Thursday, September 22, 2016

September 22, 2016--Creaking (The First of Two Parts)

I sent him the following note--

We live in a creaky house and thanks to you I can now hear the creaks.

His response was a emoticon smile.

This comes at the end of a long story which I will tell in abbreviated form.

For seemingly half my life hearing or lack thereof has been a sore and contested issue in my family. The Zwerlings. I have not escaped from this side of family heritage.

My father could barely hear from the time he turned 70 but stubbornly, in denial, refused to do anything about it for at least a decade. It wasn't until Rona took him aside and in an affectionate and loving way, with just enough tears, shared with him that because of his poor hearing he was, in effect, in his growing isolation, prematurely leaving us.

That was some while ago and when he finally relented, in part putting aside vanity, he agreed to acquire the then smallest size available which, before miniaturization took full form, were not that cosmetically invisible and since they had insufficient power he always had his fingers in his ears twisting the volume dial to ramp up the output; but to such a level that even to me--by then I too was losing my hearing--rather then helping him hear, emanating from what seemed to be his head was an audio cloud of buzzing and whistling, both the result of over-amplified feedback.

This produced the very thing he wanted to disguise--the fact that he required hearing aids. In public places such as restaurants everyone in the room, also enveloped in his cloud of electronic sound, knew he was hard of hearing and was, the real issue, an "old man,"

Even additional private talks with Rona failed to get him to agree to the behind-the-ear type recommended by his audiologist as the only ones that would address his hearing lose.

It is now my turn.

More-than-I-would-like-to-admit, I am very much my father's son. Not only do I look enough like him to confuse relatives we haven't seen for decades, I also inherited his hearing issues. And, though I am loath to admit it, have more of his vanity than I see to be healthy.

It is as if vanity thy name is Zwerling. At least this Zwerling

During my own decade of denial and avoidance, even Rona's urging, treats (fewer than I deserved), and tears failed to get me to an audiologist.

Until two weeks ago, aware that another birthday was approaching and my numbers are adding up to more than a goodly lot, I made an appointment and off we went for me to be tested. Rona came along to provide moral support but, even more important, to hear what the hearing doctor would report and recommend after an hour and a half of testing.

"These babies are made to order for you," we both heard him say.

Seeing the contraption he was holding up as a visual aid, as if my father was inhabiting me, I popped up as if to bolt but in truth so I could retreat to the bathroom for a moment of private fretting and, hopefully, relenting.

"If that's what I need," I said resolutely when I returned, "so be it. I'm not that vain," I lied, clapping my hands to encourage myself (the sound of which I hardly heard). "I'm not my father," I said to the doctor, who, in spite of having heard everything after 30 years of practice, had no idea what I was saying, but smiled empathetically, sensing that something intra-psychically significant was going on, effervescently, also clapping his hands for his own version of emphasis and encouragement, said, "After running all the tests and clearing a few years of wax from your ear canal, these," he held up a sample behind-the-ear device, "are perfect for you."

He smiled for the first time in an hour-and-a-half, "I want you to have high expectations. Over the course of a month and a half--after seeing you every week for adjustments--your hearing will progress from here"--knowing I could barely hear a thing, he slid down in his chair and held his hand halfway to the floor--"to here," he sat up straight and raised it to the middle of his chest.

He sat back with arms folded across his chest to let the good news sink in.

To ease the transition from my continuing half-resistance to half-hearted surrender Rona, referring to the behind-the-ear devices, said, "These look cool. With everyone walking around the streets with all sorts of things hanging from their ears, you . . ."

"I know," I interrupted, "I'll look like Jay Z or Kanye West. Though I don't even have an iPod. Forget anything wireless."

"Well, welcome to the 21st century," Rona said. "Maybe you'll like these so much you'll finally give in and get an iPhone."

"Don't hold your breath," I mumbled too softly for either of us to hear.

To be concluded tomorrow . . .


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