She and her sister, both now adults, sat on the end of their parents' double bed, still covered with the crocheted coverlet of their deceased Mother, talking, or trying to carry on a conversation with their Dad, who had a severe hearing loss. The television was blaring so loud, it was heard in the driveway where the sisters parked.
Every sentence they uttered was repeated louder, much louder--so loud the sisters developed sore throats. He would not wear his one hearing aid. He was too frugal to buy two hearing aids.
"Dad, please put in your hearing aid," one sister said.
"But I can hear fine," Dad said. Earlier, she had received the same answer to the need to reduce the television's volume so neighbors could have their own conversations or rest.
After this exchange, the other sister exited the conversation and room, exasperated at her Dad's stubborn refusal to accommodate his daughters' visit by wearing his one hearing aid and turning down the TV volume.
This scene was an oft repeated effort by the sisters and their brother to communicate with their Dad whose hearing loss was becoming critical.
Yes, the sister leaving the room was me and it was an oft repeated ritual which popped into my mind today.
In my geriatric years memories flash through my mind triggered by seemingly incongruent times and events.
Today during our 15-minute ride home following church services, several memories flashed in and out, the subject of which was my Dad, who lived 92.5 years. He was a devout man, who rarely missed a church service.
Dad was the traditional head of household with ultra conservative religious and moral standards. His parents had eight children (including Dad) and were farmers around Stephenville, TX.
When I was old enough to remember, his parents were peanut farmers plus raising animals like hogs, chickens and cattle for meat. They had a huge garden and fruit orchard.
Dad left farming to obtain a business certificate from Draughon's Business College in Abilene TX . After marriage his first job in 1936 was bookkeeping for a firm in Abilene. He never talked of the depression, but that time period shaped his frugality. He only financed one thing his entire life, our home. Everything else was 'cash and carry,' the phrase of his day.
Dad rarely talked about his life unless asked. After Mother died I tried to talk with him about his life before me, but it frequently ended like the scenario described above, although I would simply sit in silence, rather than leave the room.
I remember his regaling what a Sunday church service was like. His family made the wine, yes, it was wine then. His parents and the eight children piled into a horse-drawn wagon and rode to church for an Sunday morning service, dinner on the grounds and area wide singing afterward.
He described baptisms at creeks, rivers, ponds, and in Texanese, livestock tanks, which were man-created ponds to hold water for their farm animals. After he died, his oldest sister told me Dad was baptized in a livestock tank.
Dad told me his and Mother's process of adopting me, to which I have alluded in an earlier post. He spoke of it as if it were only yesterday. Despite my perceived list of disappointments to them with some life choices, he spoke of this event fondly, lovingly with no sadness or regret.
What would I have learned, if I had empathized with his inability to cope with his hearing loss? Instead I impetuously shut the door in frustration on our conversations. Recriminatingly shameful and regrettable, my actions were my loss, but I deprived him of some degree of comfort in his last , lonely , wifeless, nearly 15 years by denying him remembrances of his life with his oldest sibling and daughter, me.
Ironically. now my husband, and to a lesser degree myself, have hearing losses. His loss is profound in one ear. He has hearing aids he seldom wears.
My hearing loss is moderate; I also have hearing aids. I wear them to meetings, but I can see why people dislike them. The background nose drowns out a person talking, sitting right next to you.
I did swear long ago, I would buy hearing aids, if and when I needed them. I HAVE.
Yes , Dad was stubborn in refusng to accommodate his children's trying to communicate with him. I hesitate to guess, except he often emphasized when we siblings were in his house, we acted and behaved as he dictated.
Speaking for myself, this did not justify to my lack of empathy for a lonely, widower, my Dad, who, at his advanced age, had few close living friends with whom to share a cup of coffee. He lived an isolated existence in which his primary companion was his TV.
The only brief bright period in his final years, was his roommate in the nursing home. Mr Palmore was a long-time neighbor. They shared a few good months together, almost like old times. Gradually, both their minds degenerated into mild dementia.