A Story About A Story

storytelling party

Today, instead of a quote, we have a story about a story.
Ten years ago my mother took me to see the big storytelling festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee. I was intrigued. I thought, “How wonderful it would be to be able to tell a story like that.” I don’t think the concept of “bucket list” existed then, but if it had, I would have put storytelling on the list of things that I wanted to do before I kick the bucket. That seemed reasonable.

Three years ago I was recuperating from an operation that removed a malignant tumor from my throat. The operation also removed my larynx (or voice box). I knew that everything would be all right someday, but I remember being a bit depressed at not being able to talk at Christmas time. I had to write everything down instead. It was frustrating to say the least.

Time passed. I was fitted with a simple and effective implanted voice prosthesis that allows me to speak with a raspy but acceptable voice. When I want to talk, I push a button on my throat to re-direct the air from my trachea to my esophagus which allows sounds to form. I practiced and practiced with the device until it became a natural part of who I am. Everything was beginning to be all right.

Time passed. This year, Dekie and I were invited to attend a “Christmas Storytelling” party to be held at the lovely home of Terrell and Sheila Shaw here in Rome, Georgia. The guest list included a group of well-practiced and gifted storytellers from our area. Terrell said that anyone who wanted to tell a story could just sign up. I thought about that.
Could I tell a good story?
Would my limited voice work well enough?
Would I embarrass myself?
I had a lot of doubts and reservations. I was moving into uncharted territory in more ways than one.

“Well,” I thought, “I may as well try. There probably won’t be very many people there, anyway.” I still had doubts, though as to whether I should try until I got to the party and Terrell said,

“If you want to tell a story, write your name on a piece of paper and put it in this box.”

So, I did. Then I stood in a corner and watched as the house filled up with people—a lot of people. But, I had (intentionally?) painted myself into a corner—there was no backing out. We all sat in a big room and the storytelling started. These people were good. I wondered what would happen…

My turn came. I had modified one of my favorite stories to fit a Christmas format. I told the story about Louann. The voice worked rather well. I spoke the opening words of the story,
“Louann was a victim of numbers
With 5 more years of public education, 30 more points of I.Q. and 6 more teeth, she could have been a movie star.”

The audience laughed. I was off and running. The storytelling was a success. The party was wonderful. I had effectively dealt with my disability and overcome my fears of failure. I was able to share a lot of smiles.

For several years, I had told myself, “Everything is going to be all right.”
And it was.

John P. Schulz—“Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days.”

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Terrell Shaw
    Dec 18, 2015 @ 10:42:08

    I loved the story. If it had been a story slam I think you were the likely winner. Definitely the most laughs of the evening! I hope you and Dekie will stay involved with our group
    – Terrell


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