Audiobooks were a helpful solution for my wife, who has Huntington’s
A columnist is able to share his joy of reading, thanks to the audio technology
After 15 years of marriage, I was finally able to persuade my wife, Jill, to join me in exploring my love of reading. I hope that despite her Huntington’s disease diagnosis, she will never stop reading.
I’m an avid reader. If you ask Jill, she’d say that’s an understatement. She tells people that I don’t just read books, I devour them.
Reading isn’t just my passion — it also rescued me, in a sense. Growing up, it offered me an escape from whatever issues I was facing. My late mother had mental health and anger issues. Yet no matter what was going on around me, I could open a book and it’d transport me to whatever world the author had created.
I love reading so much that I want to share the sentiment with everyone I meet. When I met Jill, I was excited to ask her what she liked to read. I was surprised to hear that she had issues with it. She has learning disabilities and attention issues, so sitting down to read a book takes effort. She likes books, but the effort wasn’t always worth it.
It always made me a little sad that Jill and I couldn’t talk about the books I was reading. I appreciated her willingness to try, but I knew it was just too hard for her.
When COVID-19 shut down all the libraries in my area, I thought I’d fall apart. I’d drive by a local library and sigh. Jill explained that I could still check out books from the library, just not in paper form.
“You know, Carlos, there are books you can read on a phone or a computer. They’re called e-books,” she told me in a tone I’m certain wasn’t sarcasm.
I knew this, but I love to hold a book in my hands and feel the paper as I turn the pages, so I never bothered to try to read anything online. But she was right. I didn’t have to be sad. I didn’t have to go without my favorite pastime. I could read all I wanted to without leaving the comfort of my couch.
I was ecstatic about this, but then it reminded me that reading was something I still wanted to share with Jill.
A lightbulb moment
After we moved to Maryland several years ago, Jill started working from home. She needed something to listen to during her breaks, so she started listening to podcasts. She couldn’t find any that kept her attention, so one day I suggested audiobooks.
Jill burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“I feel like an idiot,” she said, still laughing.
I waited until she caught her breath and asked why.
“I could have been ‘reading’ audiobooks this whole time,” she said. “The thought never crossed my mind.”
I was floored. I didn’t think I’d ever hear Jill say she wanted to “read” a book. But that night, I sat down with her to start a list and suggested some of my favorite authors.
Now she loves audiobooks and wishes she’d thought about listening to them years ago.
We know Huntington’s disease makes everything more difficult, especially reading. Just sitting still long enough to read a page isn’t something Jill’s late father could’ve done in the later stages of his disease. He loved reading, but Huntington’s took that away from him.
It’s too late for Jill to suggest audiobooks to him now, but she’s happy to share her love of “reading” with others in the Huntington’s community by suggesting they read this column.
A quote by the French novelist Gustave Flaubert, who wrote “Madame Bovary,” sums up why it’s so important to read: “But do not read, as the children read, to amuse yourself, nor as ambitious people read, to get instruction. No! Read to live!”
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