Saturday, June 26, 2004

Passing paper at the pub

On Friday evenings, after work, I am lightly 'scheduled' to be at our 'local' to meet friends; husband and I are part of a lose collection of 'regulars' with a tight-knit core, and normally we might wander by two or three times a week to chat with the ever-changing gang and the amiable and funny barstaff. Fridays are a pretty permanent 'date' for us.

Friday afternoon I got an email from a close friend - not much of a pub person, so not too often at the 'round table' - asking if I'd be there. If so, she'd drop by.

Hmm. I hadn't really thought about it. Suddenly, it seemed a very daunting prospect, in my current situation. My friends were in all sorts of varying degrees of knowledge about the situation; some were going to be gobsmacked that anything was wrong (many never noticed the hearing aid, first to last), others were going to be upset, I knew, because I am lucky and I have friends who have invested their emotions in me; some might be in denial (it's happened) and insist on trying to speak to me; all would have to communicate through the clumsy method of writing to me with paper and pen, in a complex social setting with multiple conversations going on. Others in the pub would stare, I would stand out. I'd probably look like a freak. It would be a damned nuisance for all my friends.

On the other hand, what if my hearing didn't come back? What am I going to do, never go to a pub or party again? Never socialize again?

These people have invested in me over all these years. They would care if I vanished tomorrow. I owed it to them to swallow this and not to reject them, isolating myself in a cloud of self-pity.

So I went to the pub. It was a racous and merry time, and amongst many messages of concern, many hugs and exclaimations of upset and expressions of frustration and helplessness, the novelty of the paper and pen proved amusing enough to cause a lot of laughter and funny moments (such as one friend repeatedly feigning tearing off and eating comments that she had written ill-advisedly). At first they tried to write for me the essence of every turn of the multi-player conversation: "RUDE" protested my friend when I told her she needn't. But I convinced them it was impractical, just as trying to follow every conversation at a large and crowded table is, and shortly we settled into a very natural process whereby what I needed to understand was made understandable to me. It worked far better than I could ever have hoped. I am ashamed at having hesitations, and at not giving them the credit to adapt marvellously. Two, a married couple and two of my - our - very closest friends, have already decided they are going to learn ASL; one of the pair already knows it - well, she learned a lot of it as a child at camp - well, it was Bible Camp, and she learned it in the aid of converting the deaf heathen, so it was with much uproarious laughter that we discovered she is very facile at signing passages from the Bible, and knows the words for things like "Christ", "Crucifix", "Salvation", "Born-Again" etc - all the words likely to come up in my everyday conversation.

The most frequent question was the one I can't answer - "Will this drug help?"

But for their part, any help was offered. Drives, assistance in accessing technology (one tried to give me the TREO off her belt, the better for me to communicate with), help getting information on government programs which will help. Anything they could think of offering. Anything, anything, just let us know.

How lucky I am to have such friends. Cultivate and care for those select few around you well, my friends; when you need them, you need them badly.



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