FIRST DAY: ACTIVATING THE COCHLEAR IMPLANT – Garry Armstrong

After 76 years, 4 months and 18 days of hearing impairment, aka deafness, I can HEAR in both ears. Sing Hallelujah. But hold the applause. We’re not home yet.

Right ear. This is where all the sound data is collected to be transmitted to the implant and then, the brain
I’m going to need a trim to my hair soon. It’s not easy finding my head and the magnets

I’m writing the morning after the cochlear implant parts were activated in my head. During activation,  I felt a little like “the creature” in “Young Frankenstein”.   We had a prelude where the audiologist carefully explained how to assemble the cochlear “accessories,”  how to place them on my head and in my ears. Marilyn was watching closely. Good thing because I was quietly panicking. I’ve never been good doing the simplest of assemblies. I’m very clumsy.

I was as anxious as a Red Sox mid-inning reliever.

After the tutorial, several dry runs, and increasing anxiety, all the parts were in place and activated.  All this came after lengthy audio tests to determine how loud my new ears should be.

I braced myself with everything in place.

The cochlear parts are for my right ear, the “bad ear” which gives me very little audio. I have a new hearing aid in my left ear, the “good ear” which is supposed to enhance the cochlear parts.

I’ll give you in my rookie wearer understanding. The devices you see entwined around my right ear collect audio signals and send them to a “transmitter” which, with magnets, sits on the side of my head. The transmitter sends those signals into my head,  to the “implant” which was inserted via surgery.  Okay so far?  Oh, and there are magnets in my head so the headpiece will stay in place. Magnets. In my head.

So far, so good.

I breathed loudly as everything was activated. The voices of Marilyn and the audio technician were very tinny.  I could hear Marilyn’s voice more clearly. She had more “body” in her words than the technician, who I could also hear clearly, but she has a thin, rather reedy voice. I tried to relax my body and let myself really hear what was being said.

Left side with the new hearing aid. Smaller than the old one. This part of the gear needs some work

Relaxation is key. All my life, I’ve physically strained to hear. Leaned forward to catch what people were saying.  It’s difficult and physically exhausting.

It’s been my norm for 76 years. Now, I had to try and change that life-long habit. I sat with my back to Marilyn and the technician to test how well I could hear without seeing the people talking and read their lips as I usually do.

Usually, I can’t hear Marilyn if I am not directly facing her. It’s produced years of frustration for both of us. I could hear, my back turned away, both Marilyn and the audiologist. (Insert applause here.)

Sort of “normal” Garry from the front. The backpack came with all the “stuff” packed into it including the implant gear, a backup set of that gear, all those tiny little tools you need for working with hearing aids, charger, a whole set of “foreign” plugs for when (ahem) we travel to far off places … and a drying to get the humidity out of the unit. A GREAT idea!

Still, the voices were tinny and they echoed. As I responded to questions,  my voice sounded clear, full of that crispness and authority that’s familiar to TV News viewers. (Insert laughter here). That my own voice sounded perfectly normal is a good sign. It means that my brain is recognizing my voice and turning it into “normal” sounds. Probably Marilyn’s voice will be next. Familiar voices become “normal” much faster than the rest of the world and some may never sound entirely normal.

I allowed myself a brief smile of satisfaction.  It was very brief because I was also hearing bells and whistles, like a train was approaching the station. It was bizarre. The audiologist nodded as I explained what I was hearing.

She said it was normal. That I probably would hear those noises for “some time” as I wore the cochlear parts in various situations. Reporter Garry wanted a time frame.  How long? No easy answer, but she said — in round figures — about three months.

We went over how I should adjust to using my new ears and the various parts, inside and outside of my head. My brain was swirling but, fortunately, Marilyn was absorbing the information. We made an appointment for an evaluation.  I thought a week might be too quick but now I’m glad because I have lots of questions.

During the drive home yesterday, I was able to talk to Marilyn with minimal “what’s?”   Call it an early triumph.

We were greeted by the boisterous barking of our three dogs.  Yes, they were very loud.  Their yaps and growls were “enhanced” with echoes.

As we crashed, relaxed, and wolfed down late lunch sandwiches, I flipped on the television to baseball. The announcers sounded tinny with accompanying echoes. Their commentary was hard to understand. They were blasted by the crowd cheers.

I lowered the TV volume and things improved.  But I still heard echoes, bells, and whistles and the occasional chime mixed in with everything else.  Marilyn talking. Dogs barking.

I tried to mentally adjust. Slow down my intake of what Marilyn was saying.

That helped.  I’m so used to responding without really hearing. It’s a whole new ball game. As late afternoon turned into evening, I became more comfortable but I could not get rid of the echoes, bells and whistles.  Sometimes it also sounded like church bells tolling. For whom were they tolling?

There was one constant amid all the extra sounds. I could hear Marilyn’s words — not just muffled sounds.  Yes, there were a few “what did you say” moments, but a small number compared to life before the cochlear implant activation.

Marilyn took care of unloading my new backpack, filled with all the cochlear accessories, manuals, batteries.  She setup the battery charges and patiently walked me through everything.  Frankly, I had lost patience after the “first day”.  The echoes, bells and whistles had worn me down. I had an Excedrin Plus headache.  Marilyn seemed more pleased than me. I was excited about the events but physically drained — as was Marilyn who had to make sure we handled the cochlear parts correctly.

Looks like an odd version of a “smart” phone, doesn’t it?

We’re into day two. Against my objection, I’m wearing the cochlear parts. I complained, like a whiny kid, but Marilyn was firm that I not shy away from using my new ears even if I’m not comfortable.  I wanted to wait until I shaved and showered but that would’ve been just delaying what must be done. The audiologist was really pushy that I really had to wear them — all the time I was awake.

So, there you have it. Yes, it’s a different world for me now.  It’s a better world.

I just hope those bells are not tolling for me.

BRIO CON ATTABOY IN THREE MOVEMENTS – Marilyn Armstrong

Brio, frisky in music or maybe lively? All my Italian I learned playing the piano, but brio always meant lively and energetic to Mrs. Nelson and she was my forever piano teacher.

She helped me love music beyond my capabilities. She believed in me with a wholeheartedness no one else ever did. She was always sure I could do it, even when it was obvious I could play it, but I would never play it well.

Dr. Herb Deutsch

No one else ever believed in me like she did. She was sure I could be great. The truth was, I could be good, but not great. Unless I wanted to work terribly hard to be a lounge performer, great was beyond my grasp.

Nonetheless, I so much wanted to not disappoint her that she attaboyed me right into a university music major in college. She was sure I could be The One.

As the years marched on, I enjoyed studying music, but I was never fully immersed in it. I remember the day I had a long, kindly conversation with one of my professors. He was a great guy, one of the two men who invented the Moog synthesizer (that’s a “by the way”) – Dr. Herb Deutsch. He also wrote a special piece for Owen when he was born.

He sat me down under a tree on the main quad and he said: “You can’t do this because you want to make your piano teacher happy, you know.”

How did he know that? Maybe I wasn’t the only one? “You have to want it, need it, not be able to live without it. You’re doing well. You pass everything. But I don’t think your heart is in it. Music is an all or nothing engagement. Either get fully into it, or find out where your really want to go.”

He was right.

I hated that he was right. I loved that he was right.

And I didn’t have far to travel to know what I really wanted because writing was always it. As soon as I could form words, I knew writing was me.

I never stopped loving music, but I changed to a Social Science major where a lot of writing was part of the job. Had the college been more flexible, I would probably have gone on for a masters or more and possible stayed academic. It was too early for that degree of collegiate flexibility. Flexibility would arrive ten years later, long after I had graduated.

But in the meantime, a huge thanks to Mrs. Nelson and Dr. Herb Deutsch who pushed me until I became what I needed to be.

I hope every kid finds a couple of teachers who know just how and when to give them the attaboy they need … and a pushy little brio to help them step lively into the world.

THE INSIDE STORY: Herbert Deutsch and MIND & MACHINE

RDP #86: BRIO
FOWC with Fandango: Attaboy

GARRY DESERVES THE DUKE, BUT WHAT ABOUT ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Duke is not our first dog. We’ve had a big selection of hounds, terriers, and mutts of various backgrounds, sizes, ages. Somehow or other they have all fit in here because anyone or anything can fit in here, assuming they want to. For years, there has been great howling and yapping and barking in this house and that’s the way we seem to like it.

Duke

The thing we’ve never had, however, are truly obedient dogs. We don’t demand obedience, so we don’t get it. I wasn’t a very good disciplinarian as a mom, either.

Discipline makes me feel guilty. Who am I to demand obedience? Who do I think I am anyway?

Garry is worse. Garry was born with a gene that says “whatever you tell me to do, I won’t do it.” It’s a special piece of DNA that screams “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me?” Even in the Marine Corps, when his drill instructor yelled at him, he laughed.

It got him a lot of days scrubbing bathrooms with toothbrushes, but it’s in his blood. He cannot help himself. I cannot help him either. He’s a tough nut. People think he’s so easy-going … and he is … unless you get him mad. Then he isn’t. Easy-going.

Duke is the dog Garry deserves. Duke also has no grip on “Do what they tell you. Be a GOOD dog.” You stare at Duke and he stares back. You can see every inch of Duke screaming “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me?”

Certainly not Garry. They try to stare each other down, but Garry starts laughing long before he manages to get obedience … and anyway, I don’t think Duke can do it. It’s not in him. The other dogs, if they hear that “tone” in my voice will do what I say because they hear the “alpha” note — and figure they ought to behave, even if it’s just a few minutes.

Not Duke. Nope. Never. He doesn’t do “obey.” He would make a feral cat look like a well-trained pup.

Unless I’m holding a piece of chicken. Chicken is another level of training and if I actually needed Duke to behave, I would need a lot of chickens. Possibly a whole cow. Or an entire flock of sheep and maybe a school of shrimp. Do shrimp swim in a school or is that just fish?

Anyway, Duke is the dog Garry needed. He is the dog that will go eyeball-to-eyeball with Garry until they are both laughing themselves silly. Well, Garry does most of the laughing, but I swear Duke is grinning.

So we know why Garry wound up with Duke, but what did the two Scotties and I do to deserve him?

DELICATE – A PHOTO A WEEK – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Delicate


Delicate beadwork and fragile flowers.

Honestly? We don’t have a lot of “delicate” here. What we have is carefully placed where it can’t be knocked over by a clumsy human or enthusiastic dog.

In this house, if it can be broken, it has already been broken.

Very delicate. Also shattered and gone. All I have left is the photograph.

It’s why, though I love them, I shiver at the idea of a kitten. Dogs, at least, mostly hang with the floor. But cats leap and climb curtains. I don’t think this house would survive that.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive it either.

WHICH WAY? NO, REALLY … WHICH WAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – August 24, 2018

Garry and I got lost in the hospital. We went the wrong way out of the elevator and suddenly, I realized I’d never seen those bank machines before … and the cafeteria … we hadn’t passed that on the way in.

No one gets lost like we do. We have a special talent. Even when we find our to the place we are intending to go, we will probably get lost in the parking lot or inside the building. Or while trying to find the restroom.

The only place this works in our favor is when we are looking for new places to take pictures and just drive randomly around, hoping we’ll find a new dam or a lake or a heron.

So for me, “Which Way” is a valid expression of the meaning of what I humorously call “life.”

Out the window of Miss Mendon

They don’t need a road. Goats can just go. They are walking on top of a stone fence.
Horses don’t need a GPS … YOU are the GPS.
Chickens don’t get lost
Walk down the aisle?

EVEN MORE INTERESTING GLASS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have even more interesting glass in my home. I’ve shared many with you already. Here are more I particularly like and think are unusual and maybe interesting.