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the website for a selection of writing by Stuart and Beryl Donnan
in Southampton UK, and links to the wider Donnan family

written by Stuart
Wednesday 11th March 2004

musings on problems with words nearly 4 years after Beryl's stroke

Back to list of Stuart's personal writing

website updated on 18 September 2016

Words fail me.
I am speaking, of course, for her
But that is not what she really wants
And I often used to interrupt her – even speak for her
Before the stroke
Even though I was signed up to feminist principles as much as she was.
But if I were to speak for her
(And sometimes – frequently – now she asks me to)
I would say that names and numbers are the words which really faze me
But that’s me breaking in again with one of my wisecracks.
“Aphasia” is what I have (she says)
(Hence my ‘faze’ joke)
(Who’s doing the talking here – I keep taking over when she’s speaking?)
Aphasia - where words won’t and don’t come to mind or come out right
Especially when I’m weary or stressed or taken by surprise.
I used to read and write and talk and advise and counsel – even preach!
And although I had learnt to be quiet and still and to listen,
Nevertheless the words were part of what I was.
And now words fail me
And it’s the inability to get words in by reading and out by writing
which is more devastating than the inability to speak the words.
Words fail me – but sometimes I can’t help feeling
(Because I was brought up in a context of judgement and blame – especially of myself)
That in fact I fail the words.

Words fail us.
We were advised – warned – about how difficult negotiation would be
And that’s just one of the innumerable helpful inputs from the wonderful therapist
Who came to support her – and us.
Could two frustrated people possibly be better than one frustrated person?
Perhaps in as much as they (we) keep talking – or trying to talk
Maybe after a break – even a walk
Or a glass of something – but careful with the drugs she’s taking,
Moderate alcohol only!
Sometimes words do go right –
And can be praised (can that be right?)
“Accolade” – that was one of her really good words early on,
The very first however being “organise”
And we can laugh about that
And when we don’t feel unwell we can manage laughs
And good chats with children and grandchildren
And even newer acquaintances.
It’s not all bad, we sometimes think.
Words fail us – but not all the time
And occasionally the slightly wrong word makes us all laugh together!

So do words fail me? (This is me.)
I’m doing quite well with these words now that I’ve got started.
Getting started with writing has never been very easy, even with writing for work.
Often I’m not sure what I really think – there are too many possibilities.
However, in the context of chronic illness and disability and dysphasia
But also in the context of a meditation group which we have both joined recently
And of the Quaker meeting which I have joined,
Perhaps there is much for me in the quiet
And it’s not always and entirely a negative thing when
Words fail me.