Have you ever lost something and then searched …….. and searched ……….. and searched …… and you just can’t find it? You retrace your steps thinking there will be an “Aha” moment of awareness when you realize where it is you set your keys, your wallet, your ring, a photo, or whatever it is that you’ve misplaced, but even that exercise proves futile. At times you can even physically retrace your steps thinking you’ll find it, but that doesn’t work either. Maybe it is someone else’s fault? Maybe someone took it? Determined not to give up you go back and look in the very same places you already looked knowing full well it isn’t in that spot even though logic says it should be. Your frustration grows ever deeper and you can start to get angry at yourself or even at the object itself. “Where the heck are those stupid keys?!!!” you wonder, as if the keys have some form of mental ability, or lack thereof. Soon, you’re talking to yourself. At first it’s just mental talk, then you start to mumble, and if you still can’t find it you move right into talking out loud, “Where the heck is that wallet?!!!” – as if it can hear you. It’s frustrating and then just as you are about to give up, suddenly, there it is. You remember where you put it, or someone calls and tells you they have it, or it is sitting in your car. Never mind, the point is you found it and all is right with the world.
Last night I was searching for a DVD video of my Dad’s scrapbook that I wanted to take home this weekend so it could possibly be shown at a party being held in his honor. I thought I knew where it was but I had moved things around in my den and it’s a mess and I couldn’t put my hands on it. I sifted through old CD’s and DVD’s, I still can’t tell the difference, and of course I found everything but what I was looking for. As happens to all of us, as I was searching for the misplaced item I happened upon many programs I had presented at Sharonville and Mason for Veterans Day and I would stop and think about those events and lose track of time as my mind drifted back to happier more content times when I was a more complete human being.
I lost my real voice a few years ago and I’ve been searching for it ever since. No matter where I look I just can’t find it. I’ve retraced my steps to try to determine what it is that I did wrong that could have caused me to lose this thing so precious. This thing that is exclusively mine, something that was a one of a kind – my voice. It was mine and mine alone, though I enjoyed sharing it in the classroom as a student at Xavier and more so as a teacher at Sharonville and Mason. Now I use a text to speech app on my iPad and I get to choose from a menu of voices, such as “Ryan” the adult American male voice or “Kenny” another American voice that is more childlike. If I want to I can even change my voice to a female and I can choose from Heather, Tracy, and Nellie, but as much as I enjoyed trying to do impressions and changing my voice when I read books to children, I’m just not into the female voices. There’s just no option for “Pat” – the real Pat.
I saw a “Ted Talk” featuring Roger Ebert recently and he is working with a European company that is helping to create his own voice so that when he uses a text to speech device it will actually be his voice. He is able to do that first because he has thousands of hours of recorded words from his television program over the years and second because he is popular or well-known. No such luck for the not so common man, Pat.
A funny thing happened, though, last night. As I looked at all those DVD’s and reflected on the many Veterans Day programs I organized, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and watch a couple. I watched one from 2006 and it was rather dramatic and well done, if I do say so myself. Then I put a DVD in from 2007 and it was actually one that was part of my initiative to get high school kids more directly involved in the events and this one was a beautiful production by a wonderful former student, Courtney Wittekind. I had a goal of creating a Virtual Memorial that consisted of many interviews of local veterans that could then be placed on an informative website with copies of the full interviews available at the public library as well as the school libraries. I had interviewed 3 veterans in preparation for our 2007 event and as part of my side initiative that I had also hoped would include the kids. Anyway, I was watching the video and it had the usual emotional music and slides and then the idea was to insert a segment of the interviews, which Courtney skillfully completed. A local Vietnam veteran and great guy, John Looker, was recounting how he had been drafted and then for just about 3 seconds there was this voice that asked him a question, “So how did you feel about that?” It was me. It was my voice! I found it! However briefly, I found it.
It was a weird moment. I was taken aback because I wasn’t expecting it. My voice was somewhere that I hadn’t considered looking. I was laying on my elbows on the floor by the DVD player because I was putting different DVD’s in the player, well some were CD’s that wouldn’t play – I still can’t tell the difference, and suddenly my voice was heard. I sat up and just thought, “Wow, I can’t believe that just happened.” It was cool on one level to hear my voice, but it was more so a surreal moment. It was just 3 seconds but it was kind of neat. It was sort of like looking at a special Power Point or an iMovie tribute to a loved one who has passed on where we can reflect and remember, perhaps through tears, the good times we shared and the love we felt for that person, and in this case I am thinking of a DVD created as a tribute to my mother.
All day today I kept thinking about my little 3 second visit with my voice. It’s lost. I miss it. I wish it would come back, but it’s gone forever. Now I rely on “Ryan” to help me express my thoughts in his monotone mechanical voice that is so uninteresting that people constantly ask Ryan to repeat himself. Ryan is on notice by the way that he could be replaced by “Alex” if Apple can get him from the Mac to the iPad, but that’s another story. It’s just been a very reflective day, and all because of a brief surprise visit from an old friend.
Today I thought about an old friend, a person whom I haven’t seen in years. She constantly told me to get a job in radio because I had a special sort of voice for that profession. I wish I had pursued that, frankly. Throughout my youth I would ride my bike to deliver papers or just to play and I would have this taped up white transistor radio by my ear as I listened to Herb Score announce the Cleveland Indians baseball games and I wanted to do that when I grew up. I thought about that transistor radio and Herb Score today and I could hear his voice getting excited as Rocky Colavito came to bat. Well, those are distant memories or dreams that like my voice have faded away.
I know where I can access more videos of me talking and I’m sure I’ll do that someday, but for now the 3 seconds will do as I am not so sure how I will feel if I go back and listen to all of that. There is no use dwelling on that which is gone, well, with the exception of loved ones who should never be forgotten.
On the morning of my surgery that would remove my tongue and my ability to share my voice in a coherent manner, I made a video and audio recording for my family, friends, and perhaps my former students. I have it saved on my computer and when I can figure out how to do it I’ll post it on You Tube to share in a private manner. I was going to wait and make that part of a book I am procrastinating in writing, but maybe I will do it sooner rather than later. I wanted it to be something to send the reader to as a follow up or to include in an e-book in the unlikely event it were ever to get it published.
I know this all sounds quite strange to anyone who doesn’t share this problem because there is simply no way to relate, but in my world the 3 second visit from my voice was like carrying on a conversation in a dream with a loved one who has died. You can see and hear that person just as plain as day. It’s normally a brief visit, perhaps longer than 3 seconds but brief nonetheless. You want more and you want to stay and talk with that person but then you awaken and he or she is gone again.
Maybe that’s why I struggled today. I was dreaming all day of better times when “Pat” the voice was still here with me and I didn’t want to wake up. When I did and “Pat” was replaced by “Ryan” again, I harbored no ill feelings toward “Ryan” for I am thankful for his presence, but I really miss “Pat” … a lot.
The problem with this lost item is that there will be no “Aha” moment of awareness because I know my search to try to find “Pat” ……………………………. is futile.
(The guy, not the voice.)