It flashed on me today while I was zooming down the freeway sandwiched between a very large truck carrying what looked like a giant metal outhouse held down by a dozen canvas straps and a concrete construction wall that if I turned my head one more time to read my son’s lips while he was telling me how a passenger on the Lake Michigan ferry that he works on tried to convince him to look into being Amish that the price of comprehension could be extreme.

It would end up being the last crazy story he ever told and I ever heard. A good one, though. Who knew that Amish proselytized and on boats, no less?

I wish I could have been there (on the boat) when my son with his wild black hair and thoroughly Central American face informed the nice Amish man that he was, in fact, Jewish. We didn’t get to that part of the story, too bad because my son always has a fair amount of glee when he gets to spring his Nicaraguan/Jewish conundrum on strangers and the glee is contagious. My son makes me laugh. He has since he was a very little boy and he’s now 27. He’s funny and chatty and tells a fine story.

He’s a gem, my son, but I can’t understand what he is saying 90% of the time. His voice is very low with a lot of reverberation, as they say in the hearing loss business. But unlike other people who will allow me to nod and smile in the interest of not having to have everything repeated, he’ll stop at the critical junctures in his story and ask, “Did you hear that, Ma?” Consideration can be so annoying sometimes.

So our wild, potentially life-ending careening through town today ended up at my audiologist where I’d decided to take him and his voice.

There are so many people I don’t care if I ever hear again, so many blowhards and whiners who, if they all fell silent, I wouldn’t miss for a single second. But this son of mine is not one of those people.

If I can’t hear this particular person, it would be a very big loss. For both of us. Our relationship would have to depend entirely on history. Old stories, I guess. That and texts. Thank God for texting.

The audiologist recalibrated my hearing aids to reduce the bass and increase the treble and added a new program to them that essentially changes the tonal directionality of the aids; this is all done using incredibly sophisticated computer programs. We did manual adjustments of sound and tone to try to get the right combination so I could hear this one cheerful, funny person without driving us into a concrete wall. We talked, the three of us, about the nature of my hearing loss, how it’s about word comprehension more than amplification, nerve damage. “Your mother has a very difficult type of hearing loss.”

I’d never heard her say that before.

“It could be worse, Ma.”

“Seriously? How could it be worse?”

The audiologist looked up from her thick file, years of my tests and progress notes. “You could be completely deaf.”

I could be. But I’m not. Not yet.

As long as I keep my eyes on the road, I’ll get to hear a few more stories.

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#74/100: 74th in a series of 100 in 100

The Stigma of Hearing Loss is an essay that discusses the complex issues and emotions related to hearing impairment.