Waiting, Anticipating, Avoiding
Waiting is hard. It feels archaic, compared to the instant gratification I’ve gotten used to in the internet age. Although I can access my medical claims online, I can’t access anything that shows how the preapproval process is going for my cochlear implant(s). All I can do is wait for a letter to arrive in the mail.
(Side note: I’m typing this with a view of the kitchen reflected in the little mirror I’ve set up next to my monitor. I just watched one of our cats, Allie, jump up on the kitchen counter (which is very, very rare for her – I think I’ve only seen her do this one or two times). She walked over to a basket of cherries, sniffed, then grabbed one by the stem and jumped down with it. She’s been batting it around, picking it up by the stem and flinging it, having a grand old time. Her mom, Maxie, came over to see what was so exciting, and gave the cherry a couple of bats too. I didn’t even have to turn around to watch this whole scene play out!)
So anyway, people ask what’s going on or how long it might be before I can hear again. I have no idea! I still marvel, though, at the fact that the question is actually possible. “How long until you can hear again?” How amazing that it’s even an option!
Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and our days are pretty lazy. Lately I seem to spend them trying to avoid one social event or the other. Although my immediate family has been suitably impressed with my lip reading skills, they don’t extend well to long conversations with people I rarely see or have just met. The only exception has been at the doctor’s office, but I assume that’s because everyone there is used to talking with people who are deaf or have some degree of hearing loss.
My daughter is gone with my mom and aunt (mom’s sister) on a cruise right now. It’s an early 14th birthday gift to her from my mom – she likes to do a big vacation type trip when they become teens. Paige’s trip got postponed one year for some reason I can’t even remember now; Eric chose a trip to Las Vegas when he turned 13. Anyway, my aunt is in town and I only get to see her every few years since she lives in Tennessee. She’s also got a hearing loss and wears a hearing aid; I know she has trouble hearing when we have conversations because I can recognize the confused expression and bluffing that I’ve used all my life reflected on her face. Now it’s even more difficult for us to talk – I’m not used to reading her lips so she talks, I don’t get it, I bluff and say something I hope relates to the conversation, then she looks confused and she bluffs. Then I wonder…is she confused because I gave an inappropriate response, or is it just that she didn’t hear my response?!
My mom’s got a 70th birthday coming up and my brother is throwing her a surprise party. Her birthday is actually the day she returns from the cruise and her party is two weeks later. My brother asked if I was okay with a party-type situation or if they should put it off until I get my CI. I told him no, don’t hold back because of me – who knows how long it might be before I actually get my CI and after that, how long it might be before I can actually hear things? But it was nice of him to even consider that it might be hard for me. I did tell him I probably will leave after an hour or so, just because it’s exhausting trying to lip read for long periods of time.
I’m actually terrified of this party, to be honest. There will be 20 or 25 people there, including family members I usually see once a year, if even that. I’m assuming the family members know that I’m completely deaf now (if my mom told them, since they talk on the phone fairly frequently), but it’s one of those weird things that’s hard to bring up in conversation without it being awkward. Obviously I’ll have to bring it up, so they aren’t surprised if I’m not following what’s being said. It’s also possible that they’ll all just avoid me, assuming it will be too hard to communicate with me. Actually, that would be just fine with me – I’ve already told Dave that his job is to sit with me in a corner, talking for an hour, until we can leave!
Seriously though, I know I can’t do that. But ugh, it sucks to be so stressed out over something that should be fun and enjoyable! I’ve never liked parties and rarely go to them, but mostly because I suck at small talk. I love to engage one person in a long discussion about whatever we’re both interested in, but I dread and loathe flitting from one person to the next, making small talk for 15 minutes or whatever. I guess I developed this preference because of my hearing loss but it’s totally affected my social development and now I figure, why put myself in a miserable situation? But some parties just can’t be avoided.
I’m trying to keep this summer as void of social engagements as possible, other than going out with my husband and kids. We did actually go to a restaurant for the first time since I lost my hearing – we took Eric to his favorite pizza place for his birthday last week. Ironically, I think I did better in that situation than Dave did. I was with my family, reading their familiar lips, with only my crazy tinnitus to distract me. Dave, with his severe hearing loss, had to deal with all the background noise of the restaurant and the fact that he doesn’t read lips as well (although he does better than he gives himself credit for). The only time I had trouble was periodically with Dave, since he was sitting next to me and I really need to be fully facing someone to read their lips well.
Next week, though, we’ve got Eric’s college orientation day. It’s an all-day-long event that I had been so looking forward to before I lost my hearing. Dave and I will go to the parents’ session and Eric will go off with the other kids, and we’ll meet up for lunch in between. I did write and ask if they had any suggestions for me, since I don’t know sign language (to benefit from an interpreter), but they were at a loss as to how to help me. There will be written information handed out, though, and a walking tour. I’ve been on one tour already when we visited the university over the summer, so I won’t feel like I’m missing out on too much of the dialogue there. For the rest of the time, I’m just going to lip read when I can and basically just take it all in visually. I’m hoping we get to see his dorm, since we didn’t get to do that last summer.
Dave and I actually thought about buying a small laptop, like the Asus Eee, so he can type into it periodically and pass information on to me that way. The only problem is that he’s also hearing impaired so he’ll probably be just as lost as me – usually in these situations (school orientations and open houses) he kind of zones out while I’m the one listening and lip reading. 🙂
Unlike the prospect of going to a party and having to socialize, this doesn’t stress me out. I know I wouldn’t normally talk to anyone but Dave anyway, so I don’t feel like I’m going to be in this potentially embarrassing situation where I have to try to bluff my way though a conversation. It just bums me out a little bit, to know I’m going to miss most of what’s being said. I’m still looking forward to it though, just because it’s exciting for me…my baby going to college! I never went to college so it’s all new to me, and I’m glad he’s getting this chance.
So that’s where I’m at. Kind of a weird limbo. But still, the first thing I thought to myself when I woke up today was, “I love my life.” And I do.