Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mental Notes

I’ve accepted a speaking engagement. Two, in fact.

That’s no great shakes, I know. It may never have been. I’ve accepted invitations to speak hundreds of times before, and, as long as I didn’t charge anything, I could probably be booked to the max long after I’m dead.

Before the stroke, of course.

I sound like my mother. She measured time in, “…that was before my hysterectomy, wasn’t it,” until she got another, more dramatic one, “…that was after I lost half my top,” or, “…that was before my triple-bypass, wasn’t it?” And on and on: “…that was before my carotid artery surgery,” or, “…that was around the time I had this defibrillator-pacemaker put in, wasn’t it?”

I guess I shouldn’t have made fun of her for that; or I maybe should make fun of myself.

“Were we talking about Ed Lowe before the stroke, or Ed Lowe, now? Because, you couldn’t get Ed Lowe to shut up before the stroke. Now, he’s much more pleasant company.”

So, all right, public speaking is a big deal, now, for me, in this time and circumstance, because speaking is one of the things I used to do well, and really, really enjoy, and, perhaps take for granted, too. (I suppose I could say that for playing the guitar, too. Who’s to check?).

Anyway, now, probably not so much.

I don’t take it for granted, to be sure, and I don’t do it so well, any more.

Speaking at all turns out to be a major triumph (…all right, like walking; let alone walking while waving, “Hi,” while making a call, paying attention to the traffic, finding your keys, stepping aside to allow the two-seater stroller to pass by and tipping your hat. But I don’t blame myself for being dunderheaded about that. I’m just saying—I was dunderheaded.).

I didn’t know that, about speaking, that it was a triumph.

Maybe I did know that, but I never paid it any heed, any mind, any attention, and, now, of course, I do. Have. I guess, ever will.

First, the mechanics of speaking, the oral summersaults and lingual trumpet-playing to distinguish an “F” from a “V;” a “P” from a “B;” a “Ooooh” from a, “Whoooh,” from a, “Ew,” to a, “Uh,” to a, “pomegranate.” You never think of those skills as separate from you, as not part of you, until they’re…well, not, and you have to learn them.

Can you imagine? You have to learn to say, “F.” I wonder how many times I just said, “F,” or, “Efff,” or, “Ffff…lorida.”

Pretty comical.

I tried speaking at Larry Shewark’s retirement from 30 years with the State Troopers. An experiment. He is a good friend. I was the one speaker who was not in law enforcement. They tell me I did all right, but I was the one who was going to lighten things up. I think I got applause for standing up.

I’m torn between feeling blessed that I get to recognize what gifts I had; frustrated that I didn’t get to exploit them further; and wondering whether I’ll get them back, again, or some of them. Maybe enough to get some laughs.

I’m just getting past the false-yet-real humiliation you feel when you discover that things were not what they seemed for a longer while than you knew. For a long while.

They were far worse.

“Don’t be silly,” I echo a dozen friends, “you were out of it.”

“Well, yeah. I guess I was, and, no, I don’t feel silly. But, dammit, yes I do. My body fooled me, really played me, betrayed me. I thought I was saying what was in my head. I heard words come out of me. Do you mean words weren’t coming out of my mouth when I spoke to you?”

Silence. I’m asking the question of myself, now, anyway. I know, now, the answer is they weren’t. I don’t know what I was hearing, but I evidently was alone in hearing it. People don’t wear those stupid expressions when they understand you. They didn’t understand you. You weren’t making any sense; they didn’t understand a word you thought you were saying, and that maybe was the first year. Get it, and then, get over it.

When I motioned—and maybe that was a lie, too—for a friend to, “here, take that black chair and bring it over here. How are you? How…”

What came of my mouth was, “Gnf.” And I didn’t know it.

I know I’m not supposed to be embarrassed by that; I know it. Maybe someday I’ll make a joke out it, and the embarrassment will disappear.

Mimi Juliano was my speech teacher. She’s 10 years younger than I, has two masters degrees and is a saloon-rock n’ roll singer. A good one. My kind of girl. She taught me that even when I finally heard words coming out my mouth, I was talking to my sternum. “I don’t want to hear any of this, ‘Godfather’ dialogue any more,” she said. “Talk to me.”

Now, I have accepted an invitation to speak. What was I thinking…

I have to remember stuff. What I wanted to say, where’s my cane, where do I go when it’s over, what did I say, where’s my right foot…It was right there; what am I doing? What am I doing?

Ah. Don’t be so dramatic. It’s only a speech.


  1. What a trooper!
    Who couldn't like whatever it is, or whatever it sounds like, that you have to say?

  2. I've been "away" for several weeks, now.. grieving over Katie leaving for Vegas.. then grieving over my soul mate, the love of my life.. who left me 2 years ago, but I only just found out.. Grief is grief.. no matter when you get the news.. How bizarre.. :*(
    But., coming "back".. it is such a relief.. to see that SOME things havent changed.. This column is still here.. and I can still touch base with my most favorite author since Nathaniel Hawthorne and Samuel Clemens (You ARE an odd combination of BOTH of them, you know.. like an author's Mulligan Stew :)
    Your wit, your sense of timing, your gracious duality.. that of this brilliant mind hiding in this silly body that takes such delight in playing with you.. is still sharp, if not sharper.. then ever..
    We who love your reflections and your manner of sharing them.. dont even THINK about where the thoughts come out of.. as long as they KEEP on coming.
    I could, would, (and HAVE..) gone on forever.. But will stop now.. with yet, another.. Thank You, edlowe*
    love you*