BY MARCIA EPSTEIN
There’s nothing to make one feel old more than “the talk” with one’s children. It can be the big talk — about living wills, advance directives and burial versus cremation — or other less big but still jarring topics such as hearing loss. I got the hearing loss talk from my daughter a few weeks ago, and I wasn’t a happy camper.
Yes, I know I have hearing loss. No one who knows me doesn’t recognize it. In fact, many of those same people also have it. Though some of my friends do have hearing aids, many of us are putting it off. I know from my partner’s experience that they are a pain in the neck. He’s always fiddling with batteries, forgetting to take them out before getting in the shower, and having to maintain them. Eyeglasses were one thing (well, cataract surgery will do that to you), but hearing aids are another.
But my daughter was adamant that my life is in danger without them. What about not hearing cars coming? What about warnings about over-enthusiastic dogs that I don’t hear (this actually happened. I guess I missed being mauled by pure luck). And I must admit that I have pretty much limited myself to foreign movies because I just can’t hear dialogue well enough to enjoy the film, especially those with young actors and actresses who, I swear, mumble and just plain talk incomprehensibly. Why don’t they move their lips? Why are they constantly whispering into each other’s ears in some bedroom scene? When I saw “Still Alice,” I could understand Meryl Streep most of the time, but not a word that came out of her “daughter’s” mouth. No sir, it’s foreign films for me.
But still, I am not ready for hearing aids. I hate things in my ears. I can still hear my cat meow for dinner and my partner saying that no, he didn’t say that at all, he said something else entirely. So I’ll continue to say “What?” and “Huh?” for another long while.
And I’ll continue to see my daughter pass “that look” to her husband when I say, once again, “What did you say?” Maybe I’m stubborn (and also not rich), but it’s still my choice. Still, it sure made me feel old when my daughter, my own child, started to act as though I needed to be guided, not so gently, into the realities of old age.
And on another topic of change: we visited my hometown a few weeks ago, and wow, what a shock. It’s only an hour north of here, but I don’t go very often, and part of the shock was that I got lost! In my own hometown! The reason is that things have changed so much; houses have sprouted, parks and playgrounds appeared. It’s so crowded now. I spent my childhood playing outdoors, tossing softballs in the summer, waiting for the Good Humor man and sometimes even getting a ride on his truck. We burned leaves in the fall and sledded in the winter. Our parents didn’t hover, we had the whole outdoors as our own.
When we visited “my” house, I had to leave quickly. It was surrounded by strange homes and painted a different color. “Let’s go,” I said, “It’s too emotional.” I guess you can’t go home again, or if you do, it’s going to be a shock. I prefer my memories.
And so time has passed, and I need hearing aids and got lost in my hometown. Very jarring, both. And yet time has brought me my grandchildren, new friends and new activities. Old age can stink, but it has its benefits. Must remember to concentrate on that thought ...