I know the picture on Facebook was taken just a few months ago, but I already look light-years older as I stare in the mirror. I ask myself how that could be. I’ve lost five pounds; I’m drinking lots of water; my schedule slowed in the last few weeks.
I hear a whine and think that the window stands open and crickets have begun to sing. But no: what I hear never stops. It waxes and wanes, my constant companion, the soundtrack of my life. Tinnitus.
It could be worse. My last hearing test showed no significant change. You know you should have hearing aids, the doctor mentioned. Why yes: yes I do. I see him scribble a little note and imagine it must be about my slightly snide tone. The last time I got fitted for hearing aids, the technician mentioned that the five-hundred dollar ones would do little for my particular loss and would require fine motor coordination to manipulate, which I lack. She suggested the three-thousand dollar ones. I said, Uh, no thanks.
I can hear the traffic on Troost so I know that I’ve not yet gone deaf. I’ve grown accustomed to the rise and fall of the ringing in my ears. It started forty-five years ago. My grandfather tested my hearing in his kitchen, then called my mother. She’s losing her hearing, sweetheart, he told her, in his gruff Syrian voice. I think my mother largely felt relief that the problem had been identified as something other than teen-age petulance. I’m not sure why I didn’t get a Sonotone House of Hearing aid from Nana and Grandpa. Perhaps they didn’t think my loss had progressed far enough.
But now it has. I walk through the hallways of the courthouse and judges speak to me, raising their eyebrows at my lack of reply. I start off every proceeding by letting them know that I depend to some extent on sight-reading. Badly, badly, but I need it, I murmur, and even the most traditional let me wander around the courtroom trying to get a better view. I’ve learned to say, I’m afraid I didn’t quite hear that, ma’am, perhaps you could say it more loudly next time. Witnesses feel that you’re accusing them of lying.
I’m not complaining, though. I’d rather lose my hearing than my vision. As long as I am sighted, I can still look myself in the eye; still stare down my demons; still study the face of the person across from me to discern their intent. The eyes don’t lie.
It’s evening on the twenty-second day of the twenty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. I’m weary; I’m aching; I’m waddling around like a one-legged duck. But life continues, and for that, I remain grateful.