Bursting with the possibility-
Pacing to and fro, excitement
sizzled in the room.
The thief Mother Nature
set free by scientific miracles.
Wires hooked in to take away
the silence she doesn't want.
Nervously scurrying through dresser drawers,
mumbling under her breath,
as if an innocent government rebel
needlessly hopeful to impress the judge.
Carefully choosing each item with precision.
The phone jingles and flashes in the distance.
The mother's message a jumbled babbling of warnings.
Like that of the judge’s gavel.
Echoing long in the halls of memories.
Bringing a knot to her stomach.
Now a full-figured woman,
newly trapped in silence,
clamoring at the locked cell to get out-
a sentence unjustly served.
Her best friend since Hide & Seek days;
her lifetime defense attorney-
Grabs her hand, as they enter pre-op-
bubbly and lighthearted
hands flying with small talk meant to distract.
Burst of shared nervous laughter.
Quiet contemplation shared-
the trial long since over.
Groggy and unsteady-
The hopeful sunshine a warm welcome
to the cold cell.
Gold bracelets dangled,
eyes sparkled full of hope.
Wind blowing through their hair,
lifted their mood.
This sentence served-
wired with hope and sound.
What do you want to know about the Beatles besides that they sound GREAT??? I didn't have my first hearing aid very long when I first heard them, and once I laid my eyes on those four lads it was love at first sight!!! The first thing I said to myself, "Oh! They sound so good I think I'll be a fan for life," and little did I know that would be true! I guess I was at that perfect age (pre-teen), and wanting to hear their music made me want to wear my hearing aid. That's why they are so special to me.
Their earlier songs had a lot of repeat lines so that helped me a lot. There were other groups like Sonny and Cher, Herman's Hermits, etc., but do you know how long it takes for a hearing impaired person to figure out a song? So I only made time to study the Beatles. My favorite as a child was "And I Love Her" and my favorite from George is "Something." There's another song that's not well known. I believe is called "It's Only Love," and Paul sings both "And I Love Her" and "It's Only Love."
Then 40 years later I saw and heard Paul McCartney live. I will always treasure it. I think it must be special if The Beatles can get a hearing impaired person interested in sounds. Something I've always wanted to do is learn to play music.
After I got the CI, I grew to like The Beatles even more because I had already studied their music, so it gives me a thrill when I hear them on the radio and in the store. It is like "Yes!!! I know those songs!!!" It's a thrill for me. What I like the most about the CI is that I can understand songs without lipreading. Sometimes I wonder if I had normal hearing would I be singing professionally? Ok, I certainly cant sing, but I can enjoy hearing music. That's why I want to teach hard-of-hearing children how to enjoy music, because it made me so happy. But we all have a wide range of hearing loss so what worked for one person might not work for another.
On a day like many others, when I searched for meaning;
I was drawn outside by the beautiful weather.
Smiles on the faces of children, of all ages and races.
Smiles on the faces of adults who found joy in the places.
Smiles on the face of dogs, running and jumping with glee.
Smiles dancing on the sparkling river and a smile from me.
On a day like many others, while taking a walk,
Something sparkled with newness and lovely design.
On a day like many others, I saw something in the distance;
A magic playground of smiles did suddenly appear.
Smiles on the faces of children, happy as they could be.
Smiles on the faces of adults showing delight in their children.
Smiles on the faces of two dogs, what were they thinking?
Smiles dancing on the sparkling river and a big smile from me.
I work in Calgary for a non-profit service agency called Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services. As the equipment specialist and manager of what is essentially a store filled with all the gadgets and gizmos designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing folks, I receive a stream of hearing-impaired people with a wide variety of needs everyday.
As you would expect, many are seniors and some of them are war veterans. I love to hear their stories. Here are some snippets of war stories I've heard over the years. Most of these folks came to see me for help with their hearing losses, and all seemed pleased that someone was interested in their experiences, especially someone so much younger than themselves.
One fellow lost a lot of his hearing working as a wireless operator aboard a naval ship criss-crossing the North Atlantic while dodging Nazi submarines. His little radio room was right beside the engine room, and the ceaseless pounding of powerful engines wore out his unprotected ears. He added that he cheerfully accepted his hearing loss after watching other ships in the convoys being blown apart with huge loss of life. It was easy to imagine him hunkered down over his radio listening to distant explosions and the hammering engine, and praying to make it across one more time.
Another man was one of the few survivors of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. There were few places to hide on the island and almost nothing with which to defend themselves. While running on foot to escape an attack, he was boosting himself over a stone wall when a Japanese artillery shell struck the wall, blowing him right off. The blast shattered an eardrum and damaged nerves. He was captured and spent the next 3 years in a POW camp under horrible conditions. He resorted to eating grass to stay alive.
A German soldier who didn't want to fight came up with a unique survival plan. He was a guard at a POW camp for Russian prisoners. He was walking through the camp sickbay and noticed a quarantine sign warning of a highly contagious disease. By the time they yanked him out of the room, he was nicely infected and sat out the remainder of the war in a hospital bed. He told his superiors he went in to borrow a book and didn't notice the sign. They were angry but let him live.
Then there was the Canadian soldier who told me that during the war he had the best of all jobs. He got to zoom around the Dutch countryside on a motorcycle performing courier duties. One beautiful, sunny day he was riding on a long country road going up a long hill when he spotted a local Dutchman walking down the road towards him. What he didn't notice was that off to one side was a German Panzer tank that was tracking him with the turret canon. I suppose the German gunner was the sporting type because he timed his shot for when the motorcycle and the pedestrian met on the road, two birds with one stone. His aim was slightly off and the soldier was blown from the bike, resulting in much hearing damage. I don't recall if the Dutchman made it or not. When the dust settled, the soldier righted his bike and sped back to headquarters with his ears ringing and a good story to tell.
For as long as I can remember, there has been music in my life. I remember my mother singing me to sleep. I remember Johnny Cash's songs on the 8-track stereo in my father's truck. I remember playing my parents' LPs of Ella Fitzgerald, the Everly Brothers and the Kingston Trio. I remember the songs a family friend would play on her guitar as we camped in the Arizona desert, watching the stars and scaring ourselves with talk of coyotes. I remember, too, my mother telling stories of how she would spend teenage summer days swimming at Lake Nebagamon, WI and the sultry late-1950s evenings at the dances held therealways hoping my father would get a break from his duties as lead saxophonist so he could dance with her. My sisters and I thought that was the ultimate in romance!
As I grew older, I fell in with peers who also lived to musical accompaniment. I was fortunate, for the bulk of my elementary school years, to attend a school that had a superior music programboth vocal and instrumental. My first public performance was at the tender age of five, as a member of the school's first grade chorus. I remained active in chorus throughout my time in Phoenix, but what I was truly looking forward to was the summer before fourth grade, when I could audition to join the Beginning Band. My older sister, who was one grade ahead of me, had the enviable honor of joining band first. She chose the clarinet as her instrument. The following summer, I could barely contain myself when the director agreed to let me try out the alto saxophone and then pronounced me the best saxophonist in the band (the irony of there being only one aspiring saxophonist that year was lost on me until much later in life). My closest friends filled out the ranks, choosing flute, clarinet, trombone, trumpet and French horn. These same friends shared the choral risers with me as well.
Until the end of 5th grade, music was what I lived and breathed. Various band, chorus and church choir pieces filled my head as I went through my day at school. In fifth grade, I was selected as second chair alto saxophonist for the district-wide Honor Band. Fifth grade was also the year I sang my first solo—three whole lines!—during a choral concert, as well as the first and only year I competed in the state instrumental solo contest. I earned encouraging scores from the judges and the pride of my family for my accomplishment there. Music was, simply, part of who I was and how I lived.
As I prepared to enter sixth grade, my father’s job was transferred from Phoenix, Arizona to Portland, Oregon. The music program there was weaker and certainly given less status than that to which I was accustomed. Where I came from, to be REALLY popular, you played in the marching band in the fall and on the baseball/softball team in the spring. Where I found myself, band members were dubbed “geeks” and never made the sports teams. It was a completely different world. I continued with band from 6th grade through my junior year in high school. Marching band, concert band, jazz band, pep band; I did them all. As time went on, I found myself enjoying it less and less. When it came to the choice of college prep biology or band, it wasn’t difficult. I picked the potential for college credit over the potential for concert band performances.
Choir, on the other hand, was never a chore. Although I opted out during junior high and 9th grade, the need to sing grew strong. Ever the perfectionist, I set my sights on the top: the A Capella Choir, open by audition only to sophomores, juniors and seniors. In a panic of nerves about singing for an unknown director, it took three friends to push me through the choir room door to audition. I remember little about those few minutes, save finally relaxing when I got to stop sight reading rhythms and instead was asked to sing “America the Beautiful.” It was like coming home. I was selected and continued to sing in “A-choir” until my high school graduation three years later. I had again found my centering point.
Then for some reason, following my graduation, I just stopped singing. In the years that followed, I finally admitted I wasn't hearing as well as others seemed to and went in for a hearing test. The result was not devastating, but it did take some adjustment; I had a mild conductive loss in several frequencies on my right side, likely caused by the severe ear infections I had through age four. I could expect it to progress, though the doctor could not tell me how quickly. At some point, I might need surgery to improve it. The high pitched tones that I presumed everyone heard were not normal, after all. As a nineteen-year-old university student, I learned the word tinnitus and was advised to avoid caffeine, alcohol, salt, sugar, fatigue and stress. At the time, it was yet another reason not to sing in front of anyoneI'd been talented once, but how could I be sure I wouldnt sing everything off key now that I had a hearing loss? What I didn't understand until several years later was that my hearing loss likely had been with me all along, even when I was most active in music performance.
Finally, after sixteen years of virtual silence musically, the desire to sing and perform was again too strong to ignore. I was thrilled and apprehensive at the same time when I saw a flyer inviting people to join a newly-forming community chorale in my small town, located thirty miles from Portland. Not quite knowing what to expect, I went to the first rehearsal, telling myself that if it was awful I never had to go back. Instead, it was magic all over again. The two-hour rehearsal flew by in what felt like sixty seconds, and suddenly I was a singer and performer again.
Today, nearly two years later, I am deeply involved with the group that has become the Columbia Chorale of Oregon (CCO). I also sing with CCO's Chamber Choir, a group of 16-20 singers chosen by audition. Averaging fifty members each year, CCO does a variety of styles of singing with a heavy emphasis on classical music. We've performed Mozart's Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana, Mozart's Sacred Vespers, Vivaldi's Gloria, Handel's Messiah and many more works. We have been honored with multiple invitations to sing in New York's Carnegie Hall, on a cruise ship along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, in two different areas of Italy and most recently in the Opera House in Sidney, Australia. If we can get more stable funding, we will eventually be able to accept such invitations; today we're a non-profit group barely getting by concert to concert in a place that is better known for mill town roots than as a center of culture and refinement. Yet we are becoming more known locally and will be making our Portland performance debut in a matter of weeks. I maintain hope for the future and faith in our talent, but continue to do all I can to sell tickets to our performances and recruit donations to cover performance costs.
Our next concert program is the most ambitious yet: a survey of sacred choral music from the 1500s to contemporary times. We will be singing in Russian, German, Latin and English. Ninety-five percent of the music we will be performing is a capella, or without accompaniment. It is up to each singer to listen closely to the others and ensure he or she stays in tune. There will be no orchestra, no organ and no piano to fall back on. And yet, I am not worriedeven though my hearing loss has progressed, when I am on stage even my tinnitus doesn't register. All that exists in those moments are the dreams and prayers of the composer being retold by me and my fellow performers through the blending of our voices.
Singing brings me joy and comfort. At times, when I am learning a new piece or working on a difficult passage, it is frustrating. At times, music is one of the only things that sustains my faith in the world. As ugly as the TV news can be, there is still music in the world. As long as there is music, there is communication; with communication comes hope and promise. As a singer and performer, I can share ideas and feelings in a way that even the most militant person can understand at a core level. Music is in us all, whether it's performance quality or not. The true beauty and power come when you have the strength and courage to let it out and share it with those around you.
Those who know me as a person with a hearing loss are surprised when they learn I sing. Those who know me as a singer are surprised when they learn I have a hearing loss. Those who know me best aren't surprised at all, as they recognize that like my hearing loss, music is just part of who I am. That's a lesson I've learned the hard way, but one I'll never forget again.
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