Can you hear me Mother?

My mother is 93 and very deaf. She has been quite deaf for years. In fact, when she was my age, she was noticeably hard of hearing. I am deeply grateful that I don’t seem to have been saddled with such an affliction.

hearing aid being put into an ear
bergsten, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A visit to Mum is fraught with misunderstanding. A visitor might come to her house, for example the heating engineer, who was, on two occasions recently, there at the same time as I. Don’t get me started on heating engineers. Anyway, the engineer was chatty. Very chatty in fact and often chipped in with an opinion when my mother voiced loudly her disapproval of strike action, her admission that she might have been wrong about voting for Brexit (bit b….y late now, say I) and other things that she repeats time after time – bless her.

On this occasion after joining the debate on Brexit, the engineer, a nice young man according to my mum (he was all of 60), changed the subject by saying, ‘I’m going to have to turn the heating off, my love’
Mum leaned towards him from her chair and said, ‘Burn the beef in the oven?’
‘No Mum, he’s going to turn the heating off.’ I translated. This is my role on these occasions, the one who repeats everything the visitor says, at a volume several decibels louder than any polite guest would use.
‘That radiator doesn’t work. You can’t get anything to last any more,’ announced Mum.
‘Soon have it going again,’ smiled the engineer.
‘He knows that, Mum. That’s why he’s here.’ I translated with less patience than my Buddhahood might expect..

Deafness, despite it having missed a generation with me, runs in my mother’s side of the family. My grandfather, her father, known to us all as Bamps, was also deaf. Bamps was an angry, undemonstrative man. This could have been because of his deafness leading to a loss of control, or it might have been because he was a survivor from WWI. On one occasion his platoon passed through a village in Northern France. At the end of the manoeuvre he and one other man were the only two left alive. He also lost his dear, nineteen-year-old brother in that war. I imagine those experiences would leave a person angry.

Bamps was not a religious man, in fact, he was atheist. When he went into a care home in his late nineties, he made this very clear. I suppose many people in such places are grateful for their faith. In this care home, a vicar would visit occasionally. A female vicar in fact.

One day, while my mum was with him, this vicar came over and said to Bamps,
‘Mr Senyard, I know you don’t believe in God, but I thought I’d come over and say hello, anyway.’
The ensuing conversation has not made it into family history but I assume it was cordial, because the exchange reported by my mother was about his response to her question when the lady had left.

‘Did you know there were lady vicars, Father?’
‘What?’ bellowed Bamps
‘Lady vicars. Did you know there were lady vicars?’
Bamps sat up straight in his chair looking confused and in his very loud, military voice, shouted, ‘LADIES KNICKERS?’

Chortle, chortle. Have a lovely day.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.


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