down from the stone bruises and blisters. They died from dehydration and starvation."

Me: "Because they couldn't walk after they fell down?"

DG: "No, of course not, that's why it was the Road of Death. And their little rat friends couldn't bring them water or food, they're rats. They don't carry canteens."

Me: "So if they had little Nike shoes, these rats would have spread the Plague further?"

DG: "Yeah, but its a tragic tale. Sad, really, all those rats dying on that road. And when they'd lay there dying, they'd sneeze because of the dust. Humans didn't care, they'd walk by and not even pay attention to a bruised and blistered rat on the side of the road. Sometimes they'd even kick dirt at them."

Me: "And they'd sneeze?"

DG: "You know it." He sighed around this time and stopped talking. I started reading my book again and then he said: "They teach it, you know."

Me: "Teach what?"

DG: "The story of the rats. They teach it."

Me: "Where do they teach it?"

DG: "In history class. Rat history class."

Me: "So they teach it in rat history class so no other rat children grow up to get stone bruises?"

DG: "No, they're all wearing little Nike shoes now."

Me: "Doesn't it make it hard for them to write?"

DG: *confused look* "Write what?"

Me: "In class. Don't they have to take notes in class?"

DG: "Don't be ridiculous, they're rats, they can't write. They memorize it."

Me: "Rats, wearing little Nike shoes to protect against stone bruises and blisters on their feet, memorize the tragic tale of the Road of Death during Shakespeare's time?"

DG: "Yup..."

Shortly thereafter, we were called into the appointment. I can only hope that the people who heard the story in the waiting room of the William S. Middleton Memorial Veteran's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin are sharing this story with their grandchildren.

Because- Knowledge is power and someone has to think of the poor stone-bruised and blistered rats.

**Edited to add**

I read this out loud to DG. He chuckled, laughed, denied saying some of the things- but of course, we know he did. Then he said, "Hey! I wonder if Jason's rats are related to them." (our almost-18 year old son has two pet rats) "We should go ask them if they know the story."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

You know that movie with that guy in it who does that thing?

That was an actual comment from the Disabled Guy to me at Wal-Mart one day. He was going through the "2 for $10" DVD bin for old movies. We "converted" to DVDs several years ago and while there's no shortage of newer flicks, the old ones are harder to find. And of course, a DVD for five bucks is a heck of a deal. (We had hundreds of VHS tapes. We now have 650 DVDs and counting. And yes, we've watched them all.)

That day at Wal-Mart, I asked him what he was looking for and he replied, "You know that movie with that guy in it who does that thing?"

I replied, "Oh, of course, that movie." There was some random customer looking through the other side of the bin who chuckled at us. Sadly, I did know what movie he was talking about- but not because of any psychic connection or anything. We had been talking about what movies he was looking for earlier that day.

Now, a few weeks ago...

I posted this conversation over on the snopes board the day it happened. And, for some reason, that day, the board was acting peckish and sometimes not loading, so I copied my posts before the Interwebs ate them. Then I saved this conversation so I could share it with my mom, who thinks some of the stuff I put up with is funny. (and it is, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this blog).

I'm in a DVD club where we get pretty good discounts and free DVDs from time to time. I take the discounts on older movies and we end up getting them practically for free. So, I ask the DG (as he will be called in the future because I'm getting tired of typing it out) if there was any movie he wanted me to look for. He laughed out that reply (the title) and then said he was looking for an older movie with "that guy" in it. So, I asked, "What guy? What else has he been in?"

That usually jogs his memory to tell me the actor's name or if he remembers another movie, then I can figure out who he's talking about.

him: "Dennis..."
me: "Dennis who?"
him: "That guy, you know that guy?" (with a chuckle, going back to that time when he said, "You know that guy in that movie?")
me: "I need something else to go on."
him: *tapping his forehead with his fingertips* "You know, Denny-Denz-Denz-ill..."
me: "Den-ZEL? Denzel Washington?"
him: "Yeah, yeah, that guy... and Dennis..." (here he trails off saying "Dennis" a couple of times).

So, I start scrolling the Denzel Washington movies and saying their titles. And then he comes up with this:

him: "LA Law- Confiden... you know...?" (he held out his hand, palm up).

me: "L.A. Confidential?"
him: "Yeah, you know that guy who looks like that guy in X-men but it isn't him? (and before I could say Guy Pearce, he said) Not that guy, but the guy he's arguing with?"
me: "Russell Crowe? We have that movie- American Gangster."
him: "No, no- well, yes, we do, but no. The one where the guy is a computer guy."
me: "Virtuosity...."
him: "Yeah! That was cool."
me: "We just went through all that shit to get to Russel Crowe and you could have said: "The guy in Gladiator"?"
him: "Yeah, we did."
me: "Why didn't you just say Gladiator?"
him: *pausing for a second* "It wouldn't have been as much fun!"

So you see, sometimes, he "gets it". Some days he's on the ball and he knows his brain is working overtime on a simple task. And on those days, he's generally in a good mood and we all have fun and joke about it. Very rarely does he get so frustrated that he gets angry about his speech and comprehension. The times he gets upset and hard to deal with are more related to his physical limitations than the mental ones.

And on another note, I know I've posted three blogs in three days. I don't want to get your hopes up and make it a regular thing. I'm mostly just typing these out as they come to me. That kind of sucks a little because it isn't in a chronological order. You'll adapt to this weirdness... just like I did.

Friday, December 25, 2009

What would you like for dinner?

Back when Jerry first became the Disabled Guy, he couldn't speak. He had to learn how to talk (and walk, and write, eat with utensils, and do all those things we take for granted). He also became stubborn. I used to have to argue with him to get him to shower every day- which we later found out was because he simply forgot that he hadn't showered.

Dinnertime became an argument as well. If he decided he didn't like what I made, he'd just not eat. He couldn't get anything to eat for himself (because he could only use one hand and used a claw-footed cane at the time), so he would literally go hungry. So, I started asking him in the morning, what he wanted for dinner. Since he couldn't speak (and after a while, could only say a word or two), the conversation would go like this:

Me: "What do you want for dinner? Spaghetti?"

He'd shake his head.


Head shake.

"Breakfast?" (as in eggs, bacon, grits)

Head shake.

And it would go on till he nodded.

After a month or so of therapy, he started saying one and two words at a time. He would also gesture with his hand, as if a random wrist flick would somehow indicate his point to us. During this time, he referred to me as "Mom" and my mother (who was staying with us at first) as "Gramma". This was because that's what the kids called us. So, I asked him what he wanted for dinner. (there's no point to telling you that now, other than it might come up again later. He didn't start calling me by my name or the usual "dear" that we've called each other forever for almost a year, maybe longer).

So, one night, this is how the dinner inquisition went-


"No." with a heavy sigh.


Another sigh and another "no".

I ran through the gamut of ground beef-related dinner foods I could make. And he said no to them all. I reached a level of frustration and blurted, "Well, what do you want for dinner?"

He held up his hand and rubbed his fingertips and thumb together. "H-hamburger..."


"No!" and he did the fingertip rub and said, "Haaaaaammmmmburrrrrgerrrr...." and he raised his eyebrows expectantly, as if he knew what he was saying.

We did this for a while, again with various dinner foods one can make with ground beef. He was getting as frustrated as I was and I could tell. All the while, he'd rub his fingertips together and enunciate the word "hamburger".

He furrowed his brow and looked at the ceiling. His face was (and still partly is) paralyzed on the right side and while he could hide his emotions on the left side of his face, he couldn't on the right. The right side of his mouth frowned deeply. He raised his fingers and put them in front of me and said, as slowly and calmly as he could: "Hammmmmm... burrrrr... gerrrrr..."

I raised my eyebrows in response- "Hamburger?"

And with his fingers still rubbing he said, "Sauce."

So I asked, "Sauce? Spaghetti?"

He angrily exclaimed: "NO!" He muttered the word sauce a few times then said, "Sams?" It was an excited question. He almost smiled in triumph. "Hamburger," he said with a pause (and his fingers rubbing), "Sams..." he sighed happily. "Hamburger... *pause* Sams. Haaammmbuuuuurgerrrr Saaaammmmzzz!"

"Hamburger Sams?"

He nodded excitedly. And still, rubbed his fingertips against his thumb.

"Hamburger Sams?" I said again. I said it a few times, then I asked, "Sloppy Joes?"

"THAT'S IT!" he exclaimed.

That was the day that Sloppy Joes became Hamburger Sams. We still call it that, even though he knows what it is and can (and does) use the correct word.

And for your enjoyment, here's a photo of Jerry wearing one of his Christmas gifts- I got him a leopard print Snuggie. He's on blood thinners and his paralyzed arm gets quite cold (even in the summer months). And the dog that is sprawled on his lap is Bruno- Luna's first puppy with Jasper as the father.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A quick intro...

The Disabled Guy- I started referring to him as that online because that's what he is and he knows it. He is aware that he's disabled. He despises the softened, politically correct things people use to describe him.


"Physically challenged"

He is disabled. Handicapped. If he wasn't disabled, he'd have a job and be earning a paycheck instead of living off disability from the Veteran's Administration.

He was twenty-eight years old (six months and ten days after his honorable discharge from the Army) when he was felled by the stroke. And that's literal- felled. He fell down. He was unloading the trailer to the semi-truck he drove (he became a long-haul trucker after the Army) when he staggered, dropped the box he was carrying and crumbled. This was told to me by the man who caught him. He said that Jerry had been talking and walking just fine and they were about half-done with their work. That's when he stopped talking, staggered and fell. The man, who looked like a black Arnold Schwarzenegger, caught him before he fell all the way down. Jerry ended up with only a scraped knee (as opposed to a broken arm, broken hip, head wound).

I've told this story so many times before- we were living in Savannah, Georgia. He had the stroke in a suburb of Washington DC and was in the hospital in Laurel, Maryland. Our kids were 5 1/2, 3, and 1 1/2 years old at the time. They have no memories of their father from before the stroke. He is paralyzed on his right side, has no use of his right hand and arm and walks with a slight limp.

The last fifteen years have been a challenge and filled with ups and downs and sometimes spirals and loop-de-loops. It hasn't all been good and it hasn't all been bad.

The disorders Jerry has- aphasia and apraxia- are common with brain injuries.


Fluent Aphasia (also called Wernicke's aphasia): People with Wernicke's aphasia usually have great difficulty understanding speech, and they are often unaware of their mistakes.

Non-fluent Aphasia: They often omit small words such as "is," "and," and "the." For example, a person with Broca's aphasia may say, "Walk dog," meaning, "I will take the dog for a walk."

There are other types of aphasia, each of which results from damage to different language areas in the brain. Some people may have difficulty repeating words and sentences even though they can speak and they understand the meaning of the word or sentence. Others may have difficulty naming objects even though they know what the object is and what it may be used for. **end of source**

Jerry has a combination of those three types. Sometimes he's unaware of his mistakes. We don't laugh at him or tease him when he's unaware. When we're alone (without our kids around), I'll let him know what his mistake was, but I don't make a scene out of the situation. He also drops words or adds words to what he's trying to say. Such as: "I beg to differ" comes out as "I beg to be differ". Plus he has trouble coming up with seemingly easy to recall words. He interchanges gender pronouns, calling our pets him or her (despite the actual gender of the animal). He also calls the kids by the wrong name at times- and by that, I mean he will pull a name out of his past from 25 years ago and call our kids by that name.

From the same site as above- the definition of Jerry's type of Apraxia.

Apraxia of speech: A severe speech disorder characterized by inability to speak, or a severe struggle to speak clearly. Apraxia of speech occurs when the oral- motor muscles do not or cannot obey commands from the brain, or when the brain cannot reliably send those commands. Children with apraxia can be helped significantly with intensive speech therapy.

And, of course, the more tired he is, the worse it gets.

I asked Jerry if he would mind if I started a blog about the "crazy shit" he says. He didn't care. I share snippets of our conversations with a few message boards I frequent. I have to say, the snopes Urban Legends Message Board group is by far the most appreciative and are part of the reason I thought about starting the blog.

The first few posts will be done from memory as I try to recall some of the more extensive conversations we've had. Today (Christmas Eve), Jerry had an argument with my Magic 8 Ball. You know, the toy you ask a question, shake up, and it presents a reply in a little window. This is the third argument in two weeks that he's had with my Magic 8 Ball. This argument culminated with him asking if I was insane (because I yelled at him to stop arguing with the 8 Ball). It kept saying: "Reply hazy", "ask again later", "cannot answer now". He sighed and shook the 8 Ball: "Why are you bein' so hard-headed!?"

I stood up, took the Magic 8 Ball from him. He was questioning MY sanity by asking a toy. Scratch that- by arguing with a toy.

He has also been known to refer to "disabled" as "disassemble". And he realizes it and says: "No disassemble, Stephanie!" (that's a reference to an 80s movie called "Short Circuit").

Another tidbit to leave you with- today he was watching the holiday episode of "iCarly" (he loves that show). Carly's brother built a magnetic Christmas tree that caught on fire. Kat (our 20 year old daughter) has never watched the episode and asked, as they were setting the tree up at the end of the episode, "They set it on fire again, don't they?"

The Disabled Guy replied: "No. They start humming the Snoopy song from Charlie's Angels."

For your enjoyment- here's a photo of the Disabled Guy.

We have three Chihuahuas and they're "his babies". The two pictured with him are Jasper (smaller, dark) and Luna (larger, fawn-colored). We have a puppy that is the result of Luna and Jasper- named Bruno. We also have a German Shepherd named Gypsy and four cats.

Oh, and just to show you, so you don't worry about him so much, Jerry is talented. After the stroke, he spent a lot of years puttering around the house. He'd follow behind me, doing the housework that I just finished. He'd reload the dishwasher after I loaded it, he'd dust the living room and vacuum. I finally stopped doing it. I figured, "Why bother?" because he'd just do it again ten minutes later. Before the stroke, Jerry used to build precision models. Airplanes, battleships, cars, trucks, helicopters, we even had the Starship Enterprise and a Klingon ship. Obviously, after losing the use of his one hand, he couldn't do that anymore.

He still managed to find his niche.

He builds things out of wood. Amazing things. ~Link to his Photobucket album~ All one-handed, left-handed.

Another quick sample to leave you with:

He asked: "What are you doing?" (his DVD just ended, so he had to get up)

I replied: "I started a blog called 'Conversations with the Disabled Guy'."

He exclaimed in mock anger: "WHY!?"

I answered: "Because you said I could."

He sighed, "Oh, yeah. Okay. So, is it good?"

I told him: "Not yet, but it will be."