Yesterday was humbling. The type of day where it felt like I misheard most things and then respond in all sorts of odd and inappropriate ways in conversation because I’ve missed the cues. It happens. Lately, it’s been happening a lot, and that all the signs appeared to be pointing toward F**kThisShitImOut did not come as a complete surprise; A couple of weeks ago I received an audiogram (the personalized hearing report card you get after a hearing test that shows the type and degree of one’s hearing loss). And on this particular gram, my Audiologist wrote in his notes, ‘Poor word recognition left, no response right.’ Sitting together at his desk after the test, I began to sob. Grabbing a tissue, trying to compose myself, I couldn’t; it was as if the part of my brain that controls my emotions was seeking something and would not settle for any of my glossing-over, look-on-the-bright-side bullshit. And then I got it: I was reaching for grief. Grief from this painful and inevitable loss. Ah ha. Grief. I totally knew you were in there somewhere.
“You had no accurate responses to word recognition on the right.” I knew what this meant. I’d been expecting it. I have progressive hearing loss, and my right side has always been my “bad side,” but before that day I could always recognize some words. Without my hearing aids, which provide wobbly support on that problematic right side, those days are gone. Damn.
Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different. Surrender.
(Rumi always seems to make the hard things sound beautiful)
I’ve always had a very complicated relationship with uncertainty. I’m drawn to bold moves and inclined to bravery, but I pride myself on doing these things having planned and always well-prepared. As expected, the false sense of control this gives me kicks me in the shins regularly. Like raising a child on my own: Prepared all the way (Hahahaha). But what I could not plan for is solo parenting with hearing loss. The latter part snuck up on me. There are literally no guide books for this. Believe me, I’ve checked.
I think about all the ways my hearing loss affects my child every day. The very long list of things I fret about in this area would easily fill ten thousand pages. At the root is the fear that as the only fully hearing person in our household that she is carrying an enormous burden and that it might be hurting her in all these yet-to-be-seen ways. She often serves as the bridge between me and the hearing world. I see her managing this delicate balance with so much maturity and grace it both fills my heart with a deep, perfect love and breaks it into a million, tiny pieces. She is ever-alert, always paying attention and at the ready to interpret, to step in when it gets awkward, to speak up for me when I’ve gotten it wrong, and to later fill me in on what I may have missed. Opportunities to daydream and not pay attention, to take a seat and leave me at the counter to order, to put on headphones in a public space and close her eyes and listen to music, to not do any of the compensatory stuff that makes life easier for me, do not come easily. I ask her about it a whole lot, the injustice of it all and how it makes her feel. She’s always calm, kind and gentle with her words. She’s good-hearted like that. I fantasize about developing the technology that would fill in the gaps and do all the work, so she does not have to. I daydream about the freedom I suspect she’ll feel when she moves away and goes off to college, and I encourage her all the time to push back, to rebel a bit, to stomp her feet and tell me how it sometimes feels like too much, that it’s unfair.
Last night when I was running carpool I missed something my daughter said to me by way of explanation, and not having context, I barked at her about the thing I thought I understood but didn’t. To me, it was not a big deal, just a brief finger-wagging mom moment, but it wasn’t that for her. To her, it was representative of all the big and small challenges we deal with every day, all the things I miss, and it was embarrassing and frustrating. When we were alone, she let me know how she felt with the rawest, most loving honesty I have ever seen come through another human. It was hard for her to say to me what she needed to; I’m pretty sure she’d rather eat glass than do anything to hurt me. But more than sting or sorrow, as unwelcome the circumstances that brought us this moment was, listening to her unpack her feelings and sitting with the discomfort of it all, I felt the tangled ropes of my own fear unwinding. She has an enormous heart, and she’s strong, and both will serve her well as she navigates her life. And maybe I can learn to relax without assuming this difficult thing we do is barreling her toward endless future sessions of the 50-minute hour. It might, but that will be for her to decide.