Jane and Ron delight in life, family, nature, music, puzzles, and the soft breezes that pushed through the weeping willows once, across their stretch of lawn.
They savor the taste of light as it grows and widens spreading day, only to retreat to sleep a while before the filtered gleam of dawn shuffles through the blinds to fall across their bed, awaken them again.
Married seven years, in 1973 at the age of 34, with his wife Jane pregnant with their second child, Ron had surgery to replace his aortic valve. Three months later he suffered a massive stroke leaving him with the residual effects of right-side paralysis and aphasia.
For twenty-five years Ron worked as the bookkeeper for Jane and the the company she operated-two senior housing communities-while they raised their two daughters. Watching ballgames on weekends resulted in all becoming avid sports fans. Today all things ball continue to be a favored mode of engagement.
In 1997 Jane and Ron retired to live in a small cottage on Lake Oconee, not far from their long-time Decatur, Georgia, home. Then in 2005, Ron and Jane followed daughters and grandchildren north as far as Durham, North Carolina. Today Jane writes poetry and facilitates memoir writing in the continuing studies program at Duke. Ron works giant jigsaw puzzles and pays the bills. Both relax in the comfort of their apartment inside a retirement community, and look forward breakfast and dinner with friends every day.
More than a list of nouns, language transfers meaning from one heart to another, informing, questioning, encouraging.
Last week at our four-party dinner table our friend said, ”We ate at the best Thai restaurant at Main and Greene.”
”I know the spot! Next door is a barbecue shack I can’t name… Sometimes our daughter Rhonda meets us there.”
Then he uttered his single words, added gestures.
When he tries to speak I no longer want to guess. Thirty-four years since that stroke, yet again, I am trying to fit together the puzzle of his thought.
Aha, I’ve got it! Sticky Fingers, the barbecue place in Charleston where we ate three years ago with our other daughter Holly, her husband Jim.
I say, ”Sticky Fingers”. Ron pushes his notepad toward me. I write ”Sticky Fingers.” He smiles.
In his aphasia group on Monday, he may say: Charleston…Holly…EatIt…Ahw…Longtime…ThisOne…SameThing…uh…eat…
Then press his fingers together, hold as if they will not come apart, hoping they will say Sticky Fingers…Maybe not. For one small second I imagined he would tell our friends tonight about another time and place
when he and I shared a table, candlelight and music witnessing our soft voices and bright eyes, focused solely on each other.
Tonight he pockets pad and pen then scans the room, flashing his cheery smile to all who look his way. I feel alone, together.
He lifts his glass, sips tonight’s sweet tea. I paint a smile across my face straining to remember to be grateful for our efforts.
Jane Penland Hoover
Jane Hoover’s blog: http://jpenstroke.blogspot.com/