Monday, October 11, 2010

The Right Word

It’s challenging to find the right word sometimes. We all experience those stumble-speak moments when the sought-after word escapes us. As the saying goes, it’s on the tip of the tongue but it won’t release itself and thus remains elusive like a familiar yet unnameable face.

What must it be like for those who look into the faces of their loved ones and can’t seem to recall who they are? That’s dementia. Over a year ago now my wife’s grandmother sat among us like someone waiting to cross the street. As we talked and visited around her, I wondered if we seemed like a blur of vans and trucks and semi-trailers rushing by in every-which-way because she couldn’t seem to engage, she couldn’t seem to cross. Instead she sat among us smiling while tears ran down her cheeks.

Do you know how difficult it is to have a conversation with someone without asking questions? Experiment with that sometime. It’s like rewiring your brain which is an appropriate comparison since those who experience dementia seem to be short-circuiting.

Today I relish the opportunity to still be able to find the right word. And right now I think that word is "saudade."

Sometimes one language doesn’t provide the perfect word so another language supplies its essence more eloquently. A Portuguese word, saudade refers to “the love that remains” or “the love that stays” after someone is gone. It’s an uncertain emptiness, a feeling of absence like a fond something or someone that should be there in a particular moment is missing. It’s that yearning and aching for “we know not what.” It’s like that song Time after Time, “after my picture fades and darkness has turned to gray, watching through windows, wondering if I’m okay....”

I think that’s what my wife’s grandmother is experiencing. And oddly, everyone surrounding her is experiencing the same thing, yet it’s her they long for. Not many things could be more difficult to cope with I suspect.

Today I am thankful to be able to find the right word.


Laoch of Chicago said...

This is very evocative, melancholy and sensitively rendered. Nicely done and may your wife’s grandmother have some moments of clarity.

Just SO said...

What a beautiful word. I have been in a conversation you described. With my grandmother. And it was difficult. She passed away not long ago. "Saudade" indeed.

Missy said...

WoW! I suppose we all take this for granted. My FIL has had a stroke and cannot "get out" what he wants, so he cries. It is sad!

t i m said...

One the elderly ladies at my church who had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the congregation stopped showing up for a while& upon her written several months later when her family brought her back in, she wasn’t quite the same person again as she had dementia, which was pretty sad to see but we’ll always cherish the many times she took to get to know everyone who walked though the church doors. 'saudade' it is

dbs said...

@LoC Thanks. Melancholy is a good word for this ongoing experience.

@Just SO Talking with grandparents was once so easy wasn't it?

@Miss I really hope I'm not in that situation some day, don't you?

@tim I notice people missing from church too and when they're elderly I really wonder how they're doing.

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