In the week after my first speech therapy appointment (only 10 days after my stroke), I tried to talk my way out of the aftermath that had
been done to my brain. I thought of things to say aloud, and followed my facial and mouth exercises like a newly enrolled monk at the monastery. Something had to go wrong – the first was I developed accents, and Swedish was the first on the scene.
When my family noted my accent I took it to mean because of Wallander
(I had been following the Swedish cop TV series, complete with English
subtitles). For a moment I thought I might have foreign language syndrome, the
ability to speak foreign languages through some brain fart.
(I personally knew of this happening because I got to know Billy Milligan in my reporting days. He
could do unusual things, among them was to speak Arabic and Croat, even Etonian
style English even though he never left the Midwest of America. But that was
because of child abuse, giving way to multiple personalities. That’s another story, soon to be a major motion picture, so they say. You can read the screenplay about it here from James.)
I watched an episode of Wallander and I could understand the language! But that was because the BBC made a version in English with Kenneth
The Swedish version still was incomprehensive except with subtitles.
Then, occasionally, I would lapse into New Yawk-ese – “ jesus gawd, I need a cuppa kaw-fee, an dis time I’m being honest witcha.” Right from The Sopranos.
Through each phase – Swedish and New Yawk – Amoret and my youngest daughter considered this my finest comedy hour and would fall apart laughing at my impressions when I was just trying to ask a simple question. Well, that triggers me laughing for no particular reason. I told you I have a laughter/cry response syndrome (my assessment) as an aftermath from the stroke that kicks in whenever it feels like it. I take their laughter like a true professional comedian, although I haven’t put in the work. To top it all off Amoret tells me I don’t sound like Wallander – I sound more like the Swedish Chef off The Muppet Show.
Whatever the accent, the words that come out are sparse. I speak in incomplete sentences minus the ifs, ands or buts. (My mother used to say,
meaning the complete truth: “no ifs, ands or buts.”) I was telling the truth but I could say was: “Want to go? Out with dogs?”
(Does that sound Swedish?)
In the week between my first and second appointment with Catherine I practiced everything I was given, sometimes even five or six times
a day. I didn’t feel I had improved, yet I couldn’t wait to get back to speech therapy to soak up more of her secrets to unlocking this wheel clamp on my brain.