Lost for words

11 Jan

I have been toying for a while with writing about my mum. There are several things that have put me off. Primarily it’s because I don’t wish to solicit your sympathy, for my sake or hers. Also, I don’t want to expose her, or sentimentalise her situation. But I’ve decided to put aside those concerns. The reason I want to talk about her is to do with language.

My mum has a form of dementia called Pick’s disease and the most obvious manifestation is not loss of memory but loss of language. She was once a gregarious, occasionally garrulous, woman, the sort of person that would always speak to strangers on a bus or in a supermarket, just because she was friendly (often to my embarrassment, fool that I am).

Unfortunately over the last few years her communication has been reduced to an apparently meaningless scramble of sounds from which a word emerges occasionally. I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be for her. She has not lost her marbles, just her ability to name them. Yet you sense that the world around her has become increasingly confusing, bereft of meaningful context, the chatter of human companionship.

So, the few words she gets out have tremendous importance, and it’s not always possible to decipher that importance. Sometimes they just end up lost and conversations end in tears and a sense of helplessness, even over something as simple as offering her a cup of tea.

Her main communication tool is her mobile phone, she texts odd messages which are often hard to decipher. She also reads the Guardian every day and sends her children (there are five of us) clippings that she thinks will interest us. She also writes short letters and postcards.

I leave you with this recent example.

Words are precious. Cherish them. x

mum's postcard


I’d like to add a sympathetic thank you to everyone who has commented/replied here and on twitter to my blog. I should also give credit to my sisters Claire and Charlotte who live in Suffolk near my mum and visit her on a day to day basis while I am far away in Devon.


19 Responses to “Lost for words”

  1. karenatstepney January 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Your skill with words is a great ongoing tribute to her. Moved and grateful.

  2. willowearth January 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Words and love so precious … Sharing them touches others hearts, thank you. Blessed Be x

  3. Mo McF (@Mcfarlmo) January 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    I am lost for words after reading this. My Grandmother lost her ability to speak English at the end of her life (she was Welsh) but could always communicate in Welsh. Your poor Mum doesn’t even have that x

  4. Too-Ticky (@dharawal) January 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    so moving. words are all I have.

  5. Viriconia January 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    Yes, Moose’s Mum, I will, always 🙂

  6. @bohemiangirl January 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Her postcard made such perfect sense to me “Always leave love”. What a beautiful thought to have.

  7. Kate January 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Wow, brutal. I cannot imagine how distressing it must be to lose language. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  8. Julia Williams January 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    That is so beautiful & sad. Thanks for sharing. My father was an English teacher, who had the best command over the English language of anyone I have ever known. To hear him talk was always a delight. Three months before he died he had a stroke which robbed him too, of his speech. I thought it was the cruellest thing that could happen to him. But he like your mum, always communicated his love for us. Sending you many good wishes. Parents getting old is a real bummer.

  9. Amanda Porter January 12, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Bless her – she must be proud of the fact that so many people like reading your words Moose.

  10. donegaladventurecentre February 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Reblogged this on Study Abroad Ireland and commented:
    We thought this was something special. Hit me right in the solar plexus.

  11. ceciliamjt February 6, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Reblogged this on Cecilia Unlimited and commented:
    The power of words, demonstrated so heartbreakingly well

  12. iloveeyelash February 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    That’s lovely. I have recently had some experience with losing words myself and it is devastating. She must be a wonderfully positive person to stay so determined to use them and obviously she is absolutely right to do so. My father was like that for the last 24 hours of his life so I couldn’t understand what he needed to tell me as his last words. It killed me, but I was close enough to him to have a good idea what they were. Stay close.

  13. Soren Frederiksen (@sernfrederiksen) February 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    How nice. An uncle has Parkinson’s. An old family friend — as gregarious as your mother, it sounds — isn’t the same, can barely speak, after a stroke.

    They’re no good, these diseases.

  14. Rosie Fiore February 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    My mum died of kidney failure, and the chemical imbalances in her body towards the end caused some neurological issues. she developed aphasia for a while, and although she only spoke a little of each, her ability to speak Afrikaans and French came back before her English. The brain is a strange and mysterious thing, and losing parts of someone you love, often long before you lose them, is one of the hardest things. My sympathy to you. I know whereof you speak.

  15. Helena February 6, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. I don’t know how much it cost you, but the value of it is inestimable.

  16. @PtheP November 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Such a sad situation. I know how frustrating it is just in that brief moment when ‘le mot juste’ just won’t come, so this must take that to the nth degree.

    Just one (forlorn??) hope …. given @McFarlmo’s post it may be worth getting a welsh speaker in.?

    • mooseallain November 12, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank you for your thoughts but my mum doesn’t (didn’t) speak Welsh!


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