Updated: Jun 23, 2022
A socially-distant but heart-filling visit
My dad has worn hearing aids for about 15 years and for most of that time he was wearing the strongest hearing aids possible. He tried the special headphones connected to the TV and the special apparatus attached to his phone. He really did try everything.
The tone of my voice was especially hard for him to hear. For years I haven’t had a serious conversation with Dad on my own. I would grab my husband and “talk” through him when I really wanted to share something of importance. Often I would just email instead.
When our family got together, Dad had a very hard time contributing to any conversation and he missed out. Dad enjoys music and played clarinet into college but he sat out most of my son’s concerts since he couldn’t hear or enjoy them. Same is true for many play performances. Dad wanted to show support, so he often came but we knew he couldn’t hear the performance.
It was very hard for my kids to get to know him.
About six weeks ago, Dad received a cochlear implant in one ear. In complete layman’s terms, you are completely deaf in that ear following the procedure until the implant is turned on. The doctors allowed four weeks for Dad to recover from the implant surgery before it was scheduled to be turned on. Then COVID-19 hit and his appointment was rescheduled. Luckily and somewhat surprisingly, the doctor could accommodate him yesterday (two weeks later than scheduled).
My parents live 40 minutes from me but my dad’s appointment was rescheduled at the hospital just a mile from my home, so my parents decided to make a quick stop by to say hello – at a distance – from our front yard.
Awaiting my dad’s arrival was quite emotional. I hadn’t seen my parents in about two months. During that time, Dad had the cochlear implant, I had some medical issues of my own and COVID 19 turned everyone’s world upside-down. Dad spent years considering the implant and I was concerned for him. What if his hearing didn’t improve at all? With all the effort and anticipation, how would he cope? Most of all – I was emotional at the chance to be able to communicate directly with my dad again. Then there was the harsh reality that we couldn’t even hug each other – either in celebration or support.
My parents arrived at our house and sat in our driveway eating their lunch. My family waited. Finally they approached the door – and then backed away giving everyone the buffer of space required.
We all gathered on my front lawn and I TALKED TO MY DAD. I talked in a normal tone. I didn’t yell or repeat myself and from his responses, he truly heard me. What a gift and what a relief. Dad said we all sounded a bit like Mickey Mouse but that in time and with a few more doctor’s appointments his hearing would be fine-tuned.
Dad talked about the oddity of hearing himself eat potato chips and hearing Mom crumple up a bag of garbage. He heard the bird singing in my tree. He couldn’t recall the last time he heard a bird sing.
The visit was cut way too short. Among this amazing moment we were accommodating COVID protection and my parents needed to head home to go to the bathroom. How very odd.
This gift – despite the strange circumstances – didn’t sink in until later that night. My dad can hear me. We can talk! Even more important, my kids can have meaningful conversations with their Papa. I'm grateful for this technological and medical miracle that is opening new doors for our family and look forward to being able to truly share stories with my dad again.
Summer Scott is a life storyteller with Memoir for Me, a life story book company in Chicago.