Some time around 2004 I started to get involved in volunteer public service. I joined the Indianola Volunteer Fire Department, and started training with the group to certify as a wildland fire fighter. As things progressed, we expanded the scope of our training to include certification for structure fires. Before that, any calls for such services were dispatched from Fairview, which was a long trip for a slow fire engine. Most fire calls in the area, they arrived too late to do much but manage the bonfire.
As things developed, I encountered a need in our group for someone who could install and learn how to operate the radios used by our engines to communicate with the Sanpete County dispatch. I started learning about radios. Some of the experienced Ham Radio operators in Sanpete sponsored training class to qualify for Amateur Radio licenses, and I took the course, and passed the exam. I got plenty of good help from guys like Barry Bradley, WB7REL. And my friend Spencer, W7SUR.
I got more involved in installing radio equipment in our fire engines, and played with the Ham Radio.
Then in 2008, I experienced a debilitating stroke, and was challenged with difficulty talking. I could no longer speak clearly or rapidly, and experienced some exasperating difficulty speaking many of the words I was accustomed to using. In other words, with the chronic health condition known as "aphasia", I felt like I sounded like a total retard.
I soon realized that Ham Radio operators had a speech pattern on the radio that assumed everyone could communicate rapidly and clearly. All the best conversations on the air are snappy and quick. Some of the nature of speaking on the radio made this necessary and practical. I could no longer comfortably communicate in that mode. Sadly, I hung up my fire fighting gear and my radios, and resigned myself face remaining life as a cripple.
After almost ten years in this debilitated condition, and getting past many other daunting health challenges, I realized that I have no idea if my life is done, or when it will be. Doctors are doing their best to keep me breathing and above ground. I need things to keep myself busy. I need another hobby to occupy myself. One of my friends gave some information about starting a new Ham Radio club in Utah Valley, and I decided to shake the dust bunnies out of my old radios, and try them out again.
Well, I gave it a try. After a brief trial, I realized that I face the same old challenges as when I abandoned the radios the first time. I can still approach some level of technical proficiency, but not enough to compensate. I will never be comfortable about trying to project a radio presence with such a self-conscious awareness of my chronic handicap.
After some effort and expense, I have decided that my shelf of radios are good for listening to. But I will never be happy about the way I talk. And I can never hope to compete with the normal operators of FM Ham radio.
After somewhat abortive attempt to reenter the Ham Radio universe, I have discovered that I self-identify as a permanent self-absorbed reclusive hermit - which is conveniently packaged together with chronic debilitating disease. I am just not a club personality, and it makes my attempts to break in look rather intrusive and ridiculous, and sometimes slightly unsettling to others.
I am not abandoning friends and neighbors in the community, and am still monitoring traffic on the 2m and 70cm bands with avid interest. Just don't feel much like talking, and not suitably mobile or healthy to attend face-to-face meetings.
From time to time I try to raise a conversation on the air, but mostly I will just be listening. Nothing personal against anyone. Just the way I roll, and too much old geezer in me to change at this point.