A thin layer of snow, left over from yesterday's first snow of the season, blankets the ground in Denver. The phone rings, and I check the caller ID which reveals it’s from “Sweet Life.” I’m curious, so I pick up the receiver.
“Hi Kathleen. This is Aunt Eileen. Are you up yet?” It is my 90+ year old aunt from Kansas City. I don’t go through my usual spiel of “I prefer to be called Kate” and don’t tell her that I’ve been up for five hours. I am relieved because I know that she can carry on a one-sided conversation. Her voice is strong, clear and easy to understand. The exchange goes something like this:
Eileen: After my fall, they put me in a place called the Sweet Life. I don’t know how to describe it.
Kate: A rehab?
Eileen: Yes, a rehab. They are giving me physical therapy. They have a machine where you roll around the floor. I wish I would have invented it.
(I always thought it odd that a place crammed with seniors receiving physical therapy after their falls would be called a rehab. When I think of rehab, I think of Lindsay Lowen or Britney Spears. Perhaps this is why Eileen’s rehab is called the Sweet Life.)
Eileen: They come around asking the same strange questions trying to determine if I’m competent. I’m not sure that I am. Your sister, Patty, came by yesterday to help me pay my bills. Patty wrote the checks, and I signed them with EMK.
I told the leader of the support group that you wrote a book about Parkinson’s.
Kate: No, Eileen, it’s not a book. It’s a blog.
Eileen: A what?
Kate: I slowly spell it: B-L-O-G. It’s on the Internet.
Eileen: Well, how much does your book cost?
Kate: I say it strongly and with energy, “It’s not a book. It’s on the computer.”
Eileen: I can’t hear you. I just don’t understand.
In frustration, we give up on this so-called conversation. We say our goodbyes, and I put down the phone.
I weep about the losses of past, present and future communication that Parkinson’s has stolen from me. I long for the days when my ability to speak, be heard and understood was so comfortable, so automatic and so spontaneous. Perhaps I should get rehab at the Sweet Life.