Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Further in Michigan

Ruth has a boyfriend. Did I mention that Ruth was 84? She says her boyfriend calls her every night. Well, at first I thought that the boyfriend was like “Harvey” the imaginary rabbit in the James Stewart movie. It is very hard to picture Ruth talking on the phone each night and actually making sense, because she has trouble understanding the spoken word. But Ruth says she is very good on the phone.
Later on I confirmed this with one of her sons. At least we know that his name is not Harvey. She says he is 90 years old, a very good dancer with the right moves. Three years ago Ruth lost her husband of 50 odd years. Then she moved to a retirement community in Florida, where she made new friends, among which also a Boyfriend! She is clearly taken by him.
We (My family and I) also made friends with Max and George and their wives Joy and Joanne. George, who is by far the more handicapped person, seems the happier one among the two of them. Max, for some reason, has no patience it seems. Every time I try to communicate with him, he loses his temper. Today at lunch time I was trying to find out everybody’s favorite color. When I came to talk with Max I the conversation went as follows:
“Max, what is your favorite color?” – I write down the words, blue, green, red, yellow, purple, orange… He looks at me as if he doesn’t understand. I repeat “what is Your favorite color?” This time I point out to the different colors I see around. “Is it blue like my shirt? Red like Ruth’s sweater?” This time he is clearly confused. He shakes his head repeatedly. I don’t give up for I want to reach him, to communicate with him. So I run out to the art room and grab different colors of pencils. I think, if I stick to one type of material and the only difference is the color, I may be able to communicate the concept of ‘color’ to him. I run back, clearly proud of my thinking. When I approach Max again, he literally runs away from me, well because he is wheelchair bound, he wheels away. I approach him again, he wheels away again. O.K. I get it! He is frustrated and he doesn’t want to deal with me any more – I laugh and turn this into a game of “Tag”.
Later, I ask my counselor Marie, what was the problem with Max, what blocked him from understanding the concept of color. Marie said Max isn’t ready to understand higher order concepts yet, especially a concept like “favorite”, he may understand “color” but he may not understand “favorite” especially in relation with color. Although of course he knows what his favorite color is, it is blue, I have asked his wife Joy. His eyes are blue, he picks up blue shirts among many others… But he cannot decipher the words “what is your favorite color?”

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