Little by little, Ol’ Clark is joining his 2002 Toyota Camry with 408,000 miles in being replaced by a continuing array of parts.
The Toyota just got new tires, and its driver now has, at age 84, his first hearing aids.
I didn’t think I needed them, but my wife, tired of repeating herself, thought differently. I hate to admit it, but she was correct — as usual.
The new hearing aids join reading glasses, 10 total joint replacements, three steel bands to hold my right femur together, a pacemaker and a vaporized prostate. I continue to grow younger with each new part and system upgrade.
My Toyota has had new motor mounts, fans, a radiator, an air conditioning compressor, a fuel pump, a muffler, a couple of belts, struts, brakes and probably seven sets of tires replaced in its 15 years on birding trips down 90 percent of the gravel roads in our state.
The Camry’s engine still purrs along but does need the occasional quart of oil, and the transmission hiccups on occasion, as does its driver when he eats too fast — so we both are forced to slow up a bit from time to time.
The hearing aids were much slower in coming than reading glasses. By the time I was 47, my arms had grown far too short to hold the newspaper at a readable distance. I could still see like an eagle at 2 miles, but I could not be sure it was an eagle at 3 feet.
So I have reading glasses stashed in places such as the car, my desk, my living room chair, my bedside, the “throne room,” where I can read the paper in peace, and in my left pants pocket.
Now come the new devices, even ones Made for iPhone. Though I refused to consider them for years, I knew for more years than I care to admit that I needed to swallow my ego and rejoin the world I was missing because I couldn’t hear enough to understand normal conversation.
I hadn’t heard a bird song other than nearby crows, nuthatches, blue jays and the occasional rooster for the past decade.
Even worse, in recent years, I heard less and less of funny lines in the theater, often laughing with the audience at jokes I failed to hear. I laughed because others laughed. The jokes must have been funny.
I turned up radio and the television too loud for my family, and I became the master of the phrase, “Say again, please.” I called it “selective hearing.” It was the term selected.
How does a guy wind up unable to hear any frequency higher than low thunder?
I have to blame outside forces. First, I spent three years in the Army around noise — for two years in the artillery at Fort Hood, Texas, and a third year in Korea around heavy equipment, driving a truck up and down mountains, and working on an airstrip.
Second, I refereed football, basketball and wrestling for almost 40 years, often more than 150 dates a year. That’s at least 5,000 contests where I blew the whistle at least 100 times a game — half a million times, maybe twice that many.
Every whistle blast hit the ears full bore. I haven’t tooted the whistle for 20-plus years, but I haven’t heard high-frequency bird songs for at least that long.
You learn to bird by movement, silhouette and field marks and try to bird with someone who can hear. Now — if I can retrain my brain to sort out what I can now hear, my bird list can only grow. We’ll see if you can retrain 84-year-old ears — and their owner.
In the meantime, I can hear every joke and every note almost too loud in the theater these days. In fact, I can hear people turning the page of their program 10 rows away. Now when I laugh, there is a reason.
’Tis good to be back in the real world.
Do you feel like you are missing out on life’s important moments? Contact Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers today to schedule a hearing assessment as soon as possible.