Words Fail Me.
For the last year I have hardly spoken.
Rarely have I been able to. Participating in a conversation, impossible. With no choice I have learned to listen. But overall this has been frustrating. I can’t answer the phone. I can’t whisper to my wife in bed or shout at a dog, tail wagging and wandering into traffic. Every day I stand in front of a mirror as instructed and dig for my “voice”, which when working is a bull frog in the night, but is mostly the sound of escaping breath.
Buying a loaf of bread is a challenge to both buyer and seller. Especially if there are many varieties of bread on the shelves. I would not want to be behind me, waiting to be served.
I do converse, or try to, without words, like getting into a taxi in Rome. Lots of hands gestures, pointing, etc. Actually it’s remarkable how much basic stuff can get done wordlessly, especially with familiar and sympathetic sales people. I cultivate them. The butchers down the road at HG Walter I consider family. I am sure they consider me part of the neighbourhood. But not perhaps who they want to get too familiar with.
Recently, Daniel, who I hadn’t seen in a while, presented me with a magnificent t pork chop. Good man.
The larenjectomy was on March 6th last year. For some reason I was under the impression, or gave myself the impression, it was not going to be a major deal. I have no idea why I. Repression? Denial? Laziness no doubt. Wasn’t cancer for major organs? But what’s major if not your voice box? Knowing what I know now I’d have come out of the drug induced unconsciousness and stopped the scalpel in Mr Awad’s skilled hand and taken my chances with the cancer option. Sure, the cancer could come back, as it often does…but who knows. As a kid growing up I lived in fear of cancer. The word itself had malevolent power. It had taken our mother, but no-one told us kids what was going on. The word was not mentioned in our presence.
To us it was more than a disease, it was a mystery, a nightmare, and symptomatic of both our ignorance and impotence. It was a sentence of death.
But now I was silently angry, and anger, you’ll be glad to know, chases fear into a corner. But as someone whose career and persona depended on being articulate, someone who could hold a room as my father could, extempore, someone who voice was his VOICE, this last year has been excruciating: a slow death of personality. I have shrunk, I have become and smaller, in all ways. I believe, however, that if I can reclaim my voice I can reclaim myself. So if you see me standing in front of a mirror croaking like Froggie the Gremlin of Buster Brown fame, be encouraging.
“Hi ya, kid!. Hi ya!”
12 thoughts on “Hi ya, kids. Hi Ya!”
We’ve all missed your voice. And your opinions. Please keep practising. Use the bloody nebuliser. Turn your anger into drive. Talk our ears off. God knows everyone else in the family does, especially the smaller ones. If you hadn’t had the scalpel you might be gone by now, with no hope of getting your voice back at all.
I realised recently I *did* develop a lockdown skill, thanks to you — lipreading. It’s actually amazingly useful on Zoom meetings. So thanks for that. If you could help me with my sourdough next, I’d appreciate it.
I see to make a sourdough rye. Among many things I regret giving up.
Years ago I could have helped. Onion rye (with caraway of course).
About time you showed up. You have a voice at the tip of your fingers. I read you loud and clear. If you spend your time excercising the frog sounds as well as writing (the two, I believe, can be done together) your voice will be heard. This lockdown has not helped as social contact has been limited, so perhaps the results of your exercises have not been truly tested. In any event, as I am able to read, and as I take great pleasure in reading your stuff, I would like more of it, please and thank you. I have also taken the trouble to check out H G Walter – what a great shop to have near you. No wonder they’re family. Have you tried his veal escalope ? I would love to have a view as I have a bottle of Marsala which could use an outing.
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Hi Gerry. I knew you were facing health challenges, but I didn’t know their nature. I agree with Edward. As long as you have a keyboard, you have a voice. Keep using it.
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Thanks, Ted. Still typing. What are you up to?
Just saw your reply. So what am I doing? 1) Teaching Sunday School, Jewish History, 5th grade. (Next fall will be Year 16 for me.) 2) Collaborating on a book for parents of religious school students with a fellow teacher. 3) Writing music to some of our temple’s prayerbook readings for potential use in our liturgy. 4) Writing music just for the hell of it. 5) Running a book club. Yet all the while feeling I’m not doing “enough.” 🙂 Keep healing, keep typing, keep going.
Sounds like plenty me. I try to scribble a bit and work with a trainer twice a week. Otherwise a rowing machine I have to pass every morning.
Ginny Nemmers here. Nancy McDaniel forwarded your blog to me and I have read it with interest, wonder and admiration for the great writer you’ve always been. Your struggle is tough, and I can’t imagine what it must be like to learn to be a whole new person of sorts. But I love that you write about it as a way to work through it–and it reminds me of the need for patience and empathy with others.
Good luck to you as you work from a croak to a whisper.
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Great to hear from you. Thanks, Ginny. All the best. Gerry
Well, I never thought I’d say this to you, but we should hear more from you. It’s terrible, of course, that you have to go through this. But knowing you, you will do so with a sense of dignity. And a sense of humor. And the occasional pork chop. Please keep writing and communicating. Since the onset of all this, I have thought of you and Penny often, wishing we could see you at least one more time. After all, if it were not for you, I wouldn’t be taking the time to stuff my martini olives with bleu cheese. That alone…
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For you I will apply myself. Why just one more? Let’s be ambitious. I miss your mocking voice, th high level of intelligent scepticism you bring to th party.