Friday, July 8, 2011

What's That You Say?

My dad is deaf. At least, for the longest time that is what I thought. However, as my birthday candles climb in number each year, I now know that he's not deaf at all. (I don't mind needing more candles each year because the cake has to get bigger to hold them, which is a definite plus to a sad reality. It's a bittersweet catch 22.). However, my father is not deaf. To be honest, I don't think any older man is really deaf. My theory is that our level of hearing has been raised in proportion to the nonsense we have to tune out.

Kids are loud and they are the loudest at the moments I need them to be the quietest. They scream and squeal; they hoot and holler and they never speak with their indoor voices regardless of what I threaten them with. Furthermore, allow them to get just a tad excited and it's like they're riding a roller coaster while still sitting on the living room sofa. They're youthful merriment bounces off the empty walls only to still be heard years later.

So, in order for fathers to get anything done around the house we have to start adjusting our level of hearing. To put it bluntly, we tune everything out. We ignore everything below a certain decibel level as merely the childish antics of young people. Otherwise, we would never enjoy the newspaper, a quiet morning on the back porch or balance our checkbooks with legible handwriting. "Hey, Dad?" is tuned out the first four times it's screamed at us because we already know they're going to ask for something they know they can't have and it isn't really serious until their voice hits that glass shattering pitch. Besides, how do we really know they aren't talking to their action figures acting out some scene of how they're going to put us in a senior home?

Fathers have made everything below screaming level mere white noise. That's why the television is set on maximum volume and why music blares from my headphones to echo in the bedroom without fazing me one bit. We've trained our ears to ignore the chatter around us. Hearing aids are really devices that reset our listening levels that other force upon us and we have to start tuning out all over again. Soon, others are complaining that the little device isn't working as it's supposed to, but we're happier than a screaming kid at a McDonald's PlayPlace.

Truth is, there's quite a bit of stuff we don't want to hear. We choose to ignore the requests for money or to borrow the car knowing we'll be the ones putting gas back in the tank because, well, that's not what they borrowed the money for to begin with. We also try to ignore their rambling unedited stories of their weekend antics because we know we should scold and discipline them for being idiots, but really, we did the same things at their age and our parents ignored us. It's tradition.

It's even worse nowadays because the kids come into a room babbling away and when I take the time to go "Huh?" they're not even talking to me but the latest love interest on the phone plotting what they're going to do this weekend that I'll need to tune out later. It's even worse with Bluetooth because they actually look like they're talking to me. Of course, I like to join in the conversations anyway just to let them know I'm there and sometimes what I shout actually goes with what they're talking about. Other times it merely irritates them and I hear, "It's just my dad. He thinks we're talking about choking the grass."

And there is the real secret of dads being deaf. We've trained ourselves to tune noise out so that everyone has become used to us not being able to hear their ramblings and in that comfort they relax and talk freely. Sometimes too freely and I learn things my kids wished I hadn't. You see, we do hear everything and at the most embarrassing moment for the speaker we'll prove it just to see them squirm and blush. Deafness is our way of eavesdropping without having to strain to hear the whispers, unless of course they're asking to borrow money. Then, I really am deaf.

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