Say What?

Published 2:22 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury


Rarely do I make promises that I do not intend to keep. I am quick to make ‘em, though, if they’re likely to be forgotten by the person to whom they’re made.

Examples of the “likely-to-be-forgottens” include the promise to avoid chocolate for 60 days or to chew each bite of food 28 times.

In neither case is there any “telltale” evidence of whether pledges are honored, unless spouses retrieve candy wrappers from pockets, or watch our chewing to count the number of jaw movements prior to swallowing.

Perhaps more important are “second half” promises we make to each other. (“Second half” refers to persons who have filed away 50 years of marriage, and now are bracing, as best they can, for whatever comes next.) Such promises have to do with helping each other to interact, in general, in ways that don’t cause others in our presence to gasp, swear, faint, look for soft landing spots, administer the Heimlich Maneuver, alert law enforcement, call an ambulance, ask if we’ve replaced the batteries or tell us where to get off.

Space limitations make it possible for few specifics to be addressed, so in this piece, only our hearing will be addressed.

Odds are strong, of course, that one or both spouses will eventually experience hearing loss. In our home, we have agreed that when one of us has serious hearing impairment, an appointment with audiologist will be made immediately.

Tests don’t lie. So, the spouse whose lungs and vocal chords are working overtime in the interest of communication will determine if and when hearing aid(s) is needed. In years past, oldsters unable to hear have “faked it,” utilizing warm smiles, affirmative nodding or possibly warm chuckles to suggest they’ve heard every word. Truth to tell, they’ve only seen the other’s lips moving.

In our case, we have admitted to each other that our battery-powered toothbrushes may help us to know when our hearing is “going or gone.”

Our “togetherness” does not, nor has it ever, involved “synchronized brushing,” or whatever might be the term describing spouses brushing their teeth at the same time. Such a scene assumes, of course, that each has his or her own electric brush. Further, it is not an indictment of the aforementioned “synchronized brushing.” (“Synchronized swimming” probably drew laughter when the topic was first discussed.)

No, our teeth-brushing is often several minutes apart. What I can expect, however, is for her to pose a usually-mundane question when my tooth brush motor is whirring away. In order to hear what she’s saying, I must either ask her to yell, or to postpone her question until I have brushed and rinsed.

She does not like to compete with the toothbrush motor, so either I turn it off or she says “never mind.”

It should be noted, however, that her “never mind” is not to be interpreted as an indication that I should forego additional thought to her question.

What it means, instead, is that I’d best give it considerable additional thought. Also, I’d best “sweeten my disposition” as I attempt to emerge from a hole of my own digging caused by poor judgment in timing my tooth-brushing ritual. (Note: This scenario can be avoided if one chooses to use a manual tooth brush.)

I watched my parents deal with Dad’s hearing loss; it was early onset, and not until late in life did he get a hearing aid.

“It’s an amazing thing,” he said joyfully. “I can hear the vacuum cleaner when your mother’s running it on ‘low’ in the back bedroom, I can clearly hear the afternoon newspaper when it hits the driveway, and I can even hear a bumblebee as it lights on the rose bush,” he added. “That’s wonderful, Dad,” I said. “What kind is it?”

His answer: “I’m not sure; I’d guess it to be around 2:30.”


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury