I feel like I should be singing “Getting To Know You” as I write this update.
It’s the beginning of the second week, wearing my activated cochlear implant. It’s Saturday, the first day of the 9th month. If you sing “September Song”, I could probably hear most of the lyrics. Maybe I’ll listen to Walter Houston’s memorable rendition of that melancholy song later today.
September is usually special because we celebrate our Wedding Anniversary and granddaughter Kaitlin’s birthday along with keeping eyes (and now ears) on our Boston Red Sox, hoping they can finish their 6-month marathon with a pennant championship en route to the World Series.
This September Sabbath began on a down note. Blame it on the weather. I’d planned on taking in a town event, “Uxbridge Day”, which figured to give my cochlear implant a public test, mingling with dozens of people on our town square. Between the hot weather, an Excedrin Plus headache, and general fatigue from this long week prompted me to cancel plans.
We’ll hold off on the cochlear implant public début for a while.
Yesterday, I received my first evaluation on the cochlear surgery and performance of the week-old activated parts. Marilyn and I shared our response to how I fared during the first week of my new hearing.
They were mixed reviews. The audiologist did some tweaking, essentially giving me more volume. Now, I’m hearing louder bells, whistles, chimes, echoes and other “ghosts noises.” I’m told these noises will fade in 3-months to a year as I adjust to this new way of hearing.
I’m from Missouri. I’ll believe it when it happens.
Marilyn and I have discussed how we communicate with each other. This is a bonus because people with normal hearing have similar problems but rarely discuss it for fear of marital discord. Who’s at fault? No one.
I feel as if I should be singing “Getting To Know You.” No, I don’t feel like Yul Brynner, King of Siam. I’m becoming more comfortable with my cochlear implant exterior parts. It’s somewhat awkward for me connecting the battery to the transmitter which sits atop my head and sends signals to “base headquarters” inside my head.
Usually, I need Marilyn’s help. Today, I did it MYSELF! Hallelujah! It felt so good. I patted myself on the head, careful not to dislodge the transmitter. Marilyn cut out a piece of my hair so it would be easier to find a landing spot, making it easier for the magnets inside the transmitter to secure a spot on my head. Like a spaceship landing on Mars.
As I write, I’m getting mostly “ghost chimes” in my brain and ear. It’s peaceful. The dogs are not barking. The TV is in repose. All is calm.
I was invited to take part in the 3.2.1 Me Challenge the other day by Sue Vincent at the Daily Echo. The rules, she said, were simple:
1 – Thank the person who nominated you.
Thank you Sue, not only for the invitation, but also for always writing unique and beautiful posts that make me think and remind me of all the things I usually forget.
2 – Provide two three (but you can use two — I just found three I liked) quotes on the subject you are set by that person.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. –Plato
When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. –John Lennon
3 – Invite three other bloggers to take part (if they so wish) in the challenge.
The subject Sue gave me was ‘inspiration’ and I really need to thank her for making me take the time to think about it. Because oddly enough, I had been thinking about it anyway, so this was remarkably timely.
I always have trouble with this part of any challenge. I don’t like to ask because they may feel obliged to say yes, even if they don’t really want to. So please, if this sounds interesting to you, I offer you the subject:
Given the way life has changed, how do you feel about it? What’s your version of it? How important is it?
Inspiration: On your own but not alone
We all start college — or at least most of us do — pretty young. In our teens, generally. Some of us start even sooner. I was just barely 16, but I thought I was terribly sophisticated and mature.
I was sophisticated and mature for someone my age. Which was 16. I had zero vision of what I would be on this earth. I was socially inexperienced and emotionally volatile. My knowledge went exactly as far as the books I read.
I had read a lot of books (for my age). I had also not read a lot more books. It isn’t, as my father said, what you don’t know that gets you. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.
I knew a lot of wrong things. They weren’t wrong because I thought them wrongly, but because much of what I read was inaccurate, closer to guesses and opinions than facts. Possibly much of what I know now is still wrong, but I think most historians and scientists are working more closely with original sources today. That may be one of the best things to come from the Internet and sharing of information across the world, that you don’t necessarily have to travel the world to find original sources (though it certainly doesn’t hurt, either).
I had only the fuzziest idea what I was going to do with myself. After I gave up my dreams of playing the grand piano with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, then deleted my “great American author” fantasy where I lived on a cliff in Maine overlooking the ocean while writing unforgettable novels, I had no idea what I would do.
It turned out I was not a novelist. I had great ideas, but no ability to turn them into books. I could write dialogue easily and still do, but I had no talent for “action.” Even the most chatty novel requires that characters sometimes get off the sofa and do something. Anything. My characters never did anything — except talk and think.
Not unlike me, come to think of it.
I needed help along the way and I got it.
Dr. Herb Deutsch needed to point out while I loved music, I was not sufficiently involved with it to make it my life’s work.
Mr. Wekerle (pronounced Weh-ker-lee with the emphasis on the first syllable) was the head of the Philosophy Department at Hofstra University. I adored him. Not because he was “hot,” but because he was so incredibly smart. He was the only professor could always tell when I was bullshitting and hadn’t really read the books. He was also the only teacher to give me D-/A+ as a grade for a 50-page paper.
The A+ was for style, the D- for content. I treasured the A+ because somehow, I was sure that style was going to be more “me” than content. I was wrong. It was both.
He taught me that even if you know it, you can’t assume your audience does. You have to write it all out, Alpha to Zed. I had an editor in Israel who reinforced this by making me rewrite all the sections of a book I was working on — the parts I didn’t want to write.
Garry was deeply influential too at a time when he was figuring out where he stood in terms of work and his future. He came to realize that for a variety of reasons, he had gone as far as he was going to go. He didn’t want to move to a different city and that alone was some degree of a “game ender.” He knew he didn’t want to move into management and he didn’t want to be an assignment editor, producer, or director. He liked what he was doing. He liked doing it in Boston. He had found his place — and his walls.
I was finding my walls, too. I knew I wasn’t cut out for management. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, but I hated it. I didn’t want to edit other people’s work. I wanted to write it. I was not sufficiently ambitious to “go corporate” and try to head a department. I knew my personal life had always been more important to me than my professional life. I knew this was unlikely to change. Effectively, I had reached my limits.
As Garry talked about how he felt about his own work and I talked about mine, we both recognized because you’ve gone as far as you are going to go professionally, you are not facing defeat.
Success does not mean you need to reach the top, the pinnacle, the ultimate level of success for your field. Not everyone needs or wants to climb to the top. We don’t all want to be the most ambitious to be exceptional at what we do.
It was a realistic assessment of what we were able and willing to do. I could have fought my way into corporate life and probably made more money. So could Garry. We didn’t want to.
I think my point is a twofer.
On one level, we make it on our own, but we don’t make it alone. We get all kinds of help along the way, often from unexpected people in unusual places. The help might be a simple question, or a mentorship. Or, maybe someone who knows you and recognizes when you need the right words to work through whatever is going on.
Inspiration usually comes with help. A little help can go a long way.
This is one I never intended to share. It had been buried in the deepest part of the memory chest I never planned to revisit.
I was branded a “pinko” as a kid.
I grew up in an era when the name McCarthy was first associated with Edgar Bergen’s puppet pal, Charlie McCarthy. We followed Bergen and McCarthy on their radio show, religiously, along with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and the other funny people of a more innocent era.
All of that changed when “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy unleashed his witch hunt of everyone in the guise of ferreting out Communist sympathizers. It was part of a bleak period when Cold War angst followed World War 2.
McCarthy is news again because of the current White House occupant and his apparent fondness for McCarthy’s tactics.
I didn’t understand why people shied away from talking about something called “The Black List.” I was still in grade school but a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines and the gold mine of books in our home library.
One of those books was “Not So Wild A Dream.” It was written by Eric Sevareid, a news commentator I listened to every evening on CBS Radio News. I loved Sevareid’s gritty voice talking about the evil in far-off places like Russia.
I was puzzled when Sevareid talked about how “we” were endangered by a politician named Joe McCarthy. I had seen the newspaper stories and headlines – famous actors and writers ‘outed’ as “Commies.” I asked my parents about it but they told me “no worries,” it didn’t involve people like us.
What did that mean? People like us?
I was fond of taking some of my grown-up books to school. I liked to show off the books I was reading. I was on first-hand terms with Sevareid, John Steinbeck, and the guy who wrote about “Crime and Punishment” in Russia.
While other kids bragged about their new cars, summer homes, and vacations in Florida, I only had books with which to earn bragging points. I didn’t always fully understand the books, but I liked how the words were put together. I enjoyed reading them aloud.
It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for words. The sound and feel of words. Words that you can sometimes stroke because they touch your heart in a special way.
All of this was the prologue to a nasty wake-up call for my youthful innocence.
We had an assignment in Composition Class. Probably the 4th or 5th grade. My heart was beating at double speed as I searched my treasure trove of books. I skipped past kid stuff like “Treasure Island,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and my whole collection of baseball related material.
“Not So Wild A Dream” was the winner. I was just getting into some heady stuff by people named Odets, Miller, and Lardner. I liked what they said. I used to memorize sections to impress my Mom who was always proud of my ability to sound like a proper young man. I figured everyone would respect that ability.
I remember it was a warm spring day. I was wearing my new spring outfit — LONG pants, crisp white shirt, and shiny new shoes. I was brimming with confidence in Composition Class. When volunteers were asked to read their homework, my hand shot up faster than Big Don Newcombe’s fabled right arm.
My throat was dry but I plunged right in when I was selected. I read some passages from “Not So Wild A Dream” and a quote from Clifford Odets who was talking about social ills. I didn’t understand much of what I said but it sounded and felt good to me. I looked around.
Silence and a few nervous giggles. My teacher had a strange look on her face and stammered as she praised my work. She told me I probably would see the Principal later to discuss my impressive homework. I was beaming with pride!
The Principal seemed nervous as he talked to me. He hemmed and hawed. He even stammered. Where had I found the books I read? Who gave them to me? I proudly told him about our home library and the magazines we got every week. I remember the Principal’s eyes arching in surprise.
What was the big deal, I wondered.
All the joy of that morning came crashing down on me during lunch recess. The warm day meant we could open our lunch boxes outside in the play area. I was munching on my sandwich when I saw kids staring at me.
I began to pick up the words.
“He’s a pinko.”
“His parents are pinkos. I’m gonna tell my Mom. All his people are Commies, my Dad told me.”
The whispers grew louder. Finally, I was approached by a couple of the guys who used to pick on me because of the way I dressed, my glasses, and my stupid hearing aids which made me look a space villain. Oh, yeah, they also picked on me because I was the shortest kid in the class.
What now? Were they jealous of my composition? What the heck?
The biggest kid came right up to my face. He had bad breath and smelled worse. I don’t think he bathed often. I could see the red pimples sticking out on his face. “Hey, you four-eyed deaf midget nigg_r, so you’re a pinko too, huh?”
Pimple face leered at me, obviously daring me to get up and fight. I gulped hard.
His pal, beady-eyed, and sweating, taunted me, “I hear all you people are Commies. You don’t go to Church — you go to Commie meetings! All of YOU people. I’m gonna tell my Dad. You’re in big trouble, you lousy little pinko.”
My throat was dry and I was very scared. I couldn’t think. Then, the bell rang. Lunch was over. I was (literally) saved by the bell.
That evening, I recounted everything to my Mom and Dad. They listened without saying a word. Usually, they’d interrupt me, correct my language, diction or choice of words. When I’d finished, they looked at each other for a long time before speaking to me.
Mom and Dad were unusually patient in explaining things to me. I think I was a little put off by their civility. I tried to absorb what they said. It was hard.
I remember Mom telling me I’d have become more mature than my age. I was going to deal with more of these “things” as I grew up. She smiled wistfully as she tousled my hair.
And that’s how I started on the road to journalism. Suddenly, I understood something about the grown-up version of the truth.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Garry and I are off to UMass. Today he gets (tada!) his new electronic, high-tech hearing apparatus. We have NO idea what to expect. Hopes are high, nerves are taut, and it’s going to be a long day.
We shall write tomorrow, hopefully, but in the meantime, we’ll be gone most of the day.
Also, WordPress is acting weird. Again. I can’t use the “like” button and I have to sign in for every comment. But that’s okay because Chrome is behaving weirdly also. I’m ready to hide under the sofa.
I know Marilyn has posted pictures of Miss Mendon, but I think (I hope) that I’ve gotten a slightly different “view” of the place.
In an area where there are few decent restaurants, Miss Mendon stands out as a good place to eat and the only place where you can get breakfast all day.
It was originally a Worcester dining car. A big one, because I’ve seen others and usually, that are smaller than Miss Mendon.
Miss Mendon began life as Miss Newport — Worcester Dining Car number #823. She has been repainted, re-tiled, given a bigger dining room and a modern kitchen. She’s had a long life and seen hard times, but despite everything, she has survived with grace and character.
And today, I’m getting my new hearing equipment! More about that to come!
We went photographing the other day. It was definitely a farm day. Not all farms are equally friendly to guests and some of these pictures require no further explanation.
It was certainly an interesting day for shooting, from the super-friendly Ironshoe Farm to the farm around the block where they are always friendly and by the way, do you need a kitten or half a dozen?
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