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"I would take the recorder and the book up [to her room] and read to her by pressing play and turning the pages of the book," Keith tells The Boot. "Sunday would hit the stop button and go, 'But I want YOU to read it.' She didn't understand why I couldn't read the books. With everyone else I could write notes, but Sunday can't read yet so Nic [Nicole Kidman, Keith's wife] would have to try to explain it to her."
Keith had to be totally silent for three weeks after his surgery and says one of the things he learned is that he had to exaggerate his responses to people. He couldn't just nod in agreement; he had to nod vigorously in order to get across the point that he really did agree with them.
"You almost have to over-exaggerate facial expressions to let the person you are trying to communicate with know you're in a good mood. I nodded a lot. I found you have to be effusive, because when you talk and you agree, you go, 'Yeah. Absolutely!' But when you go like this [slightly nods] the other person doesn't know what's going on. So I had to nod vigorously to make sure people knew that I was agreeing with them. After two weeks, I was in the shower one day and my neck was so sore ... because I was always nodding in agreement to people."
Keith says another way he communicated was to carry a white board around with him to write on. He quickly found out he could leave out a lot of words when he needed to talk with someone.
"It's like they say, when one of your senses is gone you get stronger in the others. With me it was my hearing. I became amazed at how much noise there is on television and in conversations ... how much is said that could be stripped away so that conversations could be more succinct. I realized I'm as guilty with that as anyone else. When you have to write it down you get real particular about what you want to say. We went to a dinner party one evening and I didn't want to take my white board in but Nic told me to bring it. So during dinner I'm nodding a lot and making the proper facial expressions during conversations, really trying to contribute. Then I'd think, I should say something about this particular topic, so I'd write it down. And just about the time I got it written down and was about to hold it up to share it, the conversation would move on to another topic. So I'd write faster and people would say, 'I can't read that.' So towards the end of the evening I got real specific and more economical and to the point about what I wanted to say."
Now that Keith is completely recovered from surgery, he's back to reading to Sunday Rose and her 1-year-old sister, Faith Margaret. He'll also be performing again soon. His first trip to a stage will be the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium on Feb. 3. Keith's 'All for the Hall' concert, which he'll co-host with friend Vince Gill, is scheduled for April 10.