I suppose I have had enough time to collect my thoughts about my stroke. Although my motto has been, “Never look back,” I think this might be an exception to the rule. I have had an experience that I am trying not to have affect my life, but I did bring a few articles out of the experience.
I experienced aphasia. After teaching about it for 30 years or so, I finally now know first hand the frustration that accompanies it.
Surgery left me suffering from echolalia, the inability to originate speech but only repeat what I heard. Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are located in the left hemisphere, the hemisphere affected by my stroke. They control what I call ‘morphemes’ and ‘lexemes’, respectively in my morphological theory, Lexeme-Morpheme Base Morphology. Morphemes are what others call ‘functioin words’ plus affixes; lexemes are the stems of words.
The test for area of the brain is whether I recalled the grammatical morpheme (or just ‘morphemes’ in my lexeme-morpheme based theory). I tried to say the personal pronouns—they were there. I next tried using the verbal suffixes, -s, -ing, and -ed and, if I tried, I could find them and express them. The stroke was a first-hand, up-close test of my theory. I was out of the theoretical realm and in the clinical.
I could still use idioms, ‘climbing the wall’, ‘left holding the bag’, ‘fly off the handle’ for they are stored in the right hemisphere, which was unaffected either by my bleed or by surgery. But I couldn’t construct sentences from their parts, lexemes and morphemes. Slowly but surely this ability returned to me. I was lucky.
Second, it seemed that many more people cared for me than I had imagined. I’m a recluse, sitting behind my computer monitor seven days a week. I know more people around the world than in Lewisburg. My lovely wife of 50 years, Faye, was there throughout each and every day with me and some nights. But I was impressed by the visits from friends, neighbors, and employees. Sometimes five or six at the time. It was wonderful.
Finally, it struck me how much a human being knows and how much we lose each time one dies. Although I was never near death (that I know of), I gave it a lot of thought. I try to write out much of what I know and publish it at alphadictionary.com. But I carry so much more in my head. Some are trivial, passwords, accounts, how to pay bills, when the house needs painting, the gutters need cleaning, and so on and so forth. But others are insights that I have accumulated, examined, sorted, and stored over the course of my life. I shudder to think how many that might be.
But other things are not written down: my knowledge of politics, philosophy, economics, literature, art, and music. I taught a course on these subjects as pertain to the old USSR. I actually workied my way through high school and college playing jazz piano, right when jazz was turning into rock and roll. My wife keeps urging me to write the editor of the local newpaper about my views of US politics and economics. I’m writing at a desk that I built after coming up from a kitchen I designed (twice) and built.
I guess I could sum up the experience by saying that it heightened my appreciation of myself, my body and mind, and those of others.