Listening and hearing the Word of God is pretty 101 for a Catholic priest but what if those verbs are diminishing? With Baby Boomers booming into old age, if I could invest it’d definitely be in a hearing aid company. All of those front row seats at concerts would handily pay off for someone born after 1946.
Most friends blame it on my radio announcing days wearing headphones and letting “The Who” blare away. (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a perfect example and don’t think I haven’t considered suing the group for “overt enjoyment at a young age.” Legal precedent, anyone?) The audiologist ten years ago asked me if I was in the military since right was weaker than left; where the gun is pressed against the shoulder. I wanted to tell her my third grade BB gun story and the dead bird but just said, “No.” Her next feeble attempt was my role in construction. This is her question after shaking my smooth hand? Just ask, “What do you do?” “I’m a priest in a retirement community,” I say finding kindred spirits among others whose appendages have aged faster than their bodies.
When seeing the hearing aids on me for the first time, a friend asked why I had them. I said that I was going blind. (Sarcasm is a truly learned gift.) This begins the self conscious part. Seen or unseen. Grow my hair a little longer around the ears? Another friend says, “I can’t see them!” as though they are made to be seen in their small and even smaller sizes. Why seen? So that they can comment on my two additions placed on my body each morning? Still another chides me to “turn them up” when I ask a statement to be repeated. Somehow, calling attention to my need for hearing aids doesn’t help me hear better. Anyway, it’s three buttons depending on my environment but why should hearing people know that. I joked a former employee that my buttons read, “Linda,” “Where’s Linda” and “Who’s Linda.” I told her I mostly keep it on button three.
The phone is ringing but it’s not the phone but a song I heard two days ago replaying in my ears. Or perhaps it’s the refrigerator making its nightly sounds to keep things fresh. Yes, bathroom visits are now clearly heard, being male and the sound and taste of potato chips is now complete.
“Why don’t you have them checked?” after I ask for a repeat as though he’s now an audiologist. 5:00 a.m. each morning I hear more Lamentations than the Bible Book and I look down and there is my female cat with lingering meowings as though death is moments away. Next to her I see the little cloth mouse she plays with as she presents her prey to me hoping for applause at 5:00 a.m.
I hear my mother speaking to me loudly and clearly with or without the aids but, I guess, that’s another story. I hear the rap music from the car next to mine so I just turn up Rosemary Clooney’s croonings. Batteries need to be changed every four days unless you forget you have them on and jump into a pool while on vacation, thrice.
Mine came with Bluetooth for TV and along with closed captions, I’m a happy camper. If there a gift to this loss then it is the silence. I arrive home and the silence fills the room with only that lingering song from 48 hours before. This “silence is golden” as the old song sang fills me up with more sounds that any Bose system could provide. This stillness penetrates, illuminates and tosses all the day’s words completely out the window and tranquility or something close to it settles in.
Of all the senses this is the one I didn’t want to lose because of the music. I will keep asking this four word question whether you like it not. I’ve spend thousands of dollars to do my part. Repeating your statement for me is not the end of the world. From headphones to hearing aids, I still enjoy “The Who” as loudly as I can hear them.