I usually wake up when the sun streams through the spaces in my bedroom curtains. I lie in bed, grateful for another day, and listen to the silence. As soon as I get up, I go into the kitchen to boil water for coffee. I watch the water- watched pots do boil, by the way. The movement of the water lets me know its ready to pour over the coffee I’ve put into the French press. Most days I go out on the porch, so I can savor it while I watch the antics of the scrub jays as they squabble over water rights to the bird bath.
I see ravens overhead. If I throw fruit scraps into the compost pile, they swoop down as if it were Christmas morning, and I had given them presents. They, like the jays, will argue over just about anything. I laugh at their posturing and bravado, but I don’t hear their squawking.
A few days ago I befriended a young feral cat. This morning she was waiting when I opened the back door. I saw her mouth move, and knew what she wanted, but I didn’t hear her loud, demanding cry for sustenance.
I didn’t hear her, because I couldn’t. I hadn’t yet put in my hearing aids.
Born with either blocked eustachian tubes, or without them, I’m not sure, I began life with horrendous earaches. With each one, scar tissue built up around my eardrums, blocking the air coming through the ear canal, and eventually putting the hammer and anvil out of commission. For me it was a gradual process. I could hear well enough to make people think I could hear well. But I couldn’t. I was constantly being told to pay attention, that I talked too much, that I didn’t listen.
Listening and hearing are not the same. I learned to compensate. I made others laugh, and laughed at myself. I positioned myself in front of whatever I wanted to hear, paid close attention to my surroundings, and watched the expressions on others’ faces.
In high school, college and at events, I sat close in the front row, or as close as I could get. I was fifty before I considered getting hearing aids. Now, I wonder why I waited so long.
I apparently passed the faulty tube gene to my daughter, Alice, and a couple of my grand kids. Luckily for them, modern medicine has made it easy to implant tubes. In the past couple of decades, it’s become an office procedure. Alice had them put in twice. The first time she was five. After the surgery, we were walking from the garage to the house. She stopped me. “Mommy, I can hear the birds sing, she laughed.”
There is a certain beauty in silence, but hearing the birds sing gives us a level of wonderfulness that must be experienced for us to truly understand how lucky we are to hear them.