I intensely dislike to hear my own speech played back to me. I can't
believe I sound that bad. Maybe someone has fiddled with the damn machine
and fouled my speech up! It's more of a gargle than a voice, and, my God,
who could ever understand that mess? It is so strangely strained. And it
sounds like the tape can't enunciate. But I know it is not the machine. It
I've learned not to take it too hard. If I laugh, it relaxes me a
little and makes my conversation easier. I feel better, and the person who
can't understand what I'm saying relaxes and feels better too.
The harder I try, the worse it gets. This is a mental block akin to
stuttering. On the other hand, if I become angry, I can be damn well
understood. I think if I get focused on something outside myself, I do much
It's been true also of walking that if I strain and tense up, it
becomes more difficult. When someone has been helping me walk and I didn't
perform properly, the sidewalk was apt to come up and hit me in the face.
In my younger days, seeing an attractive woman was especially
disconcerting to my walking style. This still throws me off sometimes,
though to a much lesser degree. Unlike the speech problem, it is not
exactly socially acceptable to break into laughter when I'm in the presence
of an awe-inspiring woman.
The use of my hands is limited by an infantile syndrome called forced
grasping. This was particularly hard for me during adolescence. I, in
common with others my age, daydreamed of holding hands, etc., with young
women. Forced grasping made such intimacy very difficult. This frustration
may have had a hand in freezing my mind in the adolescent state of which some of
my friends complain.
It used to be very embarrassing to me to have to be fed at restaurants. I thought that people were looking at me and thinking, "Why is that big lug being fed by his mother? He ought to be ashamed of himself."
I got over that in Hong Kong in 1956, when there were many peasants just
out of Red China who were uninhibited about their interest in this disabled
foreigner. I became accustomed to being the center of attention. When I
came back to the States, I felt kind of let down when people averted their
eyes. But that did not keep my fingers from making involuntary fists.
Let me think, now... What was I going to say? Oh, yes, memory. Memory is an enigma -- sometimes it's here and sometimes it's gone. I pray my memory loss will be minimal as I grow older, and that it never gets
so bad I can't remember my name.
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