Rain Delay

Here on the East Coast, Memorial Day weekend was rained out. Not only rained out but chilled out. I am currently in western Massachusetts, where the temperature hovered at 45 or lower and the rain was incessant. I worried about my newly planted vegetables. Frozen eggplant?

But it was also kind of a relief. The governors of both New York State and Massachusetts had just announced that the shutdown was over. We could see friends and family, go to parties, barbecues, pools, the beach.

Apologies in advance to the person sitting on my left. There’s no way I”ll hear you. Maybe I’ll catch a few words from the person on the right. The green centerpiece will make hearing across the table impossible.

I’m vaccinated, doubly. I feel safe in a small group of friends. But do I feel comfortable?

No. As I wrote a few weeks ago (The Return of Social Anxiety), the end of the shutdown means a return to in-person life, in the real world. I’d been invited to a few small Memorial Day weekend gatherings, and I was looking forward to them. But I was also deeply relieved when they were canceled because of the weather.

The previous weekend, during a heat wave, I went to a birthday celebration for an old friend. There were nine of us around an outdoor table. The house was beautiful, the hosts were gracious, the food was delicious, and I was glad to be there to celebrate my friend’s birthday.

But I couldn’t hear. I was open about it. I used the captioning app Otter.ai. (If I had had an Android phone, I’d have used Google Live Transcribe.) I practiced mindful listening (see Learn How to Listen). I corralled a friend to be my interpreter. Thank you D. But I left feeling a little sad.

These were good friends, kind, helpful friends who did their best for me. I was younger than most of them but also deafer than all.

What a conundrum. I want to be invited. I want to see old friends and meet new friends and eat nice food and feel part of life. But it’s so hard.

I am privileged. I only have hearing loss. I can see (with glasses), I can walk (if sometimes unsteadily). I can taste (though spicy food makes my mouth hurt and dairy products make me sick). I have my garden, my friends, my children, my dog. I lost my husband last year, but we had time to prepare, and for me to move forward.

The only thing I lack – and have not come to terms with — is my hearing.

Thanks to technology, I even have way more of that – my hearing – than I would have just a generation ago. I’m not an old lady sitting in the corner with an ear trumpet. I’m still me. I’m still here.

But as I think of my new life, emerging from the Covid cocoon, I know I need to strategize about this reentry. Figure out what’s worth it and what’s not, and how to make the best of it.

Seeing my friends is worth it, even if I have to follow up with them individually the next day to ask what it was we were talking about.

Seeing my family is worth it, even if I have to constantly interrupt and say “What?” — or, my preference, “What are we talking about?” If I miss a name, I’ll interrupt and say, “Who?” and then if I still don’t get it, “Spell it for me.”

What’s not worth it? For me, going to a restaurant is not worth it. I can never follow conversations and I also have to monitor the food to make sure it doesn’t include dairy.

Going to the movies is not worth it. Juggling the cup-holder caption device, or wearing the glasses on top of my own glasses, returning the device if it’s incorrectly programmed. I’ll watch at home, thank you, with captions.

Parties. It’s fun to dress up, so I might go. But I won’t stay long because it isn’t fun to spend an evening befuddled.

Public meetings. Yes, if there is CART captioning. No, if there isn’t.

Religious services. Maybe, if there’s CART. No if there isn’t. But even if there is CART I still won’t hear the music properly.

Weddings and funerals. Yes, but. Under some circumstances I might ask for CART. Under others – the wedding is being held in an area where there aren’t CART providers – I’d go anyway. I might use my iPhone captions, but most people regard pulling out your smart phone at a wedding or funeral to be outrageously rude. It’s hard to explain what you’re doing, especially to people sitting some distance from you.

Graduations. Yes. Most schools and universities are way ahead in terms of providing access. Contact the institution’s disability coordinator.

Live sports events. Yes. Hearing doesn’t really matter.

There’s my list of wills and won’ts. I’m interested in readers’ thoughts. Please comment!

My fellow blogger Shari Eberts just posted on essentially the same topic. I guess it’s on a lot of our minds. Hers is How Will a Post-Pandemic World Look to People with Hearing Loss.