The Joys of Deafness

When I was five or so, we lived across the street from a playground and tennis courts on Laurel Street in Summerville.  When no one was playing tennis, we would ride our bikes on the court and hear, quite clearly, a television blaring from across the street. The first time I noticed it, I asked my Aunt Virginia, only six years older, what was causing all that racket.[1]  She informed me that Mr. Whatshisname was watching The Edge of Night.

“Why does he have his tv on so loud?” I asked.

“Because he’s deaf, you nitwit.”

“Wow.  He must be really deaf.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”[2]

Flash forward sixty years.

Me (passing a student on a school stairway): How’s it going Lucas?

Lucas: Terrible!

Me: Great.

Or worse.

Me: sitting across from someone in a bar leaning across the table, trying to hear.

My companion: We just found out last week that Mom has inoperable brain cancer.

Me: smiling, nodding, saying nothing.

Of course, given my, as Dr. John might say, my lassitudinoushood, until today I had not done anything about my condition.[3] Although I sensed others’ irritation with my saying sorry and leaning over with a cupped ear, it was tolerable to me to spend the rest of my life following in the footsteps of the old drinker in Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.”

“You should have killed yourself last week,” [the Young Waiter] said to the deaf man. The old man motioned with his finger. “A little more,” he said. The waiter poured on into the glass so that the brandy slopped over and ran down the stem into the top saucer of the pile.”Thank you,” the old man said. The waiter took the bottle back inside the cafe. He sat down at the table with his colleague again.

[snip]

“Another brandy,” he said, pointing to his glass. The waiter who was in a hurry came over.

“Finished,” he said, speaking with that omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners. “No more tonight. Close now.”

“Another,” said the old man.

“No. Finished.” The waiter wiped the edge of the table with a towel and shook his head.

The old man stood up, slowly counted the saucers, took a leather coin purse from his pocket and paid for the drinks, leaving half a peseta tip. The waiter watched him go down the street, a very old man walking unsteadily but with dignity.

So anyway, I drove to North Charleston where I had my ears examined, and a goodly quantity of wax vacuumed from my right ear, which Caroline had correctly identified as my worse ear. I then took a hearing test in which I scored a 100% on spoken words but not so hot on frequencies, especially upper level frequencies.  The physician concluded that “I had a fair amount of hearing loss” and “would probably benefit from hearing aids” but seemed sort of “meh” about it.

So, I’m going to – forgive me – play it by ear.  If I can hear the cat loudly mewing outside my bedroom door while I nap, I’ll know I’m good.  If I hear her just audibly whispering a mew, I’ll go ahead and get hearing aids – but not until by Medicare B kicks in.

Why do today what you can put off till September?


[1]Even in those days, your beloved blogger had a way with words, despite having a speech impediment that prevented him from pronouncing the letters S and L.  According to my mother, on Sunday evenings when our television beamed Timmy calling his beloved collie to come, I would scream along with him.  “ASSIE! ASSIE!” 

[2]Virginia was quite a character.  For example, click here.

 

[3]My wife Caroline took the bull by the horns Quasimodo by the ear and made an appointment.