My Turn: I'm Still Listening for My Father's Words

Aphasia is an oddly beautiful word, like the name of a flower. I imagine it blue, with slender petals and delicate filaments, breaking through hard winter soil, because each word my father manages to speak is like a tender blossom struggling into the air. Dad's been diagnosed with what doctors call "dementia of the Alzheimer's type." The most frustrating part of his decline has been his aphasia, defined by Webster's as "loss or impairment of the power to use words." In Dad's case, this manifests itself as anomia, the inability to remember the names of things. Lately he's been calling his nightly can of beer "ink." Sometimes he calls it "gas," which makes a kind of sense.It's summer, the time of my annual visit to the home my parents bought 43 years ago in Lemon Grove, Calif. Trying not to let my face betray dismay at how frail Dad has become, I pull a chair close to his recliner, facing him. I realize I've been holding my breath when I exhale as Dad begins to speak."Where is your...