I took out the thin folded $20 that I keep in the little slide drawer on the back of my phone and handed it to the bartender who’d just done an especially generous pour of Chardonnay for me. He held the twenty in his fingers, lightly. Murmured something. I told him I couldn’t hear him. He murmured again. I’m sorry, pointing to my hearing aids, I can’t hear you. He yelled at me, startling the folks next in line, IS THIS FOR ME?

It dawned on me. The drinks were free at BlogHer. The bartender was asking if I was giving him a $20 tip for my glass of wine. Oh sorry, I said, and plucked it out of his hand, I thought it was a cash bar. Sorry, sir, no tip for you. All I have is a twenty.

I needed that glass of wine.

It had been a long afternoon of hearing and not hearing.

Along with wondering why I am so lucky.

11160685_10207156991829233_2966930846403977500_o

Seeing my essay on a giant poster, the same essay that made me cry when I was writing it, the essay I wrote late at night last December when I had just had it with my increasing deafness, when I was at my nadir, was like seeing my own epitaph. I could be remembered for this, I thought.

Today, I celebrated my nadir, toasted it like a friend who had left town months ago. Standing there was like standing next to history. I felt that way then, not now. Except for the last line. If I was one to get a tattoo, that’s what it would say.

I have felt so well here, so well in myself, so able to speak and listen anyway, despite the shreds of words, so able to appreciate the kindness of others, enough kindness of others to actually lean back and relax, to get a plate of food and sit in a quiet hallway to rest from the din of all the voices, to go to events where I won’t know the details, only the gist. The gist counts for something. Today, a lot.

I’m so grateful for this. To have a complete stranger nominate an essay for Voice of the Year that broke my heart to write and rebuilt me at the same time. How did that person know what this would mean? A rebirth for me. A gift, an anonymous wild gift.

11054321_10207156894346796_4833668202309959602_o

So I thank that anonymous person and I thank BlogHer for choosing this piece and thank all of the other fine writers who are this year’s Voices of the Year. I couldn’t be in more wonderful company.