I Can’t Always See What They’re Saying

When my nana began to lose her hearing, I was in my thirties. My mom and I discussed it a lot, how when the family got together my nana would smile and nod her head but it was evident that she was missing a lot of the conversation. I would tell her over and over to let us know if she was having trouble. I even worked out a discreet sign with her, a hand gesture I could detect and adjust the discussion so she could be a proper part of it. But she never used the signal and truth be told, it angered me. Why would she allow herself to not be involved?

Fast forward to current times, twenty years later. Now in my fifties, visually challenged, I find myself doing the same thing. Someone will hand me their phone to show me a photo and sometimes I will ask them to enlarge it, but an equal amount of time I will pretend to see the picture. Also, if I’m in a noisy place, a restaurant for example, it’s hard for me to hear. I think we read lips more than we realize when we have our full sight in a loud environment, and I no longer have that ability. This was a surprising discovery when my vision became compromised. If I am with more than one person in such a setting I am not always able to follow the verbal exchange and I am sorry to say that I will do the same thing my nana did that upset me so much.

I didn’t want this for her and I don’t want it for myself. It may be easier to act as though you can see or hear what’s going on but it’s a huge disservice to yourself and the people you are with. If you are brave enough to take your new normal out into the world, you cannot stop there. If you can’t hear, say so. If you can’t see, say so. Those you are with will be happy to make adjustments so that you are a full participant; they would be very sad to know that you are not.

My nana has been gone a long time. We were very close and she taught me a lot. Every Thanksgiving morning I pat the turkey dry the way she showed me. I remember staying with her for several weeks each summer and the first time she made her own croutons I thought she was a magician! And this memory of her hearing decline guides me today. I got the signal, Nana, and I will be do better moving forward. For the both of us.


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