My best beloved parents spent this past Christmas with us. I realize that revelations about my relatives reveal more about me than about them, but while searching for a Beethoven picture today I noticed that every image invariably shows the composer scowling deeply. It is the same scowl my dear deaf father sports when hearing-frustrated.
Although all my life, if anyone ever asked him why he was frowning, he’d say, “I’m not frowning. This is my Natural Expression.” So perhaps his hearing loss is neither here nor there.
The day before they leave home to head for my sister’s house near Boston, Mother tells Father that his hearing aid batteries are going out and that he really ought to change them. He declares that they are absolutely fine, and to prove his point refuses to pack any for the trip.
When my father can’t hear, he shouts. He shouts, in increasing volume, through the next five days; when he shouts, he can at least hear himself.
Day 1 is spent traveling to Boston. Dying batteries and road noise conspire to cut him off from communication in the car. Isolation and traffic breed a certain testiness in his soul. It is a Loud Day. Mother mentions new batteries at her peril.
Day 2 is spent flying across the country. No-one can hear anything over the dull roar of an airplane, but Father doesn’t believe that and tends to take flight noise it as a personal affront. It is Another Loud Day. Mother is too tired to mention batteries.
Day 3 is passed with my family here. We keep background noise is to a minimum, but the hearing aids are altogether dead. They are therefore probably blocking what little sound might otherwise get through. It is Yet Another Loud Day. Mother does not mention batteries. Daughter does, and gets the Beethoven scowl for her pains.
On Day 4 old friends invite us to dinner. It is a Very Loud Dinner. As we say our goodbyes, Mother can no longer stand it and yells, “Omer, you’re shouting!” Shouts he, deliberately louder, “Mary, can I help it if the good Lord made me deaf?”
Now, the good lord may make you deaf, but the Duracell company makes hearing aid batteries. You can trump God when he turns a deaf ear on you.
I throw a little Christmas Eve party on Day 5 to prove to my parents that I have friends. It is a good party. It is a Very Loud Party.
So it’s 10:30 PM on Christmas Eve. The last lingering guest has left. It is snowing hard and dark and cold, and both my father and my husband have for quite some time been enthusiastically into the good bourbon. Father declares, “David! I need to go buy some hearing aid batteries! Nothing will be open tomorrow — we need to go Right Now.”
Mother and I eye each other. I tell her that Walgreens is only two blocks away, that they don’t have to negotiate too much traffic, and that Husband has seemingly heroic drinking capacity and a good solid car.
Mother tells Father that it is a stupid idea to go out. He says, “I’m fine–what are you implying? Stop counting my drinks.”
I tell Husband that it is a stupid idea to go out. He says, “I’m fine–what are you implying? Stop counting my drinks.”
I tell Father that it is a stupid idea to go out. He says, “Missy, I’ve missed too much this past week. I need hearing aid batteries Right Now. You don’t understand what it’s like.” He does his best Beethoven scowl.
Mother tells Husband that it is a stupid idea to go out. He says, “I know better than to fight Him.”
Both Mother and I decide about then that we really don’t care if the menfolk perish in the storm. So out they go — but they do come back, frosty and triumphant, and my father is no longer yelling. The volume of his voice has decreased fourfold. And he can hear, or at least what passes for hearing with him.
Just in time to for him to travel home.