I can’t talk … and I’m wiser for it

So, I went and got sick again. Sorry about that.

The good news is I’m feeling better today.

The bad news, in my opinion anyway: I’ve lost my voice. My kids are probably rejoicing over this. Quietly, anyway, and somewhere I can’t see them. My wife is a bit annoyed about the lack of ability to carry on a conversation conventionally, but is probably glad I can’t raise my voice if the kids misbehave.

I know everyone else has had bitterly cold temperatures and lots of snow. In Southwest Florida we’ve had below-average highs and a lot of rain lately. My dog is the one feeling this the most. It’s hard to go outside when you don’t like getting wet. No, that’s not right. She doesn’t mind getting wet, so long as it’s under her conditions. Rain and baths don’t meet her conditions, so she’s had a rough last few days and has been getting antsy.

So, being unable to engage with my family, who are basically ignoring me until I can say something about it, I took the dog for a walk.

Most loops through the neighborhood might include a wave to someone, but generally my neighbors, though friendly, are usually not out in their front yards when I walk by. Today several wanted to speak. Of course. It was maddening and saddening. I mimed and they understood; I wasn’t being rude, I just couldn’t speak.

I’ve never seen a few of them outside before so they probably think I’m mute.

When I realized this, I got to thinking. What else was I going to do? I mean, the dog probably couldn’t have heard me if I had tried to talk about it, and she was right next to me.

You probably know by now that I’m familiar with folks who are missing some things the rest of us tend to take for granted, like sight or hearing. We also tend to be horrified by the thought of losing our own sight or hearing. I don’t have any experience with the mute. My thoughts today ran to what someone who is mute experiences.

The blind cannot see the world. The deaf cannot hear it. For those born that way, the pain must surely exist, but probably not as deeply as for those who lost their ability later. Either way, you are cut off from the world. You can respond to it, move around it in it, and speak to it, though.

Being mute, you experience the world, but cannot respond to it.

I can’t figure out which would be worse.

Quite a few people might say it would be a good thing if I couldn’t speak. It would leave a lot less opportunities to stick my foot in my mouth, but that’s a wisdom thing; something much different indeed.

I’m fortunate to know that in another day or two, I will try to say something and it will come out normal. I hope, anyway. Not everyone gets that.  We are all fortunate, however, to live in a time after people like Hellen Keller or Jacobus tenBroek have blazed a trail for those who cannot connect to the world in the same way most of us do. Thanks to them, and many others, being deaf or blind, even mute, can become something more in lines with a minor nuisance than that which defines who someone is and what they can do. Further, they’ve helped ensure that people have the opportunity to connect and respond to the world around them.

Twenty years ago I’d have been horrified to lose my voice, even from being sick. I was horribly frightened, about 27 years ago, when I put the wrong contact lens in my right eye, and the cleaning solution managed to put a serious damper on my sight in that eye. I thought, for a short time, that I might not have it at all. I was terrified, since about 17 years ago or so, when I began having tinnitus. Today, however, I’ve been comforted by my faith, my maturity, and my increasing wisdom and knowledge of the world.

The horror isn’t in blindness, deafness, or being mute. The horror is in letting any of those things keep you an outcast.


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