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View from a Caregiver:

Caregiving Aphasia and Apraxia Style

By Jean Riva



MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark

All the sweet, green icing flowing down...

Someone left the cake out in the rain

I don't think that I can take it

'cause it took so long to bake it

And I'll never have that recipe again

Oh, no!


I could throttle that guy---Jimmy Webb----who wrote those lyrics. I’ve spent so much time in my life trying to solve this mystery of ‘who left the cake out in the rain’ that I’ve about worn out my Dick Tracy badge and Nancy Drew books looking for clues. Why did they take a cake to the park in the first place? Was it an innocent sweetness for a picnic, or a hippie generation, drug-laced concoction? Was the cake a metaphor for crushed love? Did the song writer make a bet with a friend; a hit song about a cake, no problem! Was the song about the Vietnam War and the green frosting meant to be the causalities suffered by our soldiers? Did Jimmy compose that song in a music composition class, like the rumors say, or were the lyrics written in a blur of drugs and alcohol with no meaning what so ever? I want that song dumbed down for me, so I can quit worrying about the damned cake in the park!


Puzzling out the mysteries of MacArthur Park is actually good training for living with an aphasic and apraxia husband. If I hadn’t pondered the cake in the rain every time I’ve heard that song played, would my brain be able to get around something like understanding that “Butt my fold” translates to “Button my shirt?” Would I understand that, “Want a piece” is not a request for sex, but a man seeking help putting on his shoe? Without MacArthur Park would I know that “Sha-ming!” means Don’s doing his happy dance? My hippie era---my search for truth in language---everything in life comes back around again like horses on a carousel. Being a speech affected stroke survivor is like staring in a silent movie and I, the spouse of one, am the organ player sitting in the theater struggling to keep up with the action on the screen.


A synonym, a single word standing in the darkness of a cave with not one candle to aid as it searches for a way outside. A metaphor, a monster in a cage grabbing for the cake just outside its reach. We search for clues in our pasts---like that cake left out in the rain. Nothing makes sense. Nothing seems fair. And Don’s desperately trying to hold on to something that is flowing down, like green frosting in the rain. “I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it!” ….But Don and I do still have the recipe. It’s in my aphasia decoder ring, our shared history. Our walks in the park that allows me to translate many of the thoughts stuck in his brain. My heart mourns for the survivors who are too afraid to wade into Frustration Lake and find their own lost decoder rings sitting at the bottom, in the murky water.


I may never learn the true meaning of MacArthur Park, but if I do I’ll turn to solving another mystery that haunts me in the car while we’re on the way to having fun: ‘who let the dogs out?’


Jean is a caregiver to her husband who had a massive stroke 5/21/2000 that left him right side paralyzed and without speech. In addition to volunteering on Stroke Network message board, she also keeps a speech class diary in the Language Disorders forum and is a frequent contributor to the blog community.


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