I’m Just Saying: The hoarse whisperer

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, July 6, 2017

Believe it or not, I have something in common with the international pop star, Adele.

A silo filled with Grammys?


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An 18th century manor house in the West Sussex countryside of England?

Not unless I sell a lot more books.

Damaged vocal chords?

You got it. 

Aunty Pam had a little nodule thingy (and I’m pretty sure if you Google “nodule thingy” you’ll get all the info you crave) removed from her thyroid last March, with hoarseness that can last several months being a known side effect from the surgery.  

Strangely enough, if you slice into your throat, there’s all sorts of rather useful nerves that are in residence, and just digging around in there can damage them. Not to mention what can happen when there’s a tube inserted via the mouth so that you can actually breathe during the surgery. And I have an incredibly long neck. Quite frankly, I have mulled the idea of making a living by charging people to watch me swallow a grape.

The voice sounded pretty good by the time I peeled off the super glue (you think I’m kidding) that adheres the incision together and the following couple of weeks. Then the rasp set in, which at first made me feel very Melissa Etheridge-ish and I sounded most authentic when I broke into ‘I’m The Only One.’

I was told the hoarseness could last as long as six months, and, as I had a book tour as well as a couple of performances booked far in advance, I undertook both, resulting in complete laryngitis and quite a bit of discomfort. 

So I am now on strict vocal rest. Not a peep. Not a “get down!” directed at the cats, or a “whoa” directed at a horse. Not a single word. For weeks.

I’ve never seen Paul quite so jubilant. 

No, I may not yell at the television during the news or interrupt a baseball game to ask, “How did Uncle Ben die in Spiderman?” Neither can I ask him if he’s changed his pillowcases since the last solar eclipse.

He’s positively dancing on air.

But there are great drawbacks as well. I cannot teach any of my riding students for weeks and I’m quite nervous about stand up shows I have booked beginning in September. I’ve even taken to typing a little phrase into my iPhone that I can show to store clerks so they can read, “I’ve lost my voice,” after which a quick game of charades ensues as I attempt to ferret out where I might find the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

It’s a funny thing when you show people you’ve lost your voice and aren’t allowed to speak. Because the first thing they then do is ask, ‘Oh! How did you do that?’ And after a while, my fingers get tired of typing a reply. Neither can I interrupt when I’m regaled with a particularly horrifying story of a late uncle who had the same procedure and never got his voice back. Frustratingly, I cannot mention the fact that the uncle’s daily habit of four packs of Lucky Strikes may have been a contributing factor. Frankly, I’m amazed anyone allowed this man indoors.

Certainly I’m forced to listen more. This is difficult because I’m not a great listener. Ask Paul. He’ll tell you hundreds of occasions that I haven’t listened to him. Well, he would have to, because I can’t remember. I wasn’t listening. 

It’s a bit isolating as well. I can’t talk on the phone, only text, and I can’t catch up with friends that I bump into around town. It makes no sense to accept invitations to any sort of social gathering, unless there’s an open bar. 

Readers have graciously requested that I write a sequel to my novel and I might spend my summer doing just that, although I do like to vocalize the written dialogue to make sure I have the rhythms and nuance I was after. 

It’s going to be a challenge for sure. When my arms are full of laundry and Paul asks me how many cans of dog food we have left, I’m reduced to looking like Trigger, trying to answer by repeatedly striking a hoof on the floor. 

On the bright side, neither can I reply to how the new ding in the driver’s side of his car got there, or why his new razor got so dull…But it worked wonderfully well at all those broken threads on the back of the sofa where the cats had clawed!