An Old-School Ladder Over the Wall of Deafness

Necessity’s son, invention, has a lesser-known brother. Around the house, they call him Re, but his full name is Reinvention. He quietly specializes in finding the remaining use in things thought to be defunct.

This is not how I do it, but this is how it feels.

This is not how I do it, but this is how it feels.

My parents, ages 90 (my Dad) and 87, now live in a nursing home near Milwaukee. My brother lives within 10 minutes; it’s a good situation for them, no matter how much my Mom complains about the food. They apologized for not coming to Florida to be near us instead, but they said they had no idea how long we’d be here. Indeed, we threatened to move back to Pennsylvania once, and another time my company talked about moving me to Seattle. Neither happened, but I could understand their concerns. No apologies were necessary.

But a gulf wider than 1,200 miles opened between us recently. Both my parents are losing their hearing; my Dad’s is almost entirely gone. Hearing aids, as anyone with elderly parents knows, are an inexact science. Where phones are concerned, their utility can be even more questionable. The upshot is a lot of “WHAT?” and “Speak right into the phone!” from their end and top-of-my-lungs, louder-than-a-ballgame yelling on mine. In the end, frustration closed the line. They couldn’t hear; I couldn’t make myself heard…so we just stopped talking.

I missed their voices. But what to do?

Simple. Go back to the old way. Yes, I began to write letters.

No, they aren’t quill-pen musings in my flowing longhand. Rather, they’re 16-point Times New Roman spread over as many as six pages, with photos interspersed. Naturally, they’re very grandchild-centric; my folks want to know all about what my 13-year-old son is up to. But they’re also downright prosaic, even bland, full of talk about the interminable winter up there and a nice pot roast I made last Sunday.

And why not? It’s the look into the daily normalcy that reconnects my parents with my life, even as theirs declines. My Dad did get me on the phone the other night, his land line (cell phones are impossible), and we were able to converse enough for him to thank me for the letters.

“Your mother has been down to my room to read the last one at least twice already,” he said in his old, but still firm, baritone.

I smiled.

“Don’t worry, Dad. I’m gonna keep ’em coming.”

Our connection, reinvented.

© 2014 Adam Barr

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