Listening to a client's story
It’s challenging to understand him because of how the stroke affected his speech. Despite this barrier, he is one of my favorite patients.
Frustration pushes through when he uses a slightly raised voice to help train slurred letters into annunciated words.
His daughter joined us for the session today and brought so much richness. She was helping him unpack his belongings in his long term care new room and helped translate the slurs (even though I continued to encourage and prompt him to be more clear). He shared how he recalled Roosevelt's election...
Speaking of stories...He was a writer and in her unpacking-hands she held his stories, his own short stories. These small pamphlets held history, revealing of this man before me. She shared one, in particular, for me to read today. With utter eagerness, I sat immersed in my first read after our session ended. As I returned the short story to his room, I stood thanking her (while her Dad was in another room) saying, “Thank you for being here today. You really helped make it special and helped me learn more about your Dad (that seemed to make the whole experience special for him, too). His stories are so fascinating and you seemed to help draw them out.”
With a simple wisdom, she said, “You know, sometimes they just don’t tell their stories because they don’t realize they are stories. To them, they are just their life.”
And with that I felt extra gratitude, which rested like a bookmark between the shared stories of my clients...I felt eager to practice listening for, and creating a space of, comfort and curiosity to let more oral history to unfold.
Just for today: What story did I listen to today? What did I learn about my client today?