I heard a few bleeps and beeps and blips, and we were finished. I exchanged pleasantries with Pam, the technician, as I was leaving the office. I probably responded to her questions with answers completely unrelated to the question, but she smiled and handed me a bunch of batteries.
The day was young and I had other errands. I adjusted the hearing aids with the neat little remote control, turning down the outside noise, turning up the volume for a one-on-one conversation. Not a miracle, but certainly an improvement over the shrill sirens or the mumbling and whispers I would hear otherwise.
So now it’s time for the cataracts. My standard statement about my eyes and ears is not quite true anymore.
“I can’t see and I can’t hear, but I can still drive,” is bordering now on dangerous. The cataracts have come calling and I’ll soon have to answer. Just another body part in the assembly line to need a little upgrade.
A friend was bemoaning her latest discomfort — severe pain in her heels.
I quickly diagnosed her ailment as plantar fasciitis, but wouldn’t dare to treat her since I don’t have a license. I could only say, “It gets worse before it gets better.”
At the rate medicine is progressing, we can have replacement parts for many of our ailments. We can get new knees and hips, recycled hearts and lungs and livers.
Surely soon someone will find a way to transplant ears, or better still, they’ll manufacture new ears since there won’t be many “used” ears that still work well enough to be transplanted.
At this point my family members are still laughing at my misunderstandings, and I laugh with them. I remember how frustrating it was to live in a household where it seemed nobody could hear well. I guess we heard the important things — the alarm clock or the rooster crow or the cotton mill whistle calling the workers to the mill where the deafening noise of the machinery did its lifelong damage.
And we heard Grandma’s pet canary sing and the cow moo, and the hogs grunt and the dog’s bark, sounds that we couldn’t take to town with us when we moved and where the roar of trains and sirens and motor vehicles would discreetly add to the inevitable fading of our sense of hearing.
But with modern technology, I can still hear a grandchild telling me a secret, and I can hear (with headphones) the answers and questions on Jeopardy.
And that precious gift of sight brings unheard words to life.
I realized not long ago that I am now in my 25th year of writing Tribune columns. It is ironic that my first column, dated Feb. 21, 1988, was a spoof on the “hard of hearing” as two fictitious gentlemen discuss the Tribune, along with happenings of the day as reported there. It went like this, in part.
Overheard recently in a local fast-food establishment: “Morning, Fred. How’re you and the wife?”
“Need a knife? No, I’m just having coffee. Emma’s gone shopping up the street with some gals she met at the AARP meeting. Sit with me a spell.”
“Sure, might as well. Know any good news?”
“Wood pews? What’d you need with wood pews? Myself, I’d just as soon sit here in these nice padded booths and read the paper. Picked me up a Tribune to catch up on the news. Looks like I’m gonna have to subscribe again. … It’s beginning to be the kind of paper we can be proud of. Don’t you agree?”
“Sure do. Minnie just mentioned this morning how some of the new features catch her eye and capture her interest. There seems to be something for everybody. Now if everybody in the county would just read it, we’d all be well-informed! … Seems to me that would be an ideal situation. Is it too much to be hopin’ for?”
“Open Door? Is that what they’re calling the policy around the county that’s causing all these folks to move in? If this keeps up, we’re gonna have more neighbors than we can visit in a week’s time.”…
Well, Fred’s prediction hit the mark. And the Tribune covered it all.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.