Hear, Hear!

In high school while taking a music appreciation class the teacher told us that the acuity of our hearing would peak in the not too distant future and that it would all be downhill from then on. A teenager doesn’t believe anything an adult tells him so I shrugged it off.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I used to go to social outings where very loud music was played while people jerked their bodies around on a dance floor. At the time, the music was much too loud and I knew it was damaging my hearing but I thought it was wise to hang out and catch some action, if you know what I mean.

Now that I am in my fifties, there has been a decline in the ability to hear as well as I did more than thirty years ago. If two people talk at the same time I cannot make out what even one says. My brother-in-law, the doctor, says that it is natural and not to make a big issue of it. At least I think he said that as I tried to read the words he mouthed.

As bad as it is for me, you can imagine what my mother is going through as well as how I suffer the consequences. Every couple of years or so, she makes an appointment at an ear, nose and throat specialist who sticks something in each ear and digs out a wad of wax from both. She collects them and makes candles, I think.

Even with this periodic cleansing, she has much difficulty hearing anyone on the phone for the first two minutes of their conversation. If I initiate the call, it typically goes like this:

Ma answering phone: “Hello?”
Me: “Ma, it’s me.”
Ma: “What?”
Me: “Ma. I said it’s me.”
Ma: “What?”
Me: (a little louder) “I said ‘Ma, it’s me – your son.”
Ma: “Wait, say it again louder and slower. I can’t make out what your saying.”

I then end up shouting my greeting slowly and once it registers in her to whom she is talking, the conversation takes on a normal mode. Except for when it is time to end the conversation. I have to tell her three times that I am hanging up and then she pretends that she doesn’t hear me. I have to dig deep into my bag of tricks and tell her that the Chicago Bulls basketball game is going to be on in a few minutes.

Her next words are, “what channel?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Ma: “I said what channel?”
Me: (louder) “I said I don’t know.”
Ma: “Talk up- I can’t hear you.” So I make up a channel and speak loudly and then she says, “Are they playing a good team?”

She is doing this on purpose- interviewing me because she knows that I then have to continue the conversation. I reply that the opponents are good but not as good as our team.

I then pause for effect so that she will get the idea that maybe our conversation has run its course and she will want to hang up. Instead, I hear this: “How come Rose turns the ball over so much?” You see, she asks questions that she knows will take a college level course in basketball teamwork and setting up plays to answer. This way she can keep me on the phone yelling all my answers to her and thereby end up with not only hearing issues but also laryngitis.

As much as she can torture me with a drawn out shouting match over the phone, I am usually saved by the bell or more aptly, the “call waiting” signal on her end of the connection. She will quickly cut me off in mid sentence and say, “okay, I gotta go- someone’s trying to call me.” And before I can say goodbye, our call is done. She can hear the little clicking of the ‘call waiting’ notifier but she makes me shout into the phone.

And by the way, Rose turns the ball over too much because he is too young and too fast. When he gets old, he’ll be bouncing a ball with nowhere to go and wondering why he can’t hear so well what his son is mumbling to him.

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