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Deaf, Dumb, Blind Old Kid

John W. Pinkerton


The movie and Broadway musical, Tommy, featured these lines:

He ain't got no distractions

Can't hear those buzzers and bells

Don't see lights a flashin'

Plays by sense of smell

Always gets a replay

Never seen him fail

That deaf dumb and blind kid

Sure plays a mean pin ball

Although I played pinball machines in my youth, I was never a wizard at the game.  Pinball is not what drew my mind back to the 1975 lyrics: the line, “That deaf dumb and blind kid” is the reason I thought of Tommy.

I know “dumb” refers to inability to speak, but I relate to the word in the other more common sense---stupid because I have done many “stupid” things.

“Deaf” I can relate to because my use of the word “What?” began on a regular basis several years ago.

In spite of one eardrum having a horrible tear in it when I was about twenty-five, the results of a fistfight, my hearing was excellent through all the years I worked for the school system.  Good hearing is a real benefit to a high school teacher.  It allows one to learn a lot more about student activities than they realize and sometimes more than one wants to know.

When I was in the army, a fellow soldier decided that he needed to throw me out the window of our fourth floor barracks.  Fortunately for me, my wonderful hearing overheard a conversation planning my demise.  I cleverly avoided this eventuality.

I don't think my hearing is going to improve.  This loss really doesn't bother me much.  I've learned to fake my hearing by leaning toward folks as though I am interested in every word dropping from their lips…even though I often am not.  A nod of the head, a smile, and an occasional “yes” pretty much makes people believe that I'm hearing them perfectly.  If I'm really interested in the conversation, I cup my hands behind my ears to receive a little clearer version or simply ask them to speak up because like Tommy, I can't hear much.

The TV has become a bit of a problem…the speakers only go to 100 where I typically adjust it.  Linda, my wife, is usually handy so that I can ask her what someone said if I think I've missed something worth hearing.

My mother, bless her heart, in her 90's had hearing aids which she was constantly losing.  I think her hearing aids cost over $1000.  What a rip off.

The cost is the primary reason I haven't done anything to improve my hearing.  I kinda look at myself as I look at an old car: I ask myself if it's worth spending a lot of money on it just to drive it for 500 more miles.

However, I've noticed recently that a number of hearing devices have come down in cost to a level which might be acceptable to my frugal nature.  My current standard which seems reasonable is $250…even that seems a bit high.  The ones totally in the ear are, of course, more expensive, but thinking back to the problem my mother had in keeping track of the ding dang things makes me lean toward the ones with most of the mechanism stuck behind the ear.  Of course, this makes it obvious that you're old: if you can't figure this out without the hearing aid clue, you probably need to visit an optometrist. 

Speaking of optometrists, a recent visit to mine revealed that I have cataracts.  My mother, again, bless her heart, developed cataracts behind her eyes in her late 40's.  Back then, cataract surgery was an ordeal requiring that the eye be removed from its socket.  Naturally there were complications, and she spent weeks in a hospital. 

Of course, today folks keep telling me that cataract surgery is a snap…lasers and all.  Well, not everyone says it's a snap, but mainly the complaint is about the recovery time required.

I started life with good vision, but a kid and I exchanging rocks at about twenty feet caused my left eye to…well, deteriorate.  I really wasn't aware that my vision was poor, but when I was about 15, about the time I got a drivers license, my folks sent me to an optometrist.  His verdict was 20/50 in my right eye and 20/150 in my left eye---the rock incident eye.

I'll never forget the day I received my new glasses.  I immediately realized that my new glasses were my new best friend.  My first realization was when I looked at a pine tree, I could actually see the individual needles.  If you've ever lived in or near Pineville, Louisiana, you understand.

I was pretty rough on my new best friends.  I say “friends” because I managed to destroy several pairs over the next few years before I learned to leave them on my nose.  Hell, I even ran over one pair with a car.

My close up vision was always exceptional---kind of like a chicken's.  I could hold something one inch from my eye and see it perfectly.

In my late fifties, I suddenly lost my chicken powers and first got bifocals which I could not abide and quickly exchanged for two pair of glasses.  Miraculously, after a couple of years, chicken power returned.  Go figure.

In my 60's, my nearsighted vision improved; that's pretty common.  The eyeball tends to flatten with old age.  Although my drivers license still required that I wear glasses, I even started driving without glasses.  I could see better.

Holy moly, here we go again.  A couple of years ago, my vision began to deteriorate again.  I finally made a visit to my optometrist who prescribed new glasses, but that was an exercise in futility.  “Cataracts,” he said.

Again, using my old car analogy, I asked myself if it's worth the cost.  Linda has looked into the possibility of getting a little insurance help with the cost, and I think we can.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I've turned the driving out of town over to Linda.  That was an easy decision.  One day I was driving and the next day I wasn't.  Fortunately, Linda is an excellent defensive driver…with good vision.

When we ride together in our little town---perhaps counting cats---I drive.  Braille works well if you are familiar with every street and every pothole.

If I do anything about my hearing or my vision, it will be mainly to benefit Linda whom, I am certain, is tiring of my constant, “What's,” and her having to drive more often.

For the time being, just call me Tommy because I'm still deaf, blind, and, of course, stupid.


I recently made a move to improve my hearing:  Linda picked up an “amplifier” at Walmart for $20.  It looks like a hearing aid to me.  It's rechargeable, and it seems to be all the hearing aid I'll ever need.