I came down the stairs from the ear surgeon’s office and sat on the bench by the front door.
“My time as a pitiful person is coming to an end,” I wrote on my phone, wanting to capture the unbelievable, the incredible in one sentence.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the sentence but it was part of marking the passage from being such a seriously hearing impaired person to a person with a cochlear implant that was working better every day. I can hear so much more.
I can function so much better. Well, it feels so much better but it’s not ‘normal,’ not effortless. I don’t think hearing for me will ever be effortless. But it isn’t maddening anymore.
In the car, I thought about that sentence again. “My time as a pitiful person is coming to an end.” And I drove through town, listening to Christmas carols on the car radio and, for the first time, knowing which was being sung by Bing Crosby and which by Nat King Cole.
At a stop light, I thought again. Is that what you were, Jan? A pitiful person? What does that say about all the people in the world who are hearing impaired or having some other struggle with their minds or bodies? Are they pitiful? What does it say about you when you take off the receiver/processor at night and put it in its little drying chamber and take the other hearing aid out and put it in the jar and become almost completely deaf in an instant?
No, I’m not pitiful. I wasn’t pitiful. Many times, I was self-pitying, I will admit and, many times, I was overwhelmed with the burden of hearing loss but I wasn’t pitiful. People with disabilities aren’t pitiful.
At the gift shop at the botanical gardens, there was an older man with two hearing aids who was a volunteer. “How do you like your digital hearing aid?” he asked me. I told him that I’d just gotten it but it was making a big difference already.
He told me that he was a disabled veteran and how he had other implants to get before thinking about a cochlear implant. He joked that when he died, they’d have to plant all his implants. He told me how his hearing aids were better than the ones he’d had before but he still became “so frustrated sometimes” when he couldn’t understand what was going on. Yet, he was working in the store and talking to people, talking to me, trying to sell me a game about Milwaukee history in a giant box with a bigger price tag. Nothing about him was pitiful.
No, we’re not pitiful. I’m not pitiful, then or now. We are all just forging ahead.
And I am proud to be in that number. The folks who just forge ahead.