Could an Orchid Have Saved My Grandmother’s Brain?
I used to love listening to my grandmother talk. Raised in Ohio but a Southerner for the bulk of her adult life, she had a quirky accent. When she came to visit us in New York, my younger brother and I would jump onto her bed every morning and demand that she read to us. This gave us more time to listen to her voice as it rose and fell over the text in a unique cadence.
Sadly, by the end of my grandmother’s life we didn’t have the fun of listening to her speak. Between 1987 and 1999, we watched her slowly deteriorate from a lovingly connected and chatty family member to an almost mute woman who spoke in single words or strings of numbers. She had been a bookkeeper, so my grandmother’s substitution of numbers for letters made sense to my mother, who acted as interpreter as Alzheimer’s disease eroded my grandmother’s speech and other brain centres.