I remember, back in
the 1950s, reading Zane Grey novels about the early American west. Grey
frequently used the term 'laconic' to describe his strong, silent heroes.
Well, that's me. I am, and always have been, a laconic man, at least
in conversation. I have written hundreds of thousands of words in my life,
but am quite reserved when it comes to verbal interaction with others. It
is easier to learn with one's mouth shut.
There are times when
one must speak, however. It's unavoidable. Try ordering a Reuben
sandwich, double sauerkraut and hold the mustard, with your mouth shut and
no pen and paper handy. Deaf and dumb people need to deal with this
reality daily, and my heart goes out to them. It is a real hassle not
to be able to communicate easily when one wants to.
How is this all relevant?
In 1986, I noticed
that my voice was diminishing in volume and increasing in hoarseness. By
the time I realized that something serious was amiss, I had virtually no voice
left. It took every ounce of effort to force out a few words. At the
end of a normal workday, I was totally exhausted. Off I went to my
doctor who in turn sent me to Victoria Hospital, in London, Ontario, Canada,
I was diagnosed as
having a neurological voice disorder called adductor spasmodic dysphonia. I
was lucky to get such a quick diagnosis. I discovered that many others
with the same affliction are regularly misdiagnosed; some are even told that
their problem is psychological or completely imaginary.
On the urging of my
specialist, I took several months of speech therapy to help me learn to speak
'around' my problem. It helped somewhat, but not nearly enough to enable
me to function normally. My staff at work pitched in and made phone
calls for me and generally acted as my 'voice' whenever possible. My
wife Chrystyna did the same at home. Over a period of a year or more,
scarcely a word was spoken at home. It was too difficult for me, and
I will always be grateful to my wife for her patience and understanding.
I tried acupuncture,
chiropractic treatment and naturopathy. Nothing helped. Finally,
I tried hypnosis. I have no idea if the hypnosis actually contributed towards
improvement of voice, but I was able to speak a bit better after my one session.
I was able to tell my wife, when I got home, that (according to the
hypnotist) I was from another planet, in another solar system, and that I
was only 'visiting' here on earth. Hmmmm. To this day, if I appear
lost in thought while gazing off into space, my wife asks if I'm visiting
relatives again. Very strange.
Well, I don't believe
that I am from anywhere else than from right here on Terra Firma. If there
is life anywhere else in this magnificent universe, I can't imagine it being
anything like the human race. If I thought that we were the pinnacle
of creation (or evolution, if you prefer) I would be more than a little depressed
by the possibility.
I consider myself blessed
and very, very lucky. I can deal with my voice problem. Of all
the medical afflictions that might have befallen me, this is certainly not
one that I am likely to complain about. There is much worse.
So... If we ever meet,
and I am a bit difficult to understand when I speak, that is why. Adductor