I was invited to a wonderful and joyous evening of the London book launch of a friend's old school friend from Phillips Academy Andover and Yale last week. Gerry Shea has written an inspirational book called 'Song Without Words' because in his mid-thirties - despite having achieved a stellar career in law - discovered he'd been partially (not completely) deaf since the age of 6 years when he'd contracted scarlet fever. The scarlet fever had damaged some of the epithelial cells of his inner ear which evidently once wilted never grow back so this had affected his hearing deeply. However, he was not conscious of this at the age of 6 - he thought everyone had a better understanding of what they had heard and just assumed he wasn't as bright as his fellow pupils and would have to work harder!
The book is about his sometimes painful journey from childhood to youth and the ingenious compensating skills he invented and the stress of his long struggle with undiagnosed deafness. The deafness was only discovered when Gerry took a routine physical exam at the age of 34. A doctor did a hearing test and told him he was deaf - he didn't believe him at first and did nothing for a year - however he finally got hearing aids fitted and the rest is history. To listen to him talk about hearing nature for the first time in nearly 30 years is moving - he calls them his 'songs without words' - it might make us all appreciate those wonderful sounds even more!
This is a no 'poor me' wallowing memoir - it's a book about triumph over adversity with no self-pity over his sense of isolation in being deaf - just sheer chutzpah and determination to achieve. The book goes into great depth about how partially deaf people communicate through 'lyricals' - for the wrong words that they hear - these are more of Gerry's 'songs without words'.
A story of true courage and fantastic stength of will and enlightenment of the human spirit. The added bonus in writing the book is that it has given Gerry great joy and he has now found his new vocation and another form of communication that unites us all!
I had a frisky French grandmother (my father's mother) who was partially deaf too and she would often tell me that when you're deaf the other senses are heightened! So not so bad then Gerry........
The party was full of Gerry and his wife Claire's friends and held at Laurie and Laetitia Oppenheim's beautiful home. Thank you Karl Ziegler for the lovely photos.
'Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes' - Ludwig van Beethoven