Eyes & Ears

Neil and I have both had health shocks recently. Don’t reach for the condolence cards yet – even in the normal scheme of things they aren’t serious; in the face of a global pandemic they’re positively trivial. But both are a reminder that we’re not getting any younger. I’m more used to it than Neil; besides being a little older than he is, as a woman I have to accept that things start to fail or fall apart as the years pass. I echo a friend’s recent words: I’d just like to get out of bed one morning and have nothing ache or twinge as I move.

My eyesight has been getting worse for years. I can’t be surprised; both my parents had the same thing, going from not needing glasses at all, to glasses for reading, to finding I need them on my nose more than I’m happy about. I don’t look in a mirror often, but the first time I did it wearing glasses I had a huge shock – where the hell did those wrinkles appear from? And how long have they been there? There have been lessons – I no longer handle sharp knives without glasses on, learning the hard way it wasn’t a good idea, and I learned the disappointing way to wear them when I’m cleaning the bathroom if I don’t want to go back and re-do the job.

When I was told I had cataracts a few weeks ago I was momentarily stunned, staring at the specialist like he’d turned into Medusa and I had no option. I thought I’d misheard him, and my hearing was also heading off towards the scrap heap. I asked him to repeat it, just to be sure, then still sat there with a dumb expression on my face, trying to work out if I’d Rip-Van-Winkled a couple of decades away without realising it. My grandmother had cataracts in her eighties; my dad had them when he was in his seventies. But I still have a whole decade to leap over, and a good chunk of the one I’m currently in, before I get even to Dad’s operation-age. I guess I wasn’t expecting to need a cataract operation for another score of my allocated years. But, no, within a couple of them, he said. I’m not worried per se – it’s a routine operation nowadays and hardly any recovery time – and honestly I’m quite looking forward to not having to spend so much of my time wondering where on earth I’ve put my glasses (the operation generally means you don’t need them any more). But it’s one more thing heading under the wheels of the oncoming truck of old age.

Neil has just had his hearing tested and there’s a problem; he might need hearing aids. He’s not happy, although I’ve no idea why he’s surprised – I’ve been telling him he’s going deaf for years. His specialist said he doesn’t need them, but they would be useful and improve his quality of life. Or at least the quality of his marriage. They’re such tiny things now that you usually can’t tell when someone is wearing them, but I’m not sure I helped when I suggested he grow his hair to cover his ears if he was concerned about them being visible.

He hasn’t yet decided what to do but if he does get them, I think we’ll both be in for a shock. Currently he can’t hear me at all if he’s in a different room, so I’ll have to be more wary about singing along to music or talking to myself (we no longer have a cat so I can’t use the excuse that I’m talking to her.) And I’ll have to stop throwing curses and threats in his direction under my breath or he’ll be looking to hire either a personal bodyguard or a divorce lawyer. Although, to be fair, most of my muttering is in response to having repeated myself three times and he still hasn’t heard a word I’ve said.

For his part he’ll no longer be able to rely on the excuse that he simply hasn’t heard me and admit instead that he wasn’t paying attention and I am, in fact, white noise. No doubt he’ll wonder for a while what the annoying buzzing is before realising that it’s his beloved talking to him. He’ll have to start listening to me. I suspect it will take a while for both of us to get used to that. At least he’ll be able to hear me when I ask if he’s seen my glasses.

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