Road trips. I love road trips. Usually I am the backseat driver, unless I am needed up front to drive (which is not very often) or to sit as co-pilot and make meaningful conversations to keep the driver alert. Because I had my nose in a good book last week, I opted to take the backseat. We left Thursday and spent the night a few hours down the road so by Friday we only had half the time left to get to NY.
We get to the hotel and I am laying out my things for the next day and start getting ready for bed. I take out my hearing aids and place them in their safety container; then I put my container in my purse so I do not forget them in the morning. (Can you imagine!?) Friday morning we grab drive-thru for breakfast and officially set off on our way only 9 minutes behind the schedule we had hoped for the day before (I was so proud!) Now, you have to understand…freeways, airplanes and the constant murmur in the background at the grocery store gets very annoying to hear. I usually have my hearing aids on the second setting on road trips when there is another person in the backseat with me so I can keep in conversation and I keep them at this setting when I am shopping. I just take them out in airplanes. Because it was just me in the back and I wanted to read, I left my hearing aids in their container.
We get about 40 minutes from my grandparent’s place (destination) and I am on the last page of my book. You also have to understand…I normally shy away from a few genres in literature: Sci-fi, romance novels and animal (pet) memoirs. But my latest trip to the public library had a shelf of books about animals and gardens–in theme with springtime, April and Earth Day. A few caught my eye, with this one in particular, because the owl on the front was so fuzzy and cute I just had to read it. It turned out to be a very educational read, but it was entertaining all at the same time. After two hundred and some odd pages, I am absorbed in the life of this biologist and her owl that I get to the last page and feel it coming! Yeah, the tears. Inevitable!
If you are like me and don’t normally read animal memoirs or watch the nature show, then hope you can sympathise with me on this for this very reason: tears. Not that crying is a bad thing–I think it shows how great the book is, because the author was able to relate that emotion to the reader. But when I read books that I know will make me cry, I usually like to be in my room. Alone. Yet here I am on a NY freeway trying to control my emotions that I really was not expecting until I started the last chapter. I finish the book and decide if I distract my thoughts from what I just finished reading then I would be fine. I mumble up to the front that I am getting a Charlie Horse cramp in my left leg and I need a rest stop. Up until this point I have somehow managed to keep the tears at least in my eyes, but as soon as my mom turns around to see what I need, one look and I burst out the ending of the story in one grand sentence and then sob profusely.
Mom and I finish our tiny chat about the book and I dry my tears. I figure it is time to put in my hearing aids. I first put in the right hearing aid but don’t hear the “ring tone” that announces to my ear that it is turning on. I put in the left (which is no longer my dominating ear but practically deaf ear) and can’t hear much of anything. I take them out and replace the batteries. Nothing. I know my left aid is working but I pass up my right aid to my mom to see if she can hear the ring. Nothing. Now I am no longer sad but a bit frustrated. What am I going to do? I just had to put them back in my case and back in my purse. “I will just have to lip-read today.” Sometimes my hearing aids just need a break and then the next day work again, and because I have had to turn them up to the highest setting most often as of late, I figure if I just try tomorrow then maybe they will work. The timing in this is not great. First, a whole weekend with my grandparents. How horrible would it be not to hear? And second, I just finished this book about barn owls and other birds who have such precise hearing that they can even hear spiders crawling up the wall. Surely adds to my frustration.
You may have guessed by now–but if not I will tell you: my hearing aid is currently still not working. I avoid the term broken, because it could be a numerous amount of factors that does not necessarily mean the hearing aid is broken but just needs a few adjustments, like new sensor pads or sometimes my ear wax will get inside the aid and cause it to not work. I am hoping it is not broken. But I did survive the weekend! Actually, I think I did quite well. I think right now I just want to have a pride moment and pat myself on the back. But I also give a lot of praise to my parents and even my grandpa who took time to sign little words (even make them up just on the spot so I would get the word at the moment) and lots of finger spelling. 🙂 Most of one dinner conversation consisted of the game “Guess the Word in ASL.” That was fun. And we toured a lighthouse on Saturday, so we looked up how to sign the word. All I knew was boat.
We finish the fabulous weekend and life goes on. I did not do anything different today than if I was wearing hearing aids. I had a meeting in the morning to discuss job potentials. The lady knew ASL, so there was no interpreter, but I think I talked and lip-read more than I signed. I notice without my hearing aids in, I am more verbal to say, “I am Deaf” and let people know why I am not understanding one word or accidentally interrupting a conversation or starting one way off subject. Deafness has blocked my hearing senses, but I noted to myself this weekend that my eyes are going to have to take more responsibility: more observation of my surroundings especially in social settings.
I did not think my life would ever come to this time…this moment when I had to face the reality of my deafness. But in a way, this weekend helped me more than it did frustrate me. I learned in part from my grandpa. He is a godly role model. His actions, faithfulness and servanthood shine louder than his words. He lives out the famous Mark Twain quote: “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” He cares for my grandma everyday…even all hope seems lost. He is like Samwise Gamgee:
Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.
~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
We may not be fighting off Orcs or battling for Middle Earth, but I know even in Deafness that there is good in this world. My story does not end here. And when the new Day comes, it will be worth everything! I hold on to that hope: “[But] we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5;3-4