Monday, February 1, 2010


Marty's a hummer. I don't mean that in a pejorative sense, I mean it in a literal sense. She hums all of the time.

Many stroke patients develop some sort of outward affect, some kind of involuntary verbal or physical symptom as a result of the brain damage. When you think about the damage done to a person's brain cells by the stroke it's not surprising.  The stroke simply realigns everything.

When Marty first started recovering from her 2nd stroke she would cry a lot.  It wasn't with tears or sobbing or wailing, it was vocal crying.   To this day I don't know if this was voluntary, involuntary, conscious or unconscious. She certainly had every reason to cry and she didn't seem to be able to control it. It wasn't 100% of the time, but there was a lot of the crying affect, in particular if her mind wasn't otherwise occupied. I became somewhat desensitized to the whole thing, but it was a very emotional issue for all and could be quite disconcerting to the uninitiated. This lasted for several months and I found myself singing with Marty whenever we went to the Doctor's office to keep her distracted.  An occupied mind helped and that wasn't easy.

The crying evolved into, "oh, oh, oh”, a lot of "oh, oh, oh." This was better than the crying but it could be very distracting and just didn't allow us to go anywhere that required quite time. Marty, I don't think, was ever even aware she was saying "oh, oh, oh."

"Oh, Oh, Oh" eventually evolved into a quite, sort of rhythmic humming. It's not musical; it's more like white noise. I suspect some people might find it a bit bothersome, most are not even aware.  I'm the one most attuned to it. I know for a long time I worried about it bothering others. When we went to church one Sunday I cautioned Jimmie, our Minister, not to be offended if Marty started humming. He just looked at me, turned to the congregation and told them if Marty started humming it was okay, given what she had been through. Amen brother, Jimmie helped with the burden.

The only time it has ever been an issue was when we went to hear Ann LaMotte speak at the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas. Ann LaMotte was one of Marty's favorite authors. The daughter of good friend from our church had arranged to get us tickets knowing how much Marty loved LaMotte. This was really one of our first big kinds of outings. Our friend arranged for seating for us at the back and we were enjoying LaMotte’s readings and discussion with Marty doing her humming when a lady assisting with the program tapped me on my shoulder and said Marty was bothering the people around us.  If that happened today I would tell her to kiss off, back then, I was apoplectic. I know it's ridiculous, but I was embarrassed for me and for Marty and for the rest of the program kept trying to keep her quite, she tried so hard and the latter part of the program was pretty much ruined.

Today, Marty still hums. Today it rarely bothers me and my family has assured me it really doesn't bother anyone else. When we go to the movies we go early in the afternoon and sit in the front, no one for her to bother but me and I'm actually quite used to it.  Unfortunately we probably won't be seeing any stage productions or go to the symphony, but that's okay. 
I have grown fond of the sound; it's actually soothing at this point. I think when Marty holds Noah and hums he kind of digs it too, it’s like this low constant noise that is somehow comforting.  When Marty's humming I know she is there and doing okay. When Marty is humming I know she is breathing, I know she’s alive. Today, when Marty is humming, I can hum too. It's one more gift from the stroke, it's what she does, and it’s now what we do. 

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