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Another Day in the Country

What was that?

© Another Day in the Country

We used to take our old friend, Tony, with us to a buffet in Salina. We enjoyed all the vegetable options, and he enjoyed the variety of meat. It was a good solution for all of our varied tastes in food.

Being in his late 80s and suffering from the ravages of age-related hearing loss, Tony long ago had given up on whispering. I can relate because I, too, have given up on whispering.

Whispering was a skill perfected as a teenager, used most often during long, boring church services. We were castigated for it at school. Now, I’m wondering, do kids still know how to whisper?

Once upon a time, I knew how to whisper. These days, if you need to whisper something to me, you might as well keep it to yourself. I can’t hear it!

Back to the buffet.

Tony was the kind of guy who believed in fitness. He prided himself at being able to wear the same pants and shirt he’d worn as an officer in the Navy — and not just the same size. Often, it was the same trousers, worn until the fabric was as soft as cashmere from having been washed so often.

Sleeves of his shirts were torn and frayed from long usage.

“They’re comfortable,” he’d say if we suggested he get a new shirt or a different color of clothes than khaki tan.

The buffet had a big clientele of overweight folks. Tony marveled at their heft as well as the amount of food they carried to their table.

He’d comment about someone filling a plate in what he thought was a whisper but wasn’t.

“Look at the size of those helpings,” he’d say in a very audible voice as someone would walk by our table, “Do they look to you like they’re starving?”

“Shhhh, they can hear you,” we’d remonstrate, trying to get him to talk softer.

He never wanted to wear his hearing aids in a restaurant because of the cacophony of background noise.

“What?” he’d ask, and then proceed to embellish his comment so we’d understand.

Whenever we’d go anywhere, we’d remind him, “Don’t forget your hearing aids!”

This was as much for hearing his own voice as it was for hearing others.

Loss of hearing sneaks up on us as we age. I lost a certain segment of my hearing when I was in my early 40s because of some nerve damage on one side.

My hearing loss is in the range where the oven timer buzzes. Slowly, over the years, I lost the sharpness of the microwave “bink” and certain bird calls. I’d have to ask shy kids at school to repeat themselves.

When masks were required, I realized that I had been doing a lot of lip reading and now couldn’t see their mouths.

I watched the volume bar on the television creep up louder and louder. Pretty soon it was easier if we just put subtitles on than struggling to understand what someone was saying.

When school was out this spring and I went for a visit to California, I suddenly felt as if I were deaf.

My grandson’s voice was at a lower register. I was constantly asking, “What was that?”

Several times, I actually couldn’t understand a specific word and I’d say, “Spell it!” 

“Time for Miracle Ear,” my daughter joked.

And then she was serious.

“Mom, have you had your hearing tested recently?”

I hated admitting that I’d actually come to a spot in life where I needed to get hearing aids.

Once upon a time, my hearing had been very acute.

I prided myself in the bird songs I could identify off in the trees below our home in California.

I loved having the doors and windows open to hear the kids playing outside. I could decipher snippets of their conversations and could tell what was happening when they were out of sight.

However, all of that was a bygone, and the reality was that I could no longer hear normal conversation easily. 

How many ways can you get clarification?

“What was that?” leaning forward.

“I beg your pardon?” I’d say with a smile.

“Could you repeat that?” I would say, embarrassed.

It was time!

“It will be helpful,” my daughter encouraged me. “You’ll be glad you did.”

I doubted it. 

Finally my sister said, “Let’s do it,” joining in to give me courage, and we headed to Salina.

I’m sure the technician who assisted me was suspecting by all my questions and my hesitation that I was going to be one of those persons who would be forever resistant to wearing hearing aids.

However, I even surprised myself by walking away with a pair.

Yesterday, going to teach art to a room full of non-whispering kids was my maiden voyage with hearing aids.

I’d steeled myself for the experience to be awful. But it wasn’t. I didn’t have to say, “What was that?” even once. It was pretty much, business as usual — just another day in the country.

Last modified Sept. 15, 2022

 

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