I want to tell you about 10,000 moments. But I’m not sure how.
Each moment by itself would be too small to see. Too fleeting. Like snow flakes on the lawn. How could one moment be singled out for description, made more special than the others, emblematic? It wouldn’t do justice to the whole.
But to describe 10,000 moments skims over what each moment meant, the choice that was offered each time and the decision that was made each time. Without fail. Day after day. Year after year.
In the face of my increasing hearing loss in the past few years, my husband made the choice to be kind.
He was kind when he had to repeat himself dozens of times in a day. He was kind when we had to stop having our regular daytime phone conversations. He was kind when I misunderstood what other people said and embarrassed him. He was kind when my frustration blew the top off the house. He was kind when other people would have put their head in their hands and just given up.
He took sign language classes with me and then concocted his own sign language just for us. He’d sign across a room, signaling, could I hear? do you want to leave? He’d run interference for me with sales people in stores, doctors’ offices, anyone who insisted on a phone call.
He would interpret for me, restating what people whose voices were in the wrong range for me to hear said. He’d keep an eye on me all the time to see if I was getting it or not. “Did you get that?” his eyes would ask. Sometimes, when I did, I’d snap at him. “It’s not so easy knowing what you can and can’t hear,” he’d say, explaining himself but never really getting mad.
And throughout, he insisted that there was no reason I should stop working, no call to close my business. I’d complain about the difficulty of working with groups and he’d act surprised that I couldn’t handle it, knowing that indulging my self-doubt would only deepen it. He knew that my work was part of my core. Leaving it would be a big defeat, a terrible loss, the beginning of my disappearance.
Once, when we did argue about hearing, I told him that he had no idea how hard it was to deal with hearing loss. Oh, he said back, you have no idea how hard it is to be married to someone with hearing loss. I always wanted to think my frustration trumped his. Now, with my cochlear implant bringing better hearing every day, I am not so sure. His burden, the weight of my hearing loss on him, was way bigger than I ever wanted to think.
I know this to be true as I reflect back over the past few, very hard years. I would not have survived the isolation and self-doubt that comes from hearing loss without my husband. It’s that simple.
My husband saved me.
At night, in the dark, before I go to sleep, I always tell my husband that I love him. “I love you,” I say, even though without my hearing aid and cochlear implant receiver – all my various pieces of equipment – I cannot really hear myself talk. But he hears me. But instead of answering back, because he knows I can’t hear him, he taps my arm.
Tap tap tap, tap.