Early on, when Ben first lost his memory, we found it helpful to celebrate small victories. I regularly tried to point out ways that Ben’s memory was improving. After a while, even though we knew we needed to continue to measure progress, we started to feel a bit ridiculous. We realized that we were so very encouraged by things that we had taken for granted our entire life…Ben’s ability to remember his own experiences. Of course, Ben called it “giving thanks to God for the small things.” I just called it “quoting the Princess Bride.”
And so began our fascination with all things Princess Bride (feel free to stop reading here if you haven’t seen the movie or don’t really like it). The quote we used most often, both when we were encouraged and when we were discouraged, was something the giant Fezzik said to Westley after Westley had been “mostly dead” all day. The men are in a precarious position, about to be killed, and Fezzik keeps making comments like, “You just wiggled your finger. That’s wonderful.” “You just shook your head…doesn’t that make you happy?” Whenever Ben remembered something simple one of us would repeat these lines, laughing and enjoying the opportunity to mimic Andre the Giant’s distinctive inflection.
These days I find myself thinking back to another scene in the Princess Bride. It’s the scene where Prince Humperdink arrives after Westley duels with Inigo Montoya. Humperdink examines the terrain and says, “There was a mighty duel. It ranged all over. They were both masters.” He then goes on to describe more of what happened based on the circumstantial evidence he encounters.
On days that Ben is having seizures, I come home and feel like Prince Humperdink. I find telltale evidence that something is amiss, but Ben’s impaired memory and ongoing seizures prevent him from telling me what happened. So I have to put the pieces together, like a puzzle. If I see that the sheets are wrinkled and the nighttable is askew, I can guess that Ben fell out of bed. If I notice a picture out of place on the wall, it is likely that Ben stumbled into the wall on the way downstairs. Other times, the clues are something as simple as finding a dish in the sink and some crumbs on the counter (what wife doesn’t find those?). But they are helpful to me when Ben asks “did I eat lunch today?” All of these pieces assist me in putting together the missing parts of my husband’s day. It is not uncommon for me to walk around my house like Prince Humperdink — or some supersleuth — piecing together clues from limited evidence and making bold statements about what I believe happened.
Of course, all parents of young children do this instinctively: “Were you playing with Mommy’s lipstick?” Mom asks redundantly staring at the waxy red smears covering both wall and child. “What were you trying to do by covering the entire second floor in boxes and newspaper?” (make a time machine, of course!) “Why did you draw on your armpits in red pen” (I was putting on ‘deodorant.’). A good mother learns how to use the power of deduction before disciplining her children. A good mother learns to ask questions and gather facts — and yes, often make quick deductions about what really happened — before responding.. So none of this is new to me. It’s just strange when it’s my husband who is leaving the clues, not just the children.
As I write this, Ben has been seizure free for more than three weeks. It’s nice to be able to relax and enjoy each other. In fact, this is one other aspect of our lives that resembles the Princess Bride. At the beginning of the movie, the grandfather is reading the story to his grandson and there is a moment of passion between Westley and Buttercup. The grandson interrupts and says with disdain, “Is this a kissing book?” This is one quote we can definitely relate to. While the other Princess Bride quotes may not always apply to our life, Ben and I hope that this one will continue to define our relationship, and our life will always resemble a Kissing Book.