Saturday, March 7, 2015

Confessions of a Half-Deaf Blonde and The Rustin Story

Do you remember when you were a kid and played the Telephone Game where you’d whisper something to the person next to you and they would whisper it to the next person and it would go on down the line until it reached the last person who had to repeat the message out loud?

Hilarity ensued because usually the message spoken had very little in common with what the originator whispered in the first place.

Yeah, life is sometimes like that with me.

Why? Well, because I’m half deaf. 

(The proper response here is, “WHAT?!”  Yeah, ha ha. Stop it! I’ve heard it before.)

But I’ve been 100% deaf in my left ear since I was about four and contracted German Measles, which damaged my auditory nerve. For years, I’d just tell people I was “half deaf.” Very often, they thought it was the beginning of a joke. Or that I was simply hard of hearing and would continue to talk quietly into my left ear, which was a lesson in futility.

Being deaf in my left ear hasn’t really hindered me in life all that much, other than I get a little surly if I’m stuck on the far right hand side of a table in a noisy restaurant, which means I pretty much can’t hear anybody throughout the meal.

There aren’t too many outward signs that I can’t hear, other than I tilt my good ear toward the speaker’s voice to try to hear better. But I don’t talk loudly the way some hard-of-hearing people sometimes do. And I tend to enunciate pretty carefully. Perhaps I’m trying to help out other half-deaf people or something.

Oh, and sitting in the passenger seat of a convertible means that, (a) conversation is pointless, and (b) my hair will look Bride-of-Frankenstein-ish by the time we arrive at our destination. The second thing really has nothing whatsoever to do with being half-deaf, but I just thought I’d throw it in there.

Other than those few things, though, I haven’t had too many problems with my faulty hearing.

But I realized the other day that I fill in the blanks a lot. Sometimes I’m a half step behind everyone else when the punchline is told and I fake the laugh – at least until I can fill in the blanks to the words I missed and I finally “get” it.

Probably over the years, people have attributed my slow response to being blonde.

Ah well. The price you pay. It’s not like I’m going to wear a sign.

The other day we were at the funeral home for Mrs. B. Friends and family were greeting each other and catching up, or shedding a few tears, or watching the slideshow Nick and Frankie had prepared where the images of Mrs. B's life flashed by on the screen.

One good friend, let’s call him Mikey P, walked into the room. He sees Joe for the first time and walks up to greet him. Joe, being on the verge of tears half the morning, hugged Mikey P tightly and they said a few words to each other.

When Mikey P released him and stepped back, he looked at us and then looked around the room, arranged a confused look on his face and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought this was the Rabinowitz funeral…I’m in the wrong place!”

And we all burst out laughing.

We had all been feeling sad and his comment immediately released the tension and allowed us to laugh. It was perfect.  Plus, Mrs. B would have loved it.

But here is where I start making stuff up. I have no idea what name Mikey P used. I just filled in the blank with “Rabinowitz.”

Fortunately, with that kind of example, the name itself didn’t matter.

But it sometimes makes retelling stories a little difficult for me. I hear parts of stories and I just make up the rest.

People will listen to me tell a story and think, Huh? I was standing right there – that’s not what he said at all!

So when I was at their house working on the eulogy for Mrs. B the other day, my friends Nick and Beth started talking about some guy named “Rustin.” I was completely baffled. First of all… “Rustin”? What kind of name is that? I figured I must have misheard them.

Fortunately, I’ve learned in life that it sometimes pays to ask that stories be repeated. The parts of the story that I do hear sounds too good to play the fill-in-the-blanks game, so I asked them to start over again for me.

In this case, they did.

It turns out that when Nick posted on Facebook that his mother had passed, he and/or Beth accidentally tagged some guy named “Rustin.”  Now, Rustin is not a Facebook friend. They don’t even know the guy. And they weren’t exactly sure how he got tagged.

What’s worse is that they didn’t know how to un-tag him.

Because Mrs. B was so well loved, there were many responses from friends sending thoughts, wishes and prayers to the family over her loss.  Many were sweet memories that evoked tears as well as smiles.

But we laughed knowing that Rustin was seeing every one of those comments and “likes.” Oh, how that probably confused him. 

Rustin's Facebook cover photo depicts five guys in a shooting stance, leveling guns or rifles at a target. And there he is, all the way out in Washington State getting dinged every time someone in Ohio sent condolences for a little, old Italian lady he never met.

After nearly a hundred comments on Nick’s post, Rustin finally chimed in and said he was sorry for their loss. And, for some reason, that cracked us up.  What a great thing – to give us a chance to laugh and to make our sadness recede for just a moment.  Beth typed in a “thank you” for his condolences, which made us laugh even harder. And when Nick suggested that maybe Rustin and his friends could give Mrs. B a 21-gun salute, we were practically rolling on the floor.

Too funny.

So, Rustin? Even though you'll never see this, we want to thank you for the laughs, man.  It helped get us through some sad moments.

And sometimes – just sometimes – it’s a good thing to hear the real story and not try to play the Telephone Game to cover my half-deafness.

“WHAT?!” (Ha ha. Stop it!) 

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