The Gospel Truth

Have A Happy Pencil | January 10, 2013

I promise this will be the last post about my hearing loss.

The above title makes even less sense than the I tell jokes statement of my Bible nemesis, Geoffrey.

But taken together both have what I hope will be real significance with my adjustment to chronic hearing loss.

By that I mean I am hoping that the one will be the alpha and the latter will be its omega…the beginning and the end of my inability to hear language correctly.

High Maintenance

The night at the parish dinner when I thought I heard Geoffrey say: I tell jokes when it was really Father Issac Joques was the first indication that something might be wrong.

That has to be over 20 years ago.

At a Cardinal baseball game last September–the day before my September 6th birthday–my wife told me something that sounded to me—Have a Happy Pencil!

A happy pencil at rest

Since it was very close to my birthday, my first thought was that she was extending some sort of weird birthday salutation.

What she really said was a woman friend’s name…Kathy Kingsley, which is obviously nowhere near what I thought I had heard.

I had to laugh both at the inanity of what I heard and the existential applications of the phrase Have a Happy Pencil.

There is a revision with a new translation of an old Russian novel book out that was reviewed in the New York Times at the end of the year.

Its title is Happy Moscow, written by the late Russian author Andrey Platonov.

I just had to get it, which I did last week.

I think I have stumbled on to something.

Doesn’t everyone seek personal happiness?

Isn’t that the focal point of most people’s lives?

Since then I have been having a grand old-time trying to set a trend.

What if you don’t know what to say when an old friend, whom you will probably not see for sometime leaves you?

Just say Have a Happy Pencil and wait for the reaction.

After someone waits on you or briefly helps you with some task, just utter: Have a Happy pencil!

You have to admit it is far better than Have a Nice Day and implies a good feeling that can last for months.

It is a great conversation starter.

You never know where it will lead.

The other day, I was telling my sad tale to a guy and he said he had read about a man who was a pencil sharpener.

That’s what he did.

Get happy folks

His name is David Rees and they call him the Proust of Pencils.

He has a book, out, entitled, How to Sharpen your pencils.

One of the things I liked about starting the artisanal pencil sharpening business was that it made me think about pencils in greater depth than I probably ever had in my life. And the more I thought about them the more I appreciated them as really efficient, elegant tools.

He had a whole bag of tools, with which to sharpen your pencils.

Wrote the book

That reminded me of the old Saturday Night Live routine where a small shop sold only scotch tape.

They later expanded with a 10 cent copy machine.

How could they afford to stay in business?

And he wasn’t cheap.

But I digress.

Just before the end of 2012, I got my new state of the art hearing aids.

Yes I said aids.  I now how twin aids–one for each ear.

Just tape

Yes even Judy’s ear gets one though I hear very little but white noise in it.

This aid, which is a wireless microphone, transmits sound to the receiver in my good ear.

It will remove the awkward gymnastics that I must perform to hear anyone on my rights side.

This ensures me that I will never get nostril prints on my eyeglasses ever again.

The day I went to have them tested, fitted and explained was filled with high anxiety.

The night before I had read the story about the old man who was in a similar position as I was.

He tells his friend that he had just purchased a state of the art hearing aid that worked perfectly.

Yet he bemoaned how much it costs, his friend asked him what kind is it?

The old man responded about 10:30.

When I met with Amanda my audiologist, I was afraid she would give me another one of those dreaded hearing tests I hate so much.

No she said...not this time.

Her computer calibrated the aid for me and after nearly two hours of explaining its complexities I was good to go.

There have been a few bumps in the road.

Being right-handed, the right one is extremely hard to put in for me.

I still have a wax build-up problem but the aid comes with a wax guard that can be easily changed.

The batteries have the same life span as a turkey on Thanksgiving.

I have to change them so frequently that I now wear a cargo vest or whatever they call what a photographer wears, with all the pockets.

I buy my #13s by the gross.

Orvis Trout Unlimited...

Holds a ton of 13s

Despite all the high maintenance  I think I have finally settled into a routine that will enhance my ability to hear sounds, beautiful worldly sounds of all kinds.

The best place to test it has been a Saturday Mass.

I was the lector recently and when the priest reads the Gospel and gives his sermon, I am lucky to hear a half-dozen words.

This time I heard virtually every word.

Monsignor has always been difficult for me to understand but this time I was amazed at how lucid and clear his sermon was.

He compared Einstein’s  1905 formula, E=mc2, where he had discovered the quantum theory of light that boasted of capturing the energy of the universe.

He compared that with God’s infinite grace and how great it would be that could be captured to energize all the Catholic families of the country.

A religious application?

I immediately wondered how many other brilliant sermons I have missed these past few years.

The thought also occurred to me that to people who are ignorant of God’s truth or refuse to hear it or even those who fill their lives with so much white noise, the WORD is merely static or gibberish.

That was probably the hardest thing to endure–not being able to hear the truth when it was presented to me.

I now realize just how much I have missed.

After my service was rendered I returned to my pew where I was nearly over-whelmed by the richness of our cantor’s voice, as well as the organ music.

I even delighted in the loud turning of pages and the constant squeaking of the pews as some heavy-set parishioners shifted their weight.

It was all so rewarding.

I felt like an explorer who made a great discovery or someone who found something he had lost.

All these sounds encouraged me to make every new day…a happy pencil.



  1. I’ll be happy to converse with you anytime, Bill. I am always happy that He had our paths cross.

    Comment by S. Ducey — January 11, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

  2. I am happy to learn that we have something elsle in common. Loss of hearing. I bought some expensive hearing aids that lay in a drawer. I miss lots of conversation and when possible I tell people that I am “slightly dead” and would they just talk a little louder. They do for a few minutes and then lapse back to that quiet tone. I am happy that you can hear. Pax

    Comment by Mary B. Lachney — January 12, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

  3. Deaf, not dead. Ha ha Not only am I deaf, but can’t see well either. Ha Ha

    Comment by Mary B. Lachney — January 12, 2013 @ 11:27 pm


    My response is below it.

    I have really enjoyed your writings, especially the one on hearing loss. I like you never wanted to admit that I had a problem, it was always the other guy mumbling their words or having a very soft voice. That stopped for me almost three years ago when my granddaughters asked my wife Mary why I did not answer their questions or why were my answers so “silly”. Technology is great especially when it comes to helping the stubborn. In addition Amanda at CID is the best. I have sent many friends and relatives to her and they are as pleased as I. Happy hearing!

    Thanks for taking the time to write me about our mutual difficulty. I hope I won’t sound like Oraph when I say that I don’t think I was ever in de-Nile—a river in Egypt—about my hearing problems…I just don’t believe I denied having a problem…only that I didn’t realize how bad it was. Thanks for sharing. BB

    Comment by bbprof — January 14, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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