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Washington Voices

Front Porch: Just laugh off foibles of the ages

Thu., March 21, 2013, midnight

By the time you reach a certain age, you either laugh or cry about your foibles and infirmities. Laughing is better.

I laugh a lot lately.

Take my left knee. It’s been prime for replacement for years, but I stubbornly hold on to it. Hence I move about on my two feet in a pretty pokey fashion decidedly lacking in grace. I get to where I’m going OK, but in truth, what I do is more like sauntering and less like walking. I joke (though there’s a lot of truth in humor) that I have two speeds – slow and real slow.

I remember walking across campus at EWU with the president of the university one day when I was working there. We were on our way to a meeting several buildings away, and he moved at a good clip. If I try to go faster than I should, which I can do, I tend to lose my balance. (Did I mention I have a bit of a balance issue?) Trying to keep pace with a man having a speedy spring in his step wasn’t working, so I tapped him on his arm and stopped in my tracks. “I’ve got two speeds,” I told him with a laugh, “and what you’re doing is neither of them. How about I just meet you there?”

Fortunately, we had time and he had a good sense of humor (plus compassion for the turtle-paced). He slowed down and we had a nice stroll the rest of the way across campus.

My husband has a hearing deficit. Put him in a noisy room (restaurant, theater, auditorium, automobile) where there is any appreciable background noise – and spoken words become pretty much all babble to him. Also, young children’s voices and higher-pitched women’s voices sound like just so much squeaking in most situations. Yes, I know, try hearing aids (though they’re not great at muting background sounds). I’ve suggested that often, and the intricate avoidance responses could well be the subject for another time.

So we’ve adapted. We got an audio booster system attached to our main TV and a set of ear phones that he can tune up to 120 decibels with its independent controls if he wants, while I watch with sound at a softer and more comfortable level for me. We try to hit restaurants during quiet times before the evening rush (like a lot of gray-haired people do), and at film or theater or music events he uses the hearing-assisted devices that many venues make available. They’re not perfect, but they can help sometimes.

And he’s getting better at lip reading. Even so, we often encounter mishearing moments that are precious. We were watching an interview once with a woman speaking of being in the sandwich generation, taking care of her children and now also her parents, when she said, “Sometimes you have to choose between your children and your parents.”

“What did she just say?” Bruce asked. Now I know from this question that he had just heard something that didn’t make sense. On those occasions I’ve come to ask before responding, “What do you think she said?” I do this because I’m probably a bit perverse and what he says he heard is often off-the-charts funny.

“Well, it sounded like she said she might have to choose between her children and her ferrets. If so, I’m leaning toward the ferrets.”

Also, I have finally come to the point in life where I need reading glasses more often than not. I’ve had them for years but have mostly used them when I’d sit and read for long stretches. But this winter I noticed I couldn’t read the numbers in the phone book or some of the dialog lines in the newspaper comic strips. Can’t have that, so I’ve taken to using the readers a whole lot more often. I abandoned matters of vanity years ago.

Trouble is, I am forever searching for the darned glasses. Did I leave them in the kitchen with the morning paper? Or at the desk when I was doing bills? Or are they in my purse so I’ll have them at the restaurant?

Bruce sighs and helps me hunt. And then a friend suggested the most obvious solution – check the prescription and buy several pair off the rack, where they’re in multi-packs and are really cheap. Duh! These clones are not as good as the custom-made prescription pair that I keep at the site where I do most of my heavy reading – but I now have these other glasses available by my kitchen phone, at my work computer and in my purse for those quick-look-up-a-number- or-fact moments.

When Bruce spots me reaching for the new and now easy-to-find (because they’re everywhere) eyewear, he gives me a smile and gives himself one of those I-could-have-had-a-V8 thumps on the forehead as he passes by.

Now if he could only hear what I say softly as he turns to walk away.

Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@comcast. net. Previous columns are available at columnists/.

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