Mondays with Mom: “Leet”

I think one of the most endearing things about older babies is their desire to talk They can vocalize all kinds of noises as the patterns for future language are developed in their brains. Their babble is a precursor to speech and they can fixate on a particular sound or cadence, trying it out at different volumes or audio frequencies. I enjoy hearing babies communicate with each other using these “pre-words” sounds with patterns that mimic speech.

On the other end of life, babbling is more difficult to enjoy. Mom will fixate on a particular sound and most often now her sound of choice is a simple “leet.” Since she will call out for her daddy or Bean (see here for more about him), I searched for a name to correspond with that sound. One of Mom’s sisters was named Olli Lee and I thought she might be calling for her. Just like her calling for Bean is sometimes shortened to “Bee,” I considered a nickname or an abbreviation of her sister’s name. After months of listening to this babbled sound, I decided it was simply a fixation on her part to saying the word or feeling the word in her mouth.

I wish I understood more of the science behind babbling – especially this level of perpetual sound. Unless Mom is asleep, she is calling for her daddy or Bean or making nonsensical words or phrases. If I go into another room as she is sleeping, her talking will give me a start. I feel much like I did when I had newborns. Their talking would put me on high alert and I’d strain to listen for stress or unhappiness in their voices. Mom can go from silence in sleep to babble to calling out and back in the space of one minute. A few minutes later, her voice can take on an agitation as she does it again.

Especially during the night, this pattern of babble can drive me bonkers. Patting her hand to soothe her might help for a minute or two. Once in a while, the pink noise from the sound machine will help. Currently, one of the lift chairs is out of service, locked in a slightly forward position so sitting beside her and resting is difficult. Last night, I slept beside her on the hospital bed – another difficult place because of the plastic-wrapped mattress. Not only is it noisy and uncomfortable, it is hot! When she is in the babbling place, the best place for the caregiver to be is right beside her, but right now, our choices are limited!

Mom’s changes are subtle over time, but she is changing. We just have to adapt and change along with her.

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