Yesterday — or was it the day before? — we got our super flu shots. These are hyped up uber-potent shots they give to us older folks because we are more likely to get sick than younger people. Also, we are more likely to die from the flu because we have other issues — asthma, blood pressure, and heart problems. Sinus problems. Stomach problems. Fibromyalgia. MS. Cancer.
In fact, I don’t know why we don’t just die and give the world a break. Sheesh.
Discovering that in addition to the usual distributors of disease — other people, especially very young people — we can now worry about everything we touch including the ATM machine.
Really? As if the handles on the shopping cart and whatever my granddaughter has on her clothing isn’t bad enough, now I have to stress over ATM machines? Not that I actually use the ATM machine. I won’t make a deposit without going to an actual person in the bank. I want a paper receipt.
Call me crazy, but once, a long time ago in a bank since absorbed by some larger bank — probably by now it’s all Bank of America — they lost a deposit I put through in an envelope that included an official deposit slip.
It got straightened out but left me with a firm belief for any deposit made by check or cash I want a written, signed piece of paper from a person.
We are doomed. No matter how hard we try, something will get us.
We don’t go out much. When we do, we usually get sick. It’s like the slow cars that pull out in front of us while we are driving. I’m sure these cars are told when to appear by drones from the super-slow drivers’ department. Meanwhile, somewhere in the air, there’s a germ-laden drone.
“Look! It’s the Armstrongs! Prepare to disperse germs!”
Mostly, Garry and I have been exhausted. All the time. For me, this typically means fibromyalgia. Garry had surgery in July and I have a feeling that this might have triggered the same thing for him. Women are more typically fibromyalgia victims, but men are not excluded.
Then again, maybe we aren’t sick at all. Maybe we just aren’t getting enough sleep. The weather has been like hot soup with interludes of rain. Duke is shedding like a small furry hurricane. Our sinuses and eyes don’t like the ragweed and Garry is getting used to carrying around a lot of electronics inside his head.
So maybe it’s all allergies and getting even older.
When we went for our flu shots, they always ask if you think you might be sick. At our age, that’s not an easy question to answer. Maybe we are fine or as fine as we ever are. But, maybe we aren’t fine.
Am I exhausted from all the running around to doctors and hospitals or because I’m coming down with something? Am I recovering from the major house cleaning last week? Or am I worn out because our dogs are faster, friskier, and more impassioned about balls that squeak than I could ever be?
Don’t you wish you could get that enthusiastic about a big green tennis ball that squeaks? Don’t you wish you could bite something hard enough to make it squeak?
The royal we — that is to say, me and Garry — went to the barber yesterday. There were no more excuses and it was getting ever increasingly difficult to find those magnets in his head.
It sounds pretty funny, when I think about it, finding the magnets in your husband’s head, but he has magnets. They are what holds his transmitter to his skull.
Messages collected by a little microphone in his ear go to a coil and other electronic pieces. Presumably, from there, they go to his brain which translates these sound into human speech. Normal hearing does pretty much the same thing, but without the magnets and with the coil is there naturally from birth.
It’s a pretty cool setup. Even with all the ghost chimes and bongs and jangling in his head, Garry can hear, probably better than he has anytime before in his life.
I was there at the barber’s to explain that he needed one piece of hair cut shorter– not bald, just pretty tight to his head– so he could easily find the magnets. There are also magnets in the transmitter, so it’s magnet to magnet.
Garry may not have a lot of hair on top, but the hair on the sides and back of his head is thick. It was getting difficult to find the skull beneath the pelt. I was trimming the area, but the hair was growing a lot faster than I could cut it. And Garry is very fussy about his hair and heaven forfend I should accidentally cut an extra sprig of hair.
I would never hear the end of it. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But he is very fussy about his hair.
The result was perfect and now, it’s easy to find the magnets. As long as he keeps the head reasonably short, all should go well. The royal WE did it again!
We didn’t go when he first came back from surgery. For obvious reasons. We haven’t gone since first because he was still recovering from surgery, and then because it was too ridiculously hot.
I don’t mind hot weather, but I really dislike intense humidity and we’ve had both. It turns out, no one likes this weather, including Garry. We were going to do this yesterday, but he came in from cleaning up the walk (dogs, you know) and said “Forget it. It’s too damned HOT.”
That’s something from Garry.
So today’s the day.
It rained yesterday, last night, and a bit this morning. There’s no sunshine. All gray. But it’s in the low 70s and I have windows open. Air conditioning is finally off. At least until the next heat wave hits us later in the week.
I have to go with Garry for this haircut. Once his special headgear comes off, he can’t hear anything. I will have to show the barber how to cut an area very short and where else it can be longer. He needs one very short area (not bald, just shorter) so he can easily find where the magnetic conductor fits.
Garry may not have a lot of hair on top, but his hair on the sides and back of his head is very thick and springy. This is one of those rare times when a little less hair wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
A rather complicated haircut for a guy who’s used to saying. “The usual.” And I get to do the talking. After which, we can pick up a pizza for dinner.
Mrs. Armstrong is not cooking today. MY schedule says “no cooking.” Turn on the little oven and drop the pizza in.
I feel like I should be singing “Getting To Know You” as I write this update.
It’s the beginning of the second week, wearing my activated cochlear implant. It’s Saturday, the first day of the 9th month. If you sing “September Song”, I could probably hear most of the lyrics. Maybe I’ll listen to Walter Houston’s memorable rendition of that melancholy song later today.
September is usually special because we celebrate our Wedding Anniversary and granddaughter Kaitlin’s birthday along with keeping eyes (and now ears) on our Boston Red Sox, hoping they can finish their 6-month marathon with a pennant championship en route to the World Series.
This September Sabbath began on a down note. Blame it on the weather. I’d planned on taking in a town event, “Uxbridge Day”, which figured to give my cochlear implant a public test, mingling with dozens of people on our town square. Between the hot weather, an Excedrin Plus headache, and general fatigue from this long week prompted me to cancel plans.
We’ll hold off on the cochlear implant public début for a while.
Yesterday, I received my first evaluation on the cochlear surgery and performance of the week-old activated parts. Marilyn and I shared our response to how I fared during the first week of my new hearing.
They were mixed reviews. The audiologist did some tweaking, essentially giving me more volume. Now, I’m hearing louder bells, whistles, chimes, echoes and other “ghosts noises.” I’m told these noises will fade in 3-months to a year as I adjust to this new way of hearing.
I’m from Missouri. I’ll believe it when it happens.
Marilyn and I have discussed how we communicate with each other. This is a bonus because people with normal hearing have similar problems but rarely discuss it for fear of marital discord. Who’s at fault? No one.
I feel as if I should be singing “Getting To Know You.” No, I don’t feel like Yul Brynner, King of Siam. I’m becoming more comfortable with my cochlear implant exterior parts. It’s somewhat awkward for me connecting the battery to the transmitter which sits atop my head and sends signals to “base headquarters” inside my head.
Usually, I need Marilyn’s help. Today, I did it MYSELF! Hallelujah! It felt so good. I patted myself on the head, careful not to dislodge the transmitter. Marilyn cut out a piece of my hair so it would be easier to find a landing spot, making it easier for the magnets inside the transmitter to secure a spot on my head. Like a spaceship landing on Mars.
As I write, I’m getting mostly “ghost chimes” in my brain and ear. It’s peaceful. The dogs are not barking. The TV is in repose. All is calm.
After 76 years, 4 months and 18 days of hearing impairment, aka deafness, I can HEAR in both ears. Sing Hallelujah. But hold the applause. We’re not home yet.
I’m writing the morning after the cochlear implant parts were activated in my head. During activation, I felt a little like “the creature” in “Young Frankenstein”. We had a prelude where the audiologist carefully explained how to assemble the cochlear “accessories,” how to place them on my head and in my ears. Marilyn was watching closely. Good thing because I was quietly panicking. I’ve never been good doing the simplest of assemblies. I’m very clumsy.
I was as anxious as a Red Sox mid-inning reliever.
After the tutorial, several dry runs, and increasing anxiety, all the parts were in place and activated. All this came after lengthy audio tests to determine how loud my new ears should be.
I braced myself with everything in place.
The cochlear parts are for my right ear, the “bad ear” which gives me very little audio. I have a new hearing aid in my left ear, the “good ear” which is supposed to enhance the cochlear parts.
I’ll give you in my rookie wearer understanding. The devices you see entwined around my right ear collect audio signals and send them to a “transmitter” which, with magnets, sits on the side of my head. The transmitter sends those signals into my head, to the “implant” which was inserted via surgery. Okay so far? Oh, and there are magnets in my head so the headpiece will stay in place. Magnets. In my head.
So far, so good.
I breathed loudly as everything was activated. The voices of Marilyn and the audio technician were very tinny. I could hear Marilyn’s voice more clearly. She had more “body” in her words than the technician, who I could also hear clearly, but she has a thin, rather reedy voice. I tried to relax my body and let myself really hear what was being said.
Relaxation is key. All my life, I’ve physically strained to hear. Leaned forward to catch what people were saying. It’s difficult and physically exhausting.
It’s been my norm for 76 years. Now, I had to try and change that life-long habit. I sat with my back to Marilyn and the technician to test how well I could hear without seeing the people talking and read their lips as I usually do.
Usually, I can’t hear Marilyn if I am not directly facing her. It’s produced years of frustration for both of us. I could hear, my back turned away, both Marilyn and the audiologist. (Insert applause here.)
Still, the voices were tinny and they echoed. As I responded to questions, my voice sounded clear, full of that crispness and authority that’s familiar to TV News viewers. (Insert laughter here). That my own voice sounded perfectly normal is a good sign. It means that my brain is recognizing my voice and turning it into “normal” sounds. Probably Marilyn’s voice will be next. Familiar voices become “normal” much faster than the rest of the world and some may never sound entirely normal.
I allowed myself a brief smile of satisfaction. It was very brief because I was also hearing bells and whistles, like a train was approaching the station. It was bizarre. The audiologist nodded as I explained what I was hearing.
She said it was normal. That I probably would hear those noises for “some time” as I wore the cochlear parts in various situations. Reporter Garry wanted a time frame. How long? No easy answer, but she said — in round figures — about three months.
We went over how I should adjust to using my new ears and the various parts, inside and outside of my head. My brain was swirling but, fortunately, Marilyn was absorbing the information. We made an appointment for an evaluation. I thought a week might be too quick but now I’m glad because I have lots of questions.
During the drive home yesterday, I was able to talk to Marilyn with minimal “what’s?” Call it an early triumph.
We were greeted by the boisterous barking of our three dogs. Yes, they were very loud. Their yaps and growls were “enhanced” with echoes.
As we crashed, relaxed, and wolfed down late lunch sandwiches, I flipped on the television to baseball. The announcers sounded tinny with accompanying echoes. Their commentary was hard to understand. They were blasted by the crowd cheers.
I lowered the TV volume and things improved. But I still heard echoes, bells, and whistles and the occasional chime mixed in with everything else. Marilyn talking. Dogs barking.
I tried to mentally adjust. Slow down my intake of what Marilyn was saying.
That helped. I’m so used to responding without really hearing. It’s a whole new ball game. As late afternoon turned into evening, I became more comfortable but I could not get rid of the echoes, bells and whistles. Sometimes it also sounded like church bells tolling. For whom were they tolling?
There was one constant amid all the extra sounds. I could hear Marilyn’s words — not just muffled sounds. Yes, there were a few “what did you say” moments, but a small number compared to life before the cochlear implant activation.
Marilyn took care of unloading my new backpack, filled with all the cochlear accessories, manuals, batteries. She setup the battery charges and patiently walked me through everything. Frankly, I had lost patience after the “first day”. The echoes, bells and whistles had worn me down. I had an Excedrin Plus headache. Marilyn seemed more pleased than me. I was excited about the events but physically drained — as was Marilyn who had to make sure we handled the cochlear parts correctly.
We’re into day two. Against my objection, I’m wearing the cochlear parts. I complained, like a whiny kid, but Marilyn was firm that I not shy away from using my new ears even if I’m not comfortable. I wanted to wait until I shaved and showered but that would’ve been just delaying what must be done. The audiologist was really pushy that I really had to wear them — all the time I was awake.
So, there you have it. Yes, it’s a different world for me now. It’s a better world.
Garry and I are off to UMass. Today he gets (tada!) his new electronic, high-tech hearing apparatus. We have NO idea what to expect. Hopes are high, nerves are taut, and it’s going to be a long day.
We shall write tomorrow, hopefully, but in the meantime, we’ll be gone most of the day.
Also, WordPress is acting weird. Again. I can’t use the “like” button and I have to sign in for every comment. But that’s okay because Chrome is behaving weirdly also. I’m ready to hide under the sofa.
I want to start off — again — with the Garry cochlear implant update.
He is doing better. He is less wobbly, can usually get up and down the stairs, but I’m glad we have a handrail. His ear is still sore.
Not internally, but externally and I suspect it’s his addiction to wearing headphones for watching television that is preventing it from healing as fast as it otherwise would. In the end, he’s a big boy.
He has to make his own decisions. I don’t think the irritation he’s causing is serious. There’s no sign of infection or oozing or any of the things that would normally alarm me, but it is definitely redder and more sore-looking than it was earlier in the week. It might be better if he left it to heal, but hey, it’s his ear.
Overall, things are gradually getting more normal. Not “normal, normal,” but close to what I think normal might be — for us.
Finally, we are close to his getting all that fancy techno-headgear that should enable him to really hear. Pretty exciting!
Garry will get his own superpower.
A class you wish you would have taken?
I still wish I’d taken a few photography courses so I’d have a better grip on the terminology of photography. I know how to do most of the stuff, but I often have no idea what it’s called. I took one course, a long time ago on wedding photography, but that was more than 50 years ago.
I decided to take a webinar given by Topaz this week on how to use the filters to make the pictures better, but more natural. There are a lot of free webinars online and I usually skip them because I’m at a point where “going to school” is on the bottom of my to-do list.
But since I don’t have to travel and it’s free, why not? Maybe I’ll learn something useful! Can’t hurt, can it?
Are you scared of heights?
Not as much as I was when I was younger. I get dizzy on the edge of a drop and I have what I think is a healthy fear of falling. That includes falling individually or falling in a car or on a horse or any old way.
Falling off horses is what did my spine in the first time around. I hesitate to imagine what it would do to me now.
Are you a good cook? If so, do you consider yourself a chef?
I’m a good cook. I’m definitely not a chef because I’m simply not careful about measuring quantities and reproducing the same recipe the same way each time — and that is the difference between a cook and a chef. (An actual chef taught me that.)
Making sure the same recipe comes out the same way each time. I’m much more of a “what do I have in the fridge?” kind of cook. With a couple of exceptions, I doubt any two meals of mine have ever come out the same twice!
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
I was very happy with the Manhattan chowder. I should have cooked the bacon longer, but otherwise, it was as good as any red chowder I’ve ever tasted.
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