Greetings, my partners in the great American crime. The votes are in, the doves have been shot (by the veep, natch), big brother’s got a camera in the bedroom, a drill in the arctic, and a hand in your grandson’s pocket. Pay up, young-un! Freedom ain’t free. Fear not though, the rapture
will be here any day. That’s the news. Ok, enough of the news.
Last week I had the three-month evaluation of my implant. And lest you think that I exaggerate my auditory progress, check it: on random word recognition (that is my ability to correctly repeat random words said by a gentle male voice on a cd) I went from 14 percent pre-surgery with hearing aids to 60 percent. On random sentences (which are easier because you have more context) I went from 24 percent to 100. Perfect score-ola. My audiologist, Angelina Cleopatra Hepburn-Monroe, was duly impressed. When we tested the lowest sound at which I could discern speech, I tested at 15 decibels. Zero to 20 decibels is considered within normal range.
“Wait you mean I’m normal?” I said to Ms. Hepburn-Monroe (not her real name).
She shook her head. “I wouldn’t say that.”
Regardless, this improvement called for celebration. Confused shmoe that I am (I’d blame my upbringing, cept that excuse expired), I celebrated by getting knee surgery. But what was supposed to be a simple procedure turned out to be not so simple. I’m on crutches until the middle of next month. Ma picked me up from the hospital and brought me to the family headquarters for the weekend, where I continued my auditory celebration by telling my parents to bring me things from the refrigerator.
“Ice,” I called to my dad, who was in the kitchen, twenty-five feet away, around a stairway.
“Ice,” he said.
“And a cucumber.”
“Cucumber. Anything else?”
“Is there any more of that barley soup?”
“Soup,” he said, from the kitchen. “You know, in all my years, I’ve never once had a conversation with you from another room. This is amazing.”
“It is, isn’t it?” I called back. “Make sure to put the soup in the microwave.”
“Get a wife,” said ma.
“Hey!” I exclaimed. “Ma! I’m in pain here.”
It was amazing – dad and I really were talking from a room away. And the soup -- delicious, especially after I sent dad back for salt. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now, and probably say it again because this is a limited focus blog – this implant is good, good stuff. I’m back to talking on the phone, better than I ever have; I can eavesdrop on conversations; I watched a movie without captions and could understand. If you are out there with a hearing loss and wrestling with yourself – "should I get an implant? Should I let them do this irreversible surgery, drilling a hole in my head and giving me a bionic ear?" all I can say is yes. Yes, Foxy! Detonate your mind, baby!
Then: bring on the soft-talkers! Mumble, young man, mumble!
After the evaluation, back at the NYU cochlear implant center, Ms. Hepburn-Monroe remapped my implant. I had been having trouble discerning L’s R’s and W’s, so she tapped a couple keys on her keyboard and viola, I could hear them. She also gave me some new programs – one is a higher refresh rate, a completely different sound, sharper and more chaotic at the same time. Now that I can hear, we’re finetuning the implant programming: over my right ear are now four subtly different versions of the world to play with.
I came home and lo and behold – I could understand Carl perfectly.
“I can hear you,” I gasped.
“Very good,” he said.
“I have captured the holy grail! They said it was impossible! No! They said it couldn’t be done!”
Carl nodded. “They who? What are you talking about?”
Who? What?...Ahh, details. I’m on painkillers for my knee, comerados -- the good kind, the ones that transform your body into a warm stuffed animal, full of love and forgiveness, incapable of taking a crap – I can’t remember details. But I do remember beauty. Do you remember? Don’t forget it! With each moment you must remember it! They may take your ears, your looks, your money and houses, they may fry your tissue with lasers and poison it with its cure, they may give you a sentence while never accusing you of a crime – but the beauty remains. The trees, the smiles, the snow on top of a Colorado mountain, the dumb dog barking on the couch -- your deep, deep beauty.
Thank you for that.