Years ago a British show called Fawlty Towers ran an episode called “Communication Problems.” In the episode, the owner of a hotel (Basil Fawlty, aka John Cleese) had an elderly female guest who refused to turn on her hearing aid because it “wore the batteries down.” And since this was British farce, all kinds of hilarity ensued given the fact that the woman always misunderstood what was being said.
Well, you know the old cliché, “Truth is Stranger than fiction”? Welcome to “Communication Problems” Keller style.
Yesterday at church, Ariel leans over to me during a hymn and whispers, “I can’t see.” Given the fact that she’s not stumbling around blind and that she wears glasses, I think, “Right. Time to make an appointment with the optometrist again.”
As the service goes on, I notice that she’s beginning to look a little “wilted” around the edges. I think, “Ariel’s re-caught that nasty cold that we’ve been sharing.” After the service, Ariel says, “I need to go home—my head hurts.” I find Luke and give him the job of driving his sister home and then coming back. I tell Ariel. She holds out her hand to me and whines, “My hand is numb.” I think, “My goodness, girl, don’t be so overwrought.” But I say, “Yes, yes, Luke is going to take you home. Don’t worry, you’re not having a stroke.”
Ariel and Luke trundle off home. Then we all come home. Ariel is curled up in a sitting fetal position with a deer-in-headlights look on her face. “My head hurts really bad—I took two Aleve, but they aren’t helping.” I assume she has a nasty sinus headache and shift into mother-of-sick-child mode. Within five minutes, I’ve given Ariel decongestant, a vaporizer is spewing out steam, her chest is slathered in Vick’s vaporub, and she has a cold compress.
Now that she has everything she could possibly need, including a bowl of macaroni and cheese made from scratch, I sit with her. And she begins to tell me, “You know when I said I couldn’t see, I really couldn’t see.” “What do you mean?” I ask. It turns out that she had blind spots and flashing lights in her right eye. And then, that numbness in her hand, it actually started in her foot went to her hand and finally ended up making the right side of her face numb.
The proverbial light dawns in my head. “Ariel, did the weird things go away after the pain started?” She looked at me nonplussed. “Yeah, actually.” I sigh heavily, “My dear, welcome to the world of migraines with aura. It’s not a nice place, but there you are.”
After I called our friend who is a neurologist and got Ariel treated (thank you, thank you—she’d have been miserable at ER waiting for hours to be seen), I ask, “Sweetheart, what did you think was happening to you?” She thought that she was going blind in one eye, or getting glaucoma, or some other horror. “And what about the numbness in your face?” Ariel: “That was very scary.” I say, “Why didn’t you tell me your right side was going numb?” “It was only my hand and foot at first, and I thought they were asleep. It wasn’t until I was on the way home that my face went numb.”
This, of course, is why parents carry cellphones. “Why didn’t you call me?” Ariel explains, “I knew you were busy and I didn’t want to bother you.” Children don’t seem to realize that a parent will sprout eagle’s wings and fly home if their children are hurt or in danger. And as Ariel reminds me, “I did tell you.” Yep, communication problems. Watch out Basil Fawlty, you’ve got nothing on me.