Under the waters of the world, Perry Klein dived hundreds of feet for the beautiful and the lost.
Falling. Down and down. He'd be wedged between razor-sharp coral reefs with his life hanging only by a single tether. Under his tugboat, his crew watched him gather their income of coral, sponge, and the occasional sunken treasure throughout the shadowy parts of the deep.
Perry sailed about his younger days. The wind spraying salt water across his face. He grinned. He sang. He loved the ocean and all its bounty.
When he a young man in Maryland, Perry was a hunter. A fly fisherman. A sponge diver, mainly. But really, in general, a man with a love of sport.
In later days, Perry made his way up the ranks as an officer in the US Army. Serving in Berlin, he helped smuggle natives to safety across the Berlin Wall. Today, many of his officers from the Vietnam War meet together in upstate New York. Abilities vary. Speech and hearing loss here and there. Disabilities, yes, plenty of them. Lost limbs. Lost hope, for some. Yet the stories keep them here, in this world. And they must find a way to move about like they did when they were young and free and singing into the wind.
A car accident almost 20 years ago took his legs, his arms and his speech. The stroke, like a diving bell, would keep him locked in his own mind, doctors would later tell him. Yet stories, he knew, would never leave. And he would find a way to yell and cry and laugh his way through the confines of the diving bell.
Today you wouldn't think he suffered such an ordeal. Perry walks, albeit slowly, wherever he pleases. He and Cynthia, his partner, live in Baltimore and have crafted a life of subtle adventure. Perry bikes. He charges his way through downtown malls on his scooter. Or step-by-step to see films or host a gathering of others living with aphasia at a coffee shop on Sunday afternoons.
Perry works on his words often through speech therapy. And living with aphasia, you really wouldn't think anything could bother him. But you can tell. Sometimes, when the few words like yes, no, maybe, or other simple sounds with hand gestures won't convey his thoughts, there's immense frustration. Because it's right there. The thought. The memory. And then ... the words. They don't come. He wants to say it. These words we say each day to narrate our experience. Words we so often speak with ease throughout the days. Yet, he has no ability to connect thought with speech. The thoughts merely linger between his mind and his mouth. A few inches of connection. Close, yet so, so far. And when the connection does happen, usually through a slow game of charades and guessing. Cynthia has an unspoken language with him. An energy. A light nudge in a direction. A wild guess. Followed by a yes or a no. Hands soaring through the air to reflect his days as a pilot. Or low hums for songs of war.
We guide him through his palace of memories. And for a moment, Perry can take the diving bell off and surface for air. We sit and listen to what he's seen down there. And he shares with us his life's bounty.