Last week I learned that one of my former horn students graduated college and is engaged to be married. Wow. I thought he only graduated high school just three years ago. True. He graduated college in three years....the overachiever.
Brian began horn lessons when he was in 8th grade, 8 years ago. He was the type of student who resisted rote learning and avoided repetition much to my chagrin. Brian preferred to intellectualize everything.
By the time he hit high school, he was bold and confident. One of his 'endearing' traits was to correct you if you spoke incorrectly. This served to highlight the oddities in my verbal skills which had increased in recent years.
Even as a teen, I would transpose syllables within a word or between two different words, often jumbling it such that two nonsensical words emerged. It wasn't until Brian that I became aware that I was frequently substituting words completely. The only connection which seemed to be present was that the new word often started with the same letter as the correct word.
This little oddity almost went unnoticed as long as I kept going in the conversation and didn't pause. Until Brian....
He would stop and correct me, providing the correct word. My interrupted response was usually along the eloquent lines of, "What?"
"You said measure and you meant metronome."
"Well, ok. You understood what I meant. Let's move on."
This continued through the years 2000-2005 until Brian graduated high school. These years also correlate with the time between a major optic neuritis attack in 2000 and the eventual multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2005.
Sometimes Brian and I would circle around the correct pronunciation of a word. Take for instance the word - respite. I preferred: \ˈres-pət\. Brian insisted that was I incorrect and that it is: \ri-ˈspīt, or ˈres-ˌpīt\. It's very silly, but we circled around this difference for minutes. He thought that my Okie roots had corrupted my pronunciation skills.
Brian also would complete my sentences for me if I paused for just a moment. Often he was correct but sometimes he guessed my thoughts incorrectly. It was hard to fluctuate between not wanting him to "put words in my mouth" and resorting to "you know what I mean."
There have been other students to 'help' me along but Brian is the most memorable. It is somewhat common that MS patients experience changes in cognitive function and verbal fluency. I am special in that I have several human barometers who reflect my verbal deficiencies right back at me. Often we laugh about it and students get used to me asking, "does that word look right to you?" when I have trouble spelling the most common of words.
That's what this journey through life with multiple sclerosis requires - laughter.
Next Up: The Mermaid in the Pool