Well, I’ll Be

I’ve had my cochlear implants for … wow, almost eight years now (in August of 2016). In the beginning, there are all kinds of, as we call them, “CI moments” – things we’ve never heard before, or sounds finally becoming clear, or whatever. After nearly eight years, though, you figure you’ve heard all the new things or had all the new hearing experiences you’re going to have.

So this morning I had a song stuck in my head, I’ll Be by Edwin McCain. It’s pretty popular now but when I first heard it in 1997 he was a fairly unknown artist and I didn’t know what to expect when I listened to the CD. I can still remember how it sounded, and how much I loved the song; I listened to it over and over, and knew all the nuances of his voice and the music.

I'll Be

Since I got my CIs, I don’t really listen to music much. When I was first activated, music sounded, well, godawful would be a kind way to put it. It just sounded like crashing noise. It got better every time I went for a mapping (where they hook you up to a computer and tweak the computer programs in the CIs) and eventually there came a time that I listened to a song (by Depeche Mode) and heard it the way I remembered it. I actually heard it better than I remembered it, because I was hearing parts of the song (various instruments) in each ear. I had never heard music in stereo before, because my right ear was always pretty bad – moderate to severe hearing loss until 1993, and then profound (i.e., I heard nothing) from 1993 on. I actually started crying the first time music sounded good through my CIs.

Anyway, Dave and I have different tastes in music and I never got into the habit of wearing headphones; it was just easier not to listen to music most of the time. Every now and then, though, I go through a phase and listen to a song or a whole CD.   I am not into new music as much; partly it’s because I’m apparently an old fogey who likes ‘golden oldies’ (anything from the 70s to about 1998) and partly it’s because my memory kicks in on a song I already know and helps me shape what the song should sound like.

I dug around and found my Edwin McCain CD and decided to teach myself how to copy it to my computer. (Yes, this is the something I had to teach myself. In 2016. Leave me alone.) I clicked on I’ll Be, popped on the headphones, and … hmmm. This is not how I remember it sounding. I was pretty disappointed. Yes, he has a raspy voice but it really sounded like he was growling, not the pretty, earnest song I remember. I kept the headphones on while the files were transferring, assuming it would go to the next song when it ended. I got preoccupied and didn’t realize that the song had started over. But I did notice that now it sounded better, a buttery, smooth rich sound closer to how I remember the song. ‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘I guess he sang the end of the song differently than the beginning.’ Then I put my cursor on the progress bar and saw that it was, like, one minute into the song. He wasn’t singing it better; I was hearing it a second time and my brain was already processing the sounds better. I listened to it a third time and there it was: the song I remembered.

Seriously folks, the brain is an amazing thing. Never take it for granted.

Say What You Wanna Say

I’ve been trying to be better about speaking up for myself, but last year I failed miserably where my glasses were concerned.

Because we moved, I had to find a new eye doctor (which was nerve-wracking enough). Eye exams make me feel really vulnerable because I have my contact lenses out and my vision is really terrible (nearsighted, -8.50 in both eyes). The room is dark and I’m looking through the big machine with the lenses, and I have to be able to understand what the optometrist is asking me. Even looking at her to lip read doesn’t help, because I can’t see her face unless it’s literally about an inch from my eyes.

I did luck out with my new doctor, who is easy to understand and doesn’t have an accent. I asked for prescriptions for contacts, regular glasses, bifocals, and also computer glasses. I explained that sometimes I want to take my contacts out at the end of the evening, but still be able to sit at my desk and see my computer screen. My bifocal glasses are a bit too strong in the distance prescription to see my monitor, and to use the bifocal area I have to tilt my head back and look through the bottom of the lens. She understood what I was asking for and had no problem giving me a prescription just for computer glasses.

I’ve been caught off guard with high prices for glasses in the past; they hook you with a coupon, and then by the time all the add-ons and upgrades are added, the $99 glasses suddenly cost $400. Since the computer glasses would just be a once-in-a-great-while thing, I figured I would just order them online from Zenni to save money.

After I paid the bill for my first visit, we got in the car and I looked through the papers the receptionist had handed me. I assumed my prescriptions were part of the paperwork but they weren’t there. We were in the middle of a snowstorm and I really just wanted to get home before the snow got too bad, so I didn’t go back inside to ask for copies of my prescriptions.

At various points all through 2015, I tried to psych myself up to go in (or email) and ask for copies of my prescriptions. And I was too chicken. Even though I know by law they have to provide them if I ask. I just kept making excuses not to do it.

So when my annual eye exam came around at the end of last year, I was determined. I was not leaving there without copies of all of my prescriptions. I did give in and get new bifocal glasses because my prescription had changed and my bifocals from Zenni were just a little too tight. I wanted my new bifocals to be properly fitted and make sure my PD (pupillary distance) was correct. I went in prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on these glasses that I basically just wear for five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night (from the bedroom to the bathroom, where I put in and take out my contact lenses).

I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I asked the optician to give me the cheapest pair of bifocals possible. She didn’t even hesitate or argue, and they were less than $150. Yes, the lenses are thick and heavy because I didn’t get the more expensive, thin lenses and my prescription is really high. But it doesn’t matter – they look fine, fit great, and they do the job.

Having just dropped some serious coin (for me, anyway) on these glasses and the exam, I was emboldened and didn’t hesitate to ask for copies of my prescriptions when they weren’t automatically given to me. “Oh, sure!” chirped the optician. She handed me four sheets of paper. What the heck was I so afraid of?!

I came home, measured my PD and went online to shop at Zenni. Since these are glasses I’ll just be wearing around the house, I decided to go a little wild (for me) and get big, oversized frames. (I know they’ve become popular again but I still have bad flashbacks to my huge glasses from the 70s.) I did get thinner lenses because they were a free add-on, although not as thin as they recommended for my horrible vision. The anti-reflection coating and the lenses themselves were free; all I paid for was the frames and they were $9.95. (Well, and $4.95 for shipping.)

Less than two weeks later I had my new glasses, and they are just awesome – exactly what I needed for late-night computing.

I just wish I hadn’t waited a whole year to get the nerve to order them. Here’s to bravery in 2016!

Late to the Party

In the summer of ’77 I was 12, almost 13, years old. It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade, and my parents decided to mix it up a bit vacation-wise. Usually we drove from our Chicago suburb to Daytona Beach, Florida (or somewhere around there), with a stop in Tennessee to visit my mom’s side of the family. That summer, however, they decided to take me and my brother to St. Louis, Missouri.

My brother (10, almost 11) and I were crazy about pinball machines; arcade video games were still a few years away. We could spend hours in a game room, especially once my brother figured out how to glue a string to a quarter and somehow use that to give him access to hours of pinball machine heaven. (I think that’s what he did; my memory is a little fuzzy. I do know that he was the miscreant, not me!)

My parents, smartly realizing they could get some free babysitting, chose a Holiday Inn that had a huge game room as its main feature. Of course there was also a pool, and they figured we’d go see the Arch; it would be a fun few days with less driving time there and back.

We were having a blast, but after a while my parents decided to get us out of the game room and into the city. It was pouring rain, so walking around outside wasn’t really an option. Then they figured hey, why don’t we go see this movie, Star Wars? It looks pretty popular and all.

Now, back in 1977 I had a hearing loss but I wasn’t deaf. I had probably a moderate loss in my left ear and a severe loss in my right, and I wore a hearing aid in my right ear. That was the extent of my accommodations – captions didn’t exist and my hearing loss was not really a big issue.

So we went to this movie and, I’ll be honest, I was mostly excited because Mark Hamill was in it. Mark Hamill was currently splashed all over the teenybopper magazines, and he had dreamy hair; he kind of reminded me of Shaun Cassidy, my other 1977 obsession.

star wars
I watched the screen, waiting eagerly to see Mark, and instead it was robots and, well, I had no idea what the hell was going on. So many of the characters had no lips for me to read, and there were words that weren’t part of the English language which made it hard for me to fill in what I couldn’t hear. (Hearing was often like a puzzle for me – I’d hear maybe three words perfectly in a sentence, and use common sense to fill in the gaps.)

I don’t know how long the movie played while the rain outside turned into a raging thunderstorm; not long, I don’t think. Maybe 15 minutes? In any case, the theater suddenly went dark as the power went out. We sat there for a few minutes, waiting to see if it would come back on. I was frustrated because darn it, I hadn’t seen Mark yet!

Then my mom turned to us and said, “Let’s go. This movie is stupid.”

And that was the extent of my exposure to Star Wars until last week, at age 51.

With all the positive feedback about the new movie, I decided that I wanted to finally watch the whole series. (Dave had seen the first three movies, took Eric to the fourth one and fell asleep in the theater, and then never saw the fifth and sixth movies.) I left it to Dave to decide what order we would watch them in, and he came up with a version of what he called the Machete order: Episode 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6 (with 4 being the 1977 movie that I never finished watching).

Speaking as a complete Star Wars newbie, I highly recommend that order. I liked seeing the original two movies, and then flashing back to fill in the back story, and then finishing with Return of the Jedi. It wasn’t confusing and it was just a fun way to be introduced to the series. And I really, really enjoyed all of the movies, even the one that ends up at the bottom of everyone’s list when they rank the movies (aka, Episode 1). Actually, the actual Machete order skips Episode 1 altogether but I wanted to see all of the movies, no matter how badly people talked about them.

As we got about a quarter of the way through the first movie, I turned to Dave and said, “I could never have understood this without captions.” I think it was meant to be for me to wait until captions existed in order to see that movie! (Of course, I could have watched it in the mid-1990s when captions started showing up on video tapes and, later, DVDs but …)

It was fun to hear iconic lines spoken for the first time (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”). The most famous line, though, was never spoken. I kept waiting to hear “Luke, I am your father,” but Darth Vader never actually says that!

We watched one movie each night for six days straight, and it was a blast. Now we’re debating whether to see the new movie in a theater that has captioning devices (the closest one is in Mishawaka, Indiana) or just wait for it to come out on DVD.

And by the way, I have to confess … after we finished A New Hope (Episode 4), I told Dave, “Well, Mark Hamill was really cute but man, he was a bad actor.” (He did get better in the second and third movies, I noticed, but it was pretty obvious in the first movie.)

His hair looked great, though!

A Perfect Storm *

There’s four words that I never said during either of my pregnancies:

“My water just broke.”

However, that’s precisely what happened to my daughter on Monday night. Let me backtrack though, all the way to late November.

Thanksgiving came late again this year, didn’t it? I started decorating for Christmas the weekend before Thanksgiving, although I did wait to put up the tree until Nov. 28. I also started Baby Watch that same week.

Paige’s due date was originally Dec. 15 and then they changed it to Dec. 12. She and Eric both came about 9 days early, and I just had this feeling that Storm would arrive early as well. She was having a really smooth pregnancy, not a lot of morning sickness and no high blood pressure (which was my nemesis). She started having Braxton-Hicks contractions pretty early on, something I remember very well from my own pregnancies.

On Nov. 19, she had an ultrasound and they said Storm was 5 lbs, 9 oz. We figured he still needed some growing time, so I started thinking he’d come closer to his due date (if not after). In the meantime, Paige planned to keep working right up until he was born, if she could. That was another similarity to my pregnancy with her; I ended up working until two days before she was born. (I finished my week at work on Friday, went into labor late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and she was born at 5:37 am on Sunday.)

She had a weekly doctor’s appointment on December 2nd and they told her she was 2 to 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Her hips were starting to really hurt so they stripped her membranes to help things along, and scheduled her for an induction early on December 8th if the baby wasn’t here by that time. She kept going to work and then getting sent home because being on her feet was making her have non-stop contractions. All through the week I was getting messages from her saying that the contractions weren’t stopping and were anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 minutes apart. She even went to the hospital one morning, but they sent her home because she wasn’t dilating.

I started carrying my cell phone everywhere (usually I just leave it lying on my desk) and Dave had already hooked up one of our bedroom lights so that it would blink on and off when the phone rang (hopefully waking us up if she called during the night). I woke up frequently every night to check my phone and see if I’d missed any messages from Paige about being in labor.

When I was pregnant with her, they stripped my membranes on a Tuesday (I was 3 cm, 75% effaced) and she was born on a Sunday. Since her pregnancy with Storm was so similar to my pregnancy with her, I figured she’d have him on a Monday – five days after the procedure, just like me. Still though, she was having so many contractions and false alarms that I really thought it would be sooner, possibly the weekend of Dec. 5-6.

The weekend came and went with no baby, so we started planning for the induction on Tuesday morning. We had a bag packed with all kinds of things to keep us busy for possibly hours, since this was her first baby – Phase 10 (a card game), chargers for my CI batteries and our tablets and phones, money for the vending machines (because we no longer use our debit card after it got hacked – we’re waiting for the chip and pin version to come out). I put together a goodie bag for Paige with lip balm, hair clips and ties, magazines, her favorite candy (and Michael’s too), Goldfish crackers, bath gel for her first post-baby shower, and face wipes. I set the alarm for 4 am so we could be there at 5 am (even though we’re only an hour apart, they’re in an earlier time zone than us).

Monday morning she sent me a message saying her contractions were hurting more, and weren’t going away when she sat down. I had a feeling this was it – it was exactly how my labor with her started. She went to the hospital around 10 am and we didn’t hear anything for a long time; then around 1 or 2 pm she said they sent her home because she wasn’t progressing and was still 3 cm.

We were messaging back and forth, and she was fretting because her cervix was being so stubborn; she was afraid she’d have to have a C-section on Tuesday. I messaged back, “It’s not inconceivable that you could still go into labor tonight.” She said, “True.” That was at 3:15 pm.

Dave and I ate dinner and then settled in for some TV. We were watching The Good Wife when the phone rang. It was Paige.

Dave answered and there was silence on the other end. He hung up and I checked my phone. At 7:40 our time (6:40 her time) she had messaged me: My water just broke

Well, we went crazy. Dave called her back and got her husband, Michael. They were already at the hospital (it’s just a block or two from their house) and he said they were telling her she still might not have the baby until tomorrow morning. The doctor would be in at 5 am to check her; she was still 3 cm.

Dave said he’d call back in 15 or 20 minutes to check on them, hung up and we kind of wandered around aimlessly, not knowing what to do. Do we go to the hospital if they said she wouldn’t have the baby until the next day? Finally 20 minutes had passed, and Dave called back. He got Paige this time.

I was reading the captioning, and he had the volume turned way up so I could kind of hear through the handset as he talked to her. She was very breathless (turns out she was having a contraction at that moment) and said the contractions really hurt. Dave asked if she wanted us to come to the hospital and I could hear her yelling, “YES YES YES YES!” I flew around and had my coat on and everything together in just a few minutes. Hearing my little girl in obvious pain just kind of flipped a switch in me. We had to get on the road STAT.

We made good time and found the hospital pretty easily. We had to be escorted by security onto the labor and delivery floor because it was after hours (around 9 pm their time). When we walked in, I took in the scene: Paige in bed, getting ready to push, with Michael on one side and his mom, Renee, on the other. His sister, Aleigha, was standing back and there were a couple of nurses and a doctor in the room. Right away they said only three people (besides Paige) could be in the room, so Dave and Aleigha left and went to the family waiting room.

Renee said we had perfect timing, and she was not kidding. I couldn’t believe that in a little over an hour from her conversation with Dave, Paige was already at the pushing stage. For her first baby! I thought, seriously, we would be there for 24 hours or more.

She’d been given some pain medication that made her kind of loopy and out of it, so she fell asleep. (She didn’t want an epidural, but I doubt she could’ve gotten one even if she did because things happened so quickly.) She basically slept most of the time that we were driving. When she woke up, apparently, she had the urge to push. And that’s about the time we arrived.

She pushed for maybe 15 minutes. They started breaking down the bed, and things happened really quickly after that. I was kind of standing back from the bed, to keep out of the way, and I decided to move further down … just in time to see my grandson enter this world. It was completely amazing.

When it came time to cut the cord, the doctor asked if anyone wanted to do the honors. Michael shook his head no and I found myself stepping forward, something I never thought I would do. What a special moment!

Our new grandson, Storm, right after his birth

Our new grandson, Storm, right after his birth

Storm Dovahkiin Reeves was born at 9:18 pm on December 7, 2015. He weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and was 20 inches long.

We think he is the most beautiful grandson ever. We’re pretty darn proud of his mama and daddy, and so glad that he came into this world surrounded by people who love him.

Is he not adorable?!

Is he not adorable?!

Best early Christmas present ever!!

* Credit to my friend Facebook friend Theresa for the title to this blog entry :)

Possibilities

This past Saturday was ‘downtown trick or treat’ for the kids in our town. It always strikes me as strange that they don’t do this on the actual day of Halloween, which is also a Saturday. Our city trick or treat hours are a stingy 6 to 7:30 pm (everywhere I’ve lived previously has usually had a minimum of 3 hours for trick or treat, sometimes more if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday). The kids could go downtown in the early afternoon and then regular trick or treat in the evening, you know? But whatever, I don’t plan these things and I’m sure the kids are happy to get candy no matter what the day.

We got exactly ZERO kids here last year on Halloween, which was really a bummer. I know there are little kids on our street (two right next door!) and the houses aren’t terribly far apart. I was sure we’d get at least 5 or 6 kids, maybe more. In light of that, though, I figured maybe we would go downtown on the 24th and watch the kids there, so I could see their costumes and feel like we participated in Halloween at least a little bit.

When the time rolled around though, I was comfy on the couch and not inclined to go out. The more I thought about it, the weirder it seemed. “I don’t know if we’ll go downtown,” I told Dave. “It might look weird since we don’t have kids with us – just a couple old farts, standing around on the sidewalks.” He laughed and agreed, then tried to make me feel better. “We can go with Storm next year, if we’re still in this area.” (Storm is the name Paige and Michael have chosen for their baby boy, due on December 15th.)

(Actually, now I can see a benefit to having trick or treat events a week from the actual holiday. Since they live about an hour away, it would be nice to be able to have them come up for something like this and not have it interrupt their actual Halloween in their hometown.)

I’m not sure we’ll be in a new house at this time next year, although we’d like to be. We’re going to talk to a finance person and see if there’s any options for us. Our lease goes through June, so if it looks like we could swing a purchase of our own home, we’d like to really be looking by very early 2016.

Compared to my previous house, and to what most of my friends and family are used to, we are looking in a VERY low price range. I’m talking a price range that makes my mother nervously suggest that we get an inspection (of course) to make sure that the house has, say, plumbing and electricity and drywall. One reason the prices are low is because we’re looking at little rural towns. We prefer the little towns, but we don’t want to have to drive TOO far to get to a grocery store or whatever.

We’ve started driving out to look at houses Dave finds online; not look inside, mind you, just drive by to check out the town, the neighborhood, that kind of thing. Sometimes all it takes is one look to go “NOPE” and to realize why it’s priced so low. Other times we just marvel at the realtor’s ability to frame the photo so that a house situated in between two that are basically falling down manages to look like it’s alone in the middle of a beautiful orchard.

One house, though. One house kind of has our hearts, even though we haven’t been inside. The photos online show a house that is in desperate need of updating (we’re talking serious wallpaper indignities) but that also has a lot of charm. We drove over to see it from the outside, and it’s on a charming street outside of a town with a name that’s hard to pronounce and even harder to spell. There’s a split rail fence, a large peaceful yard; the house itself looks stately and strong. It was one of those times where you stand there looking at the house and everything just feels right, even though it is obviously a house in need of tender loving care.

But we don’t even know if we can qualify to buy a house yet (this is not a land contract, unfortunately) and we can’t afford both rent and a mortgage through June. It’s possible we could get inside and just cringe; maybe the pictures paint a rosier picture than the actual reality.

It’s still fun to dream, though. Maybe it will still be available in four months. I can picture Storm running through the rooms, playing on a tire swing outside, baking cookies with Nana in the kitchen.

Maybe, maybe, someday. In the meantime, I’m still buying candy for possible trick-or-treaters at our current house. Old habits die hard!

A Confrontation I Didn’t Ask For

I’ve talked before about my cell phone number being an old one that was recycled from Sprint. It’s a little weird, but not too annoying because most of the calls I was getting for the owner of the old phone had died down.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a text from an unknown number: “Hey what the fucks your problem?”

I had a brief moment of ‘OMG who did I piss off unknowingly?’ … and then I remembered that my phone number used to belong to some guy. I showed the text to Dave, we laughed, and I decided to just ignore it.

A few hours later I checked my phone again (I just leave my phone on my desk and forget about it half the time). There were more texts, so I decided to answer the guy. (I assume it was a guy – I did a search on the phone number and came up with a page that showed a guy, maybe high school or college age – but for all I know someone else could have HIS number by now!) Our conversation went as follows:

text1  text2text3

(I have to admit, my first instinct was to text back ‘You kiss your mother with that mouth?’ … hehe … but I decided not to play with the kid too much.)

In the midst of our texting, he called my cell phone. I have my cell phone calls all automatically forwarded to our house landline, so he would have heard our voicemail message and realized I was telling the truth. (I have the calls forwarded because 99% of them are either spam or for the person who had the old number; if anyone I really need to talk to happens to call, I can read the captioning on the house phone and understand them, hopefully.)

Things have been quiet ever since. To be honest, I’m not sure what is more offensive … being sworn at or repeatedly being called ma’am! ;)

What’s in a Name?

When I was young – I’m not sure of the exact age, but probably around 11 or 12 – I decided to play with the spelling of my name. I think a lot of kids probably do this, don’t they? I tried Wendee and Wendie and Wendi, writing them over and over in a notebook. (I was hard-core into pen-palling and also tried out different styles of handwriting at the same time.) Eventually I realized I really liked writing Wendi instead of Wendy; I felt like it flowed easier from the tip of my pen. I started using that spelling in all of my pen pal letters, and eventually it crept into all of my everyday usage.

By the time I was a young adult, even my official documents were spelled with an i instead of y. I was so used to spelling my name that way that it just felt natural, and I kind of forgot it was really spelled Wendy on my birth certificate. My driver’s license, checks, even my social security card, at one point, were all spelled Wendi.

When I was 21, I bought my first house and got my first taste of red tape thanks to my name spelling. I had to sign an actual stack of documents with all the iterations of my name (Wendy Maiden Name, Wendy Married Name, Wendi Maiden Name, etc. etc.) that documented that the person with this name spelling was also known as this other name. It was a bit of a pain in the ass, but my hand was already numb from signing papers – what’s a few more signatures?

Over the years, various agencies really started cracking down on the name spelling issue. I had to be careful to use the spelling on my birth certificate if I was getting something that required me to present my birth certificate (marriage license, driver’s license, new social security card). I still kept Wendi on my checks (banks were late to the ‘make it official’ party, I guess) and in all my personal correspondence.

I started having to explain it a little more, though. People would fall all over themselves to apologize if they spelled my name ‘Wendy’ and I would explain that it was actually my official spelling – I just use Wendi for casual use. Then they’d kind of look at me weird. I don’t know why it was such a big deal; I mean, Dave’s official name is David and nobody freaks out about him using the name Dave! But I started having to explain things more and more over the years, and started just using Wendy in more cases – like the doctor’s office.

When we moved to Michigan, I had to get all new documents again and I took the chance to make a full change to Wendy when I did that. My checks, driver’s license, lease, all the various medical professionals I had to switch over to – all of that switched from Wendi to Wendy. The only time I was spelling my name with an i was in email and places like Facebook.

The thing is, though, now Wendi was starting to feel artificial to me because I was so used to spelling my name the real way, with a y. So a week or so ago, I changed my name on Facebook and in my email.

It took a while for people to notice (it’s not like it was a huge change, after all) and then a lot of people were curious why I changed it. It’s funny, isn’t it, how something you do kind of frivolously as a kid can carry through into adulthood. For the longest time, spelling my name Wendi instead of Wendy was just not a big deal, and it was never questioned. In this day and age of accountability and identity theft and having to prove you are who you say you are, though, it was really becoming a problem. So I just took the easiest solution.

Now I need to reverse my reassurance — to people who apologize for spelling my name Wendi instead of Wendy. It is seriously fine with me however you want to spell my name – I love and respond to both spellings.

My kids, though, better still call me Mom (or Momma, or Mama). ;) The jury is still out on what my grandma name will be – Nana? Grandma? Grammy? We’ll find out next year!

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I like to do this thing where I think ‘At this time last year, I was …’. It’s kind of amazing to look back and see how much things change in a year or five years or whatever. Dave and I were talking about this today because seven years ago at this very moment, I was in the recovery room at the hospital. This day marks seven years since my bilateral cochlear implant surgery.

Seven years ago, Eric was just about to enter college and Paige was just about to enter high school. How weird is that?

Dave reminded me that August 21, the day after I was activated, was the day we moved Eric into his dorm. I remember that like it was yesterday; I could hear sounds, but everything was weirdly robotic and voices were still very strange-sounding, especially the voices of Eric’s roommate and his family. I remember listening to the rhythmic sound of the car tires on the expressway until the sound made sense to me; same with the sound of the turn signal clicking.

So much has changed in seven years. I didn’t know back then whether the surgery would even work, and I wouldn’t hear sound again for another month. (Activation was a month after surgery, after I was mostly healed.)

My Advanced Bionics Harmony cochlear implant processor and headpiece

My Advanced Bionics Harmony cochlear implant processor and headpiece

The processors I wear (Advanced Bionics Harmony) are old news now, even though they were the latest and greatest when I got them. Since then they’ve introduced the Neptune (an off-the-ear, waterproof processor) and the Naida. I still follow the boards on Hearing Journey and offer support/mentoring to people who are curious about getting a CI, but I really can’t offer hands-on experience with the newest technology … and that’s a strange feeling. I might look into upgrading once we move and I know what our financial situation is going to be, but right now every spare penny gets saved for our future home. My Harmony processors are working fine for now (the rechargeable batteries are getting a little worse for wear though; I might need to buy some new ones).

I haven’t really been writing here that much lately. It’s not like anything bad is happening; summer is here and things are going along just fine. A couple of times I started to write a blog post and then got a sense of déjà vu, like I’ve written about the subject before. A quick search then shows me that yep, I wrote about that exact subject two years ago or whatever. I’ve gone through these periods before and I’m sure it’s just temporary. For now I’ll try to pop in and say hey even when there’s not much to say … and eventually I’ll be writing like crazy again.

So here’s to the next seven years – hopefully by then I’ll look back on this post and think ‘Wow, I was still using Harmony processors back then!’

The Feast (from 2013)

I’m re-posting this entry today because this is Feast time in Melrose Park, Illinois and it brings back great memories.  I wrote this in 2013:

There was one constant in the summers of my childhood, a family tradition that carried through until my very late teens.  Every year, in mid-July, we made the trek to Melrose Park for the Italian Feast.  We actually just called it The Feast; everyone knew what we meant.  I only just recently found out that the full name of this festival is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in its 120th year in 2013.

You know how you can take a kid on some amazing outing and they come home and just remember things like the water fountains or the revolving doors in the building?  That might be how my memories of the Feast are now, since it’s been over 20 years since I’ve gone.  But for what it’s worth, these are the things I remember.

Melrose Park is not that far from where we lived, in the western suburbs of Chicago, but as a kid the drive there felt like it took forever.  In reality, we probably got there in 30 to 40 minutes.  I remember going on Sunday, the day of the procession, but we may have gone more than once during the week as well.  We always parked by my Aunt Emily’s house, one of my dad’s sisters; she lived right on the route of the procession.  The biggest anticipation, by far, was guessing when the procession would come into view.  My cousins and I would all sit on the curb in front of my aunt’s house, and we would watch it unfold just inches from our faces.

This parade celebrated the Madonna, and the statue was carried all through the streets.  I always looked for my Grandma Tirabassi, who walked in the parade along with other ladies from the church.  I remember them carrying their rosaries and reciting the Hail Mary.  It used to just blow my mind to see my grandma in the parade; she felt like a celebrity to me, and I was always so proud when I saw her.

When the parade ended, people from along the route would join in and walk along at the end.  I did this quite a few times; it was the only time I was ever in a parade, even though I wasn’t an official participant.  This was such a huge, big deal to me as a kid.

My aunt’s house is etched in my memory, but vaguely.  I actually lived in the lower level with my parents for the first couple years of my life.  I remember she usually had a spread of food set out in the garage; there were tables and chairs set up, and people would wander in and out.  There was a big stone or cement porch on the front of her house, and we kids made a big deal out of jumping off the side of the porch onto the grass below.  When I was young, I considered this to be very risqué and dangerous; my boy cousins (and there were many of them) liked to play Evel Knievel and do daredevil jumps.

I had quite a few cousins either my age or within a year or two of me, as well as my brother who was two years younger than me.  We were all usually there at the same time.  I was the only girl in this age range; my other girl cousins were all older than me, old enough to not be hanging out with a little kid like me (I don’t blame them).  I loved being around my cousins, who were all boisterous and laughing and happy kids.  They all treated me kindly, even if I didn’t always join in with their shenanigans.  There were always tons of people around, people I called ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ even if that wasn’t really their relation to me.  It was just what you called the adults back then.  I would see familiar faces, faces I saw every year at the Feast, people I was happy to see even if I couldn’t remember their names.  There was just such a feeling of comfort and tradition.

I don’t remember any fights or bickering on Feast day.  The adults all seemed to be happy; the kids were all beyond excited.  My aunt lived within walking distance of the actual festival so people would walk down to the Feast area and then back to her house all throughout the day.  Sometimes my cousins would come back with gifts or treats from a stall, and I would beg my parents to get me the same thing.  There were usually balloons there, and I always got a balloon.  Sometimes I’d get the kind that had a shape inside, which I thought were just the best balloons ever.  I think sometimes they were on a stick instead of a string.

When I was very young, I always walked with my parents to the festival area.  We’d walk along the streets, some of which were actually brick and looked like cobblestone streets.  I always loved those and thought they looked so pretty and old-fashioned.  A lot of people had nativity sets and Madonna statues set up in their front yards, and we would admire these decorations as we walked.  Often my parents would know the people who lived along the route to the Feast, so we would stop and chat.  Most people had a set-up like my aunt’s, with food set out in the garage and tables and chairs filled with relatives and friends.

There was a big sign that signified the start of the festival area; when it came into view, my heart would beat faster and I knew we were almost there.  Even now, looking at a picture of that sign brings back those old childhood feelings of excitement and anticipation.

feast sign

Once we got there, it was a crush of people.  People everywhere, getting food or talking in groups or buying trinkets.  Many people had red, white and green t-shirts and Italia jackets on.  Most people were Italian, and I’d hear a mixture of Italian and accented English.  My dad always bought us Italian ice, my absolute favorite treat.  It wasn’t ice like a sno-cone, or really ice at all; it was creamy, bright white and bursting with lemon flavor.  It was sold in a little fluted white paper cup; I would finish it and then push up the bottom of the cup, trying to make sure I didn’t miss any of the sweet, tart delicacy.  I’ve never been able to find Italian ice quite like the kind I had at the Feast; what they sell in grocery stores is not the same thing at all.  Gelato comes close and, oddly enough, so does the Italian ice that Culver’s sells in the summer.

I remember my dad buying these flat, yellow beans; he would squeeze the outer skin and pop the bean into his mouth.  They were sold in little wax bags, and until I did an online search the other day, I never realized they were lupini beans.  Of course, the smell of grilled Italian sausage was everywhere; that and Italian beef were the two main things I remember besides the Italian ice and my dad’s beans.

There was a carnival as well, and we always went on the rides.  As I got older, the carnival became the main attraction for me (well, that and the Italian ice).  As a teenager, it was easy to flirt with the carnival workers and get them to give us free rides; one time my friend and I got 15 free rides in a row on the Zipper.  (Never underestimate the power of flirting!)

Since we had to cross a busy road to get to the actual festival, it was a big deal when my parents finally allowed us to go to the Feast by ourselves.  Sometimes all the cousins would go as a pack; as I got older, I’d sometimes go with whatever friend I’d brought along to keep me company.  (Once I hit junior high and high school, I almost always brought a friend along.)  We would pass a place that sold soft-serve ice cream and that was another big treat, especially getting to go there by ourselves and order whatever we wanted.

In the alleys of the side streets, people would set off huge, massive packs of firecrackers that would pop and bang for long, noisy minutes at a time.  When I was very young, I was terrified of firecrackers so I would hide in my aunt’s house along with her dog, who was as scared as I was.

Once I moved out and then got married and was living on my own, I stopped going to the Feast.  My father actually discouraged me from going in the late 80s and early 90s because there were fights breaking out – I’m not sure if it was actually gangs or just rowdy guys, sometimes with guns.  The last time I went was in 1990, when Eric was just a month or so old.  I didn’t fear for my life or anything, but it just wasn’t the same.  The magical feeling I used to get from the Feast was gone, and I didn’t want to replace my good memories with something else.  I haven’t been back since.

Part of what made it so special for me was just family, having everyone gathered at my aunt’s, eating and talking and laughing.  Part of it was the novelty of getting to go to a carnival, get yummy treats and little gifts I normally wouldn’t get.  (I still have a rosary my grandmother bought me one year.)  Part of it was being trusted to walk there with my cousins and/or my friends, that first exhilarating taste of freedom from adult supervision.

In my mind, memories of the Feast are mixed up with warm sunshine, laughter, wafts of smoke from Italian sausages on the grill, waiting waiting waiting for the procession to start, and sweet, tart, cold lemon.

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