Of speaking and silence

CarolineWithSky“Caroline, help Lisa with her seatbelt.” I handed my daughter her classmate’s buckle.

Lisa said, “I got it,” in her nasal, robotic voice.

Caroline tilted her head and moved her mouth, but nothing came out. Her words had gone away again.

I climbed in up front and scanned the permission slip. “Crap, Scott which thing are we going to?”

Scott finished clicking in Sam. “Which what? Yogurt shop?”


“I thought you knew.”

“Well, I don’t, and the paperwork doesn’t say.”

“I’ll go in and ask.”

“The teachers are right there. Ask them.”

A minute later, with the right destination in hand, we started out of the lot. “Everybody buckled in back there?”

Caroline said, “Ah… ahh.”

Sam clarified, “Sis still has Lisa’s seatbelt.”

“Well, Caroline, either hand it to her or help her out, honey.”


Lisa repeated, “I got it,” in exactly the same tone as before.

Caroline handed over the buckle as I watched. Scott remained parked at the top of the school’s driveway, the teachers’ car waiting to go behind us. Lisa did not fasten herself. “I got it,” she assured me, her voice unchanged and uninflected.

“Well, go ahead and get it.” I hoped my voice didn’t betray my impatience. We were almost the last car out of the lot, and everyone would be there waiting for the teachers to go inside, while we sat here holding them up.

Lisa stared at the seatbelt. “I got it.”

Caroline said, “She… she…”

“Oh, I give up!” I handed Scott the permission slip and got out of the car with a wave to the minivan behind us. I opened up the backseat and I fastened Lisa in.

“I got it,” Lisa said.

Sam said, “No, my Mom got it.”

Caroline added, “Lisa can’t do buckles!” Which was probably what she had been trying to tell me all along.

We drove to the yogurt shop in relative peace. Caroline was quiet; Lisa announced, “I got it,” at periodic intervals; and Sam stopped countering her after the third declaration. I felt certain she had it. But whatever it was, I could bet it had nothing whatsoever to do with my car.

We arrived in time to see the rest of both classes, a total of fourteen students, waiting outside as we had predicted. Our three would make seventeen kids in all, with a total of nine chaperones in addition.

As soon as I opened Sam’s door, he bellowed “I’m going in with Miss H!” and took off across the parking lot.

The teacher took his hand and scolded him about running near cars while Scott let the girls out the other side. Lisa stopped Caroline with a hand and said, “I got it,” for the umpteenth time. Caroline, sitting with her feet hanging out onto the pavement, cocked her head, wordless once more. Lisa bent down and tied my daughter’s shoe in a perfect double knot.

I mouthed Can’t buckle? to Scott.

He shrugged. “Thanks for getting that,” he told Lisa.

Lisa nodded crisply. “I got it.”

Inside, we dispatched the kids in pairs to get their yogurt, one chaperone for each set of children. They ranged in ages and ability levels. Some of them could manage their bowls with ease, while others would have tilted and spilled without an adult to help dispense and top. One machine ran out just as Miss H pulled down the handle.

Beep beep

“Here’s another vanilla,” the teacher assured the little boy whose large eyes were fastened on her hands.

“Beep, beep, beep, beep.” Ten little voices picked up the machine’s chorus. Caroline and two others covered their ears. An employee, one of the three who had not reacted to the initial sound, ran over to hit a button and make the racket stop. She looked at the chaperones, clearly unnerved because none of us silenced the kids when they squeaked along with the computerized noise.

Another one of the mothers rolled her eyes behind the staffer’s back.

“Sorry for the delay back there,” I told Miss H. “We had trouble with the thing … the …”

“Seatbelt,” Scott supplied.

“Yes, that. Lisa couldn’t buckle it, but she couldn’t tell us, and Caroline had run out of words even though she knew what was wrong. Caroline’s whatever was in full force.”

“Her what?” Miss H paused in adding cherries to the little boy’s bowl.

“Um. Thing. Her… she loses track of words and can’t remember even very common ones. It’s the language disorder that interferes with her ability to talk when she’s feeling almost any kind of stress… the…”

“Aphasia,” said Scott. “She has aphasia.”

“Yes,” I said, blushing. “She has that.”


About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Of speaking and silence — 41 Comments

  1. oh.
    First, that picture of Caroline is gorgeous. Something about it makes me want to hug her.

    second, you know that since I had the boys..and the fibromyalgia was finally diagnosed, I lose words too? It’s why even writing has become so hard for me…because I can spend a good minute or two (which is a long time when you just want to write) to find the word I need…easy words, everyday words..sometimes I’ll be talking to the boys and I’ll want to say something and I have to picture it in my head…a comforter, a spoon, a toy whatever so I can “FIND” the word.

    it’s hard to do that and so I feel for Caroline, I do. I know how dumb I feel sometimes, how “JESUS I USED TO KNOW THAT WORD or that phrase without thinking about it” but the migraines and the fibro..just took some of that.

    I guess I just felt a lot reading this, like wanting to hug your daughter and let her know, ‘She’s not alone” and that however she gets there..to find the words..is a good path.

    love to you both.
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    • And she gets it from me. Totally. Not all her symptoms are hand-me-downs-from-Mom, but this one is absolutely. I can talk all around a word, describing it in intricate detail with all the factual accuracy of Merriam-Webster, and yet I still fail to find the actual word I WANT. (Also, I can’t remember the synonym for ‘word’ I was going to type back there.)

      So we have conversations like this:
      Me: Scott, honey, when you come to the table can you bring me a … um .. .you know .. .scoopy thing … I want it to eat soup…
      Him: Spoon
      Me: Yes! And also, I need a thingie to wipe my face…
      Him: Napkin
      Me: No, we’re out of those, now that you mention it. The other thing. With the Holder over on the counter.
      Him: Paper towel?
      Me: No, no, no, the thin ones, for snot.
      Him: Tissue. You need a tissue.
      Me: Yes.

  2. This is so lovely. Just all around. You have the moment captured so well without having to TELL us every dang thing. Fabulous. I about died with the chorus of beeping.
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    • It was really funny, because the need to repeat mechanical sounds is often a symptom of Asperger’s syndrome, but some of the kids “singing” along have only been diagnosed with ADHD.

  3. As a first time visitor to your blog, I was initially confused. But as I read on, and saw that last perfect last line, I understood. I love how your form and content are united. Daughter loses words. Mama can’t find words. It’s a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. I am here from Yeah Write. Nice to meet you.
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    • Waving hello! Thanks for visiting. I’m infamous for dropping people down in the middle of things, sometimes just a little TOO late for people to get their bearings. Hope you’re loving what you read. YW is a fun meme.

  4. You do such a wonderful job of telling a story in such a way that I feel like I’m a participant in the tale, and not just watching from the outside.
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    • I’m so glad. There are some really fun moments in parenting kids on the spectrum, and I want to capture those as much as I can ,because I know I’ll also be a repository for the stress-stories, too!

  5. You do a fantastic job of capturing the feeling that goes along with losing words (something that even happens to me from time to time) when we’re stressed, and the way it mimics your daughter’s condition was poignant.

  6. It’s so easy to lose patience in a moment like this and I love that you watched your voice to make sure that you were not allowing yours to show. Sometimes as a mom I need to be more aware of that.
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  7. First your daughter is beautiful! Second I love this. It’s told so simply but it really pulls a reader in. I cannot relate to the aphasia but I know some people who can so this hit close to home. Great post!

  8. I can relate to this, at least taking the kids on a trip part. Just last week I took one of 2 bus loads of grade 5’s on a field trip to the city. I love doing it, but it still amazes me that everybody remains accounted for.

    You did a lovely job of putting me right there with you as you struggled to get all of you little ducklings in a row. I liked that. Well done. 🙂
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  9. I love the way you are so matter of fact about things. I get the feeling you very often hit the exact right balance of challenging your children to do more and making adjustments for their abilities.

    That word thing – the aphasia? I call that my menopause brain. It never used to happen to me and then all of a sudden wham. Frustrating isn’t it?

  10. A perfect little glimpse into your life as a family. I so enjoy reading these snippets, made beautiful by your choice of words. You are a master. Thanks for the peek.