My recent trip to the ENT doctor has left me with a new revelation: I’ll probably never hear like I used to hear in my left ear. All this started about seven years ago when a particularly bad sinus infection plugged up my left eustachian tube. A small tube was put into my eardrum to help it drain. Since then this has been done several times; the last tube, installed about a year ago, must have been the size of a railroad tie.
At any rate, I think the eardrum has finally said, “Enough!” It has allowed scar tissue to make residence there and the result is a somewhat muffled, boxy sound in that ear when I sing. It is especially apparent when I’m in an auditorium with loud music, or trying to harmonize with another singer.
Ah yes. When I sing. For many years now I have sung as a part of my living. That avocation was truncated after my heart attack but has been slowly revived as of late. I am fortunate to be able to perform again, even in a limited way, but . . . it is frustrating to lose clarity in one ear. Forever.
Yes, forever! That is a daunting awareness.
When you’re young so many of the maladies that plague you can be dealt with in time, and you find you are restored to your former self. Sometimes you’re even stronger than before (an injured tendon or muscle can sometimes become less prone to injury after it heals). The body is amazing. But as time goes on, and we age, many of us find ourselves unable to bounce back. My heart experienced such a setback almost seven yearss ago; it will never be the same. And now . . . my ear.
I don’t like when things break. If I can repair a solar light for the yard it makes me feel really good. Or if some caulk seals some failing woodwork, or grout restores the bathtub tile to its former glory, it is gratifying. I don’t mind problems and challenges. Except . . . when the problems or challenges CAN’T BE MET.
When all my best efforts are fruitless, my striving to no avail, my best figuring fails to resolve, and I am utterly powerless to affect a resolution . . . that is devastating. It requires a realignment of my stars (so to speak), a monumental shift of my personal tectonic plates, a grand mal adjustment to my psyche. And that’s no easy adjustment, no “walk in the park” (as they say).
In our lifetime, each of us will face these mammoth, insurmountable obstacles; obstacles that force us to reevaluate, refocus, retool, and press on with brand new goals dressed up in clothing we never dreamed we’d have to wear. But . . . either we wear the new outfit and learn to love it, or . . . we choose to wallow in disappointment and despair.
It’s comical sometimes . . . the things we think. For instance, when I was a young man I used to see elderly men walking for exercise in long pants and street shoes. I laughed and said, “If I couldn’t wear my running shorts, athletic shoes, and RUN for exercise, I don’t think I’d bother!” Now . . . (and for some years now) I do just what they did. And I’m glad I can even do that.
We ALL encounter setbacks and defeats. The question is never whether or not we WILL encounter them; rather, what will we DO when we do so.
You see, I have a decision to make: will I continue to SING (albeit with limitations), or QUIT! I have chosen to sing.
Once, decades ago, I used my guitar to accompany a very elderly gentleman as he sang and played the violin. His voice was shaky and uncertain, his violin skills clearly in the past. Yet he sang and played a song he had written for his bride many years before I was even born. And he made no apologies for his lack of precision, because . . . precision was not the most important thing going on in that moment. He sang and played because he loved to sing and play, and he did so to honor the memory of his beloved wife.
Beethoven . . . well, you know the story; how he finished his ninth and final symphony even though he was deaf. By contrast, few of us are at our ultimate best when we come to our final days. The skin of the strong man’s mighty arm is replaced with wrinkles once stretched by impressive muscles; the aged, knowledgeable writer and scholar is sometimes no more erudite than a schoolboy; and yes . . . the great singer of songs who once wowed audiences and brought them to their feet in thunderous applause . . . is sometimes unable to even carry a tune.
As Gandalf the Grey said, “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.” As we age will experience losses; of this there is no doubt. Can we learn to relinquish, to let go of, to pass on to others the dreams that enthralled and inspired us for a time? Can we take a backseat to others in their life’s quest when it comes our time to shift into a new identity, one that functions as a supportive role instead of a leading role?
I hope to sing by myself and with others until my last breath. But that will only happen if I accept the limitations of my ear. And who knows what else as time goes on. I must remember the joy is in the doing, not the hearing. It derives from the heart; the sound does not matter.
So . . . what obstacles are you facing?
Thanks for reading and commenting, my dear.
LOVE this!!! So sad but beautiful 💜💜
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Thanks for reading and commenting, Rob. I’m gonna keep on singing!
Thanks for reading and commenting, my old friend. You have had more than your share of setbacks in the past few years. Good to hear from you. One day . . . things will be set right again.
Good word. Thanks for sharing, and definitely, keep on singing and playing.
Thanks for this article! Ironically, I have an ENT appointment this Wednesday to see if I am a candidate for a cochlear implant. I retired from preaching 3 years ago and a lot of that was due to hearing loss. I have no hearing in my left ear due to surgery for an acoustic neuroma in 2015 and only partial hearing in my right ear. So, we shall see. It surely is frustrating! Hope you all are otherwise well. Doug
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