The Language of Love
Guideposts|May 2021
I could no longer communicate with my husband. But someone could…
Luanne Holzloehner, Milton, Vermont

I walked into the living room of our townhouse just as my 87-year-old husband, Hans, grumbled a string of words. “I can’t understand you,” I said, keeping my voice steady. He was speaking German again. Hans scowled.

“Use at least one English word so I’ll know what subject we’re on,” I said.

Hans spoke perfect English. We lived outside Montreal, in Quebec, Canada. But as his Alzheimer’s progressed, he increasingly reverted to the language he’d grown up speaking in his native Germany. Sometimes, it seemed as if he did it just to spite me. I didn’t know a word of German. One time I’d tried taping cards with German words onto various objects in the house, but I never got the hang of it.

When Hans did speak English, he used it to insult me. “Don’t touch those,” he snapped one night as I stood in front of the bedroom window, closing the blinds for the evening. “You don’t know how to use them. You’ll break them.” Did he really think I couldn’t operate a simple pull cord? I tried not to let my hurt show.

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