Let me show you the world in my eyes
A thunderstorm woke me up this morning. It felt like someone picked the bed slightly up off the floor and then let it down with a thunk, followed by vigorous shaking. One of our cats, Beanie (aka Sabrina) was sleeping with me at the time and it freaked her right out – she sprung up and leaped over my legs to get off the bed. Between the bed shaking and the cat gymnastics, I ended up wide awake at 7:30 am. (One of the luxuries of summertime…unless we have a morning appointment that day for something, we can sleep in!)
I was confused at first until I looked out the bedroom window and saw the neighbor’s tree dancing in the wind. I put my glasses on and watched the storm from the comfort of our bed – the sky lighting up with lightning, the tree bending and snapping in the wind. It looked like some kind of primeval dance, and it was even more beautiful because, with no sound to distract me, I was totally focused on the movements of the branches and leaves.
I love thunderstorms. Bad weather doesn’t scare me – I think it’s fascinating. (That said, I’ve never been the victim of a tornado or hurricane…I’m sure my feelings about bad weather would change if I had.) When I was a kid, my parents would open the garage door, set up lawn chairs and we’d watch the storm play out from the safety of the garage. I absolutely loved doing this – watching the lightning, hearing the thunder and feeling it shake the ground, smelling the rain, hearing it hit the driveway and street. When my kids were about 4 and 8 years old, I thought I’d pass the tradition on to them. We set up their little chairs in the garage, opened the door…and they were terrified. They hated every second of it. After that very brief episode, they never showed any interest in watching a storm with me. In fact, Paige was really frightened by thunderstorms for a long time and I could never understand why. She could see that I wasn’t nervous at all but that didn’t matter – she just hated storms!
Now that storm season has started here in Illinois, I’ve been grieving a bit over the fact that I can’t hear thunder any more. I really have never been able to hear rain – I know I heard it as a kid, out in my garage, but never inside the house as it hit the roof. But I always heard thunder, and I could actually hear lightning too – it would crackle like static in my hearing aids. I’d hear the crackle and know that a few seconds later I’d hear the boom of thunder. Oh, I miss it! Darn it.
The weirdest things give me such a sharp stab of sadness now when I don’t hear them. It’s not the obvious things anymore, like the voices of my family or the meows of my cats. Now it’s the really mundane things that I miss. When I’m operating the microwave, I realize that I don’t hear the beeps of the buttons as I’m pushing them. I don’t know if I’ve pushed the “start” button hard enough to actually start it, so I have to watch and make sure the microwave starts its countdown as it cooks. And of course, I never hear the beeps when it finishes.
I’m working out again (it’s been a while ::cough cough::) and none of the workout videos are captioned. I can’t even think about doing the yoga videos, because I can’t contort my body and keep my eyes on the screen to lipread the instructor as they tell me what to do. I’ve got my regular workout dvds pretty well memorized, so now I work out with the TV on “mute”, so it doesn’t bother anyone else in the room. I do my weight lifting, my leg exercises, my aerobics in total silence. Well, except for my tinnitus…and unfortunately, it doesn’t keep any kind of beat worth exercising to! 🙂
I can’t tell if my voice is getting gravelly, the way it does if you need to clear your throat. I try to be mindful of how my throat feels as I talk, clearing it if I think I might sound hoarse. I can’t tell if I’m talking to my animals in my usual high-pitched voice…you know, the way you talk to babies. At first I think I was talking in kind of a monotone, and they weren’t responding to me the way they used to. I made more of an effort to change my voice and I can tell when I’m talking in my “higher” voice – the cats respond instantly. It’s so weird not to know if I’ve got inflection in my voice or not.
When I read about the sounds that people with cochlear implants are hearing for the first time, I think, “Oh! I remember hearing that.” It’s still hard to believe that just 2 months ago, I could’ve heard the keys on my keyboard as I type this. I could hear my dog’s nails clicking on the tile floor in the kitchen, hear his tags clink against the water dish as he (noisily) slurps water. I could hear motorcycles drive by in the street, hear the garbage truck as it approached (and run out to set the bins at the curb if I’ve forgotten). I could hear the turn signals clicking in the car and hear gravel crunching under the wheels. These are not beautiful, awe-inspiring sounds but they bring fullness to the day, give a 3-D aspect to otherwise mundane moments. I miss them.
I still forget that it’s permanent. This morning I got out of the shower (when I normally wouldn’t wear hearing aids, back when I wore them at all) and started to tell Dave, “Oh, hang on a second…” when I couldn’t hear him talking to me. I was going to walk to the bedroom and put my hearing aids in. Then I remembered.
I didn’t finish the rest of my sentence: “…let me put my hearing aids in. I can’t hear you.”