I can hear you now

Today marks one month since I got hearing aids.

While the Old Guy jokes pretty much write themselves, the truth is I could have used these things 30, even 35 years ago, thanks to an ear infection that badly damaged one of my cochlea when I was thirteen. I’ve lived with pretty terrible hearing most of my life.

Now?

Now is better.

I’m still getting used to the things and still feeling a tiny bit self-conscious, which I’m assured is ridiculous since no one can see I’m wearing anything, even with my current buzz cut.

Instead, what people1 tell me is that while they never notice I’m wearing the devices, they definitely notice when I’m NOT.

And I notice too. Mostly, there’s a lot less of me asking people to repeat themselves (a LOT less), and I particularly appreciate the specialized modes for “listening to your friends with a lot of background noise” and “listening to your lovely wife while having dinner in a noisy restaurant.”

All in all, pretty good quality of life improvement that I’m grateful I was well-off enough to be able to pay for out-of-pocket, since my company insurance didn’t cover a single fucking dime of the cost.2


  1. Mostly my co-workers, since they see me 500% more than my family during daylight hours, because capitalism is monstrous and killing us. 
  2. Why do we put simple good living behind a five-thousand-dollar-high wall? Everyone should have access to this tech, if they need it. Healthcare for all. Fucking take care of each other, man. 

Great. Again.

Nothing wakes you up from a dead sleep more effectively than the sound of a pet quietly retching on your new carpet at five in the morning.

“SON of a -” I stumbled toward the kitchen while my wife rolled out of her side of the bed and led the dog to the backyard. She was already dropping back onto her pillow by the time I’d got back with paper towels in hand.

“Ugh…” I wiped at the viscous puddle, giving thanks for the stain resistant carpet coating. Extra cost – SO worth it. “And what a surprise – a big clump of cloth.”

“Wha…” my wife’s voice crawled muzzily out of the comforter. “Where’s he getting that stuff?”

“I’ll give you one clue,” I said, plucking the wad off the carpet. “Red felt.”

She groaned. “Gnomes? Again?!”

“Looks like it.” I peered at the fuzzy, soggy glob. “Maybe two or three.”

“And just the hats?”

“Just the hats.” I pushed myself to my feet. Maybe their clothes are some other … thing. Substance. Whatever.”

“Digestible?”

“Maybe it’s just… skin.” I shrugged. “Explains why there’s never any belt buckles.”

No reply from the bed while I shuffled into the bathroom and dropped the wad of sogginess into the trash. She sat up as I turned around.

“Well, I’m not going back to sleep with that image in my head.”

“Sorry.”

Skin? Really?”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

She stood, and we headed back toward the kitchen, breakfast, and an apologetic dog by the back door.

“Maybe he’s making a political statement,” I said.

“… what?”

“The red caps. Maybe…” I trailed off, staring down at the dog through the screen, trying to turn MAGA into Munch A Gnome… Something.

I shook my head and opened the door. “Nevermind. I need coffee.”

Hobsmythe

“Officer Hobsmythe, in your report, you state you subdued the… irate hobgoblin with a binding spell.”

“Yessir.”

“… You reported your service wand damaged beyond use after the incident last weekend.”

“… Yessir.”

“So, if you don’t mind my asking…”

“I improvised. Sir.”

“You improvised. A wand.”

“Yessir.”

“And that… Worked.”

“Yessir. Fairly well, actually.”

“Did the… Improvised device… Survive?”

“Yessir. I have it right…”

“Officer Hobsmythe.”

“Yessir.”

“That’s a pink, plastic…”

“Chopstick, sir.”

“Chopstick. With some kind of toy -”

“Shopkin, sir. A cabbage, I think.”

“- shopkin. Stuck to the end.”

“Yessir.”

“For pity’s sake WHY?”

“Needed a way to make the wand ‘notable and unique’, sir, per crafting guidelines, and it’s what I had to hand.”

“How -”

“My niece, sir. She’s mad for the things. I still had one in my pocket from babysitting last week.”

seven league

As they walked, the grass border along the pavement grew shaggy, then positively neglected. He commented on it, just to have something to say, but she only scowled harder at the ground in front of them.

It felt to him as if Wilderness and Times Before crept in wherever he wasn’t looking, trying to act casual and “always been here” when he gave them a straight on glare.

It got worse.

Worse? Probably unfair. Say it progressed.

They’d lose sight of the path ahead, because of a curve or a rise or a particularly aggressive shrub, and as it came into view, there was both less and more to see.

Less path. More wild.

Pavement became paver stones, became gravel, became groomed dirt, became a thin line of flattened grass in a sea of whispers.

Mountains rose in the not-so-distance, which he felt sure he would have noticed earlier, had they BEEN there earlier. “Where are we going?” he asked, too late for it to matter very much.

She kept walking, leading the way along a single file barely-trail, her gaze still on the ground ahead of her, calling to the next change, just around the next turn.

“Away,” she murmured. “You’ll see.”

Audiobook Recommendation (if you can get it)

The “Wizard of Earthsea” audiobook available through Libby (the public library audiobook app) is different than the commercially available version, and cannot be found for purchase anywhere. This is a TRAGEDY. It’s read with sputtering, wide-eyed excitement and obvious love by Harlan Ellison, and is a DELIGHT.

Only Mass Protests Can Prevent an Ecological Apocalypse

In an opinion piece for the Guardian, George Monbiot argues that mass protests are “essential” to force a political response to climate change.

As the environmental crisis accelerates, and as protest movements like YouthStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion make it harder not to see what we face, people discover more inventive means of shutting their eyes and shedding responsibility. Underlying these excuses is a deep-rooted belief that if we really are in trouble, someone somewhere will come to our rescue: “they” won’t let it happen. But there is no they, just us.

The political class, as anyone who has followed its progress over the past three years can surely now see, is chaotic, unwilling and, in isolation, strategically incapable of addressing even short-term crises, let alone a vast existential predicament.

Conversation with my daughter

“Get in the car, goomba.”

“I’m not a goomba.”

“You’re a roomba-goomba.”

“That’s… I’m not… that’s not even a thing that’s possible! What is that?”

“Well, a roomba is a robot that vacuums people’s houses, and a goomba is a mushroom person that walks around, so a roomba-goomba is a robot mushroom person who walks around, vacuuming people’s houses… I guess.”

“I’m definitely not a roomba-goomba.”

“You’re sure?”

“I don’t VACUUM.”

Remembering Floy

Not that long ago, I walked into my grandma’s house and found the garage decked out in fourth of july red white and blue from one end to the other. The decorations continued into the house itself, and I asked her if she’d had any help setting everything up.

She laughed, once, hard, the way she did. “Ha! No. That’s all me. I do that.”

I looked at her – closing in on ninety-four at the time – and then I looked back at the stairwell leading into her basement.

The one with twelve foot high walls rising up on three sides.

Which were ALSO decorated.

“How’d you do THAT?” I asked her.

She looked at me, and learned in, and said “Ain’t I something?”

And she was.


It’s difficult, maybe impossible, to sum up a life. Anyone’s life, let alone one as long and rich as my Grandma’s.

It’s a tiny bit easier to look at the effect someone had on the people around them – the stories about them; what they said, and what they did; the things they taught us.

I asked my family for some of the things they learned. This is what they shared:

  • The world always looks better through clean windows.
  • Wash your face, your neck, and your ears, even if you can’t wash anything else.
  • The food you grow yourself always tastes better.
  • Never move into a new house with an old broom.
  • Always sift your dry ingredients before you start baking.
  • You don’t quit when you’re tired, or if things gets hard; you quit when you’re done.
  • If you don’t have time to write letters, send birthday and Christmas cards and jam every square inch with whatever you would have written in those letters… and if you start to run out of room, just writer smaller and smaller and smaller until it all fits.

(My mom learned that one pretty well.)

And here’s another one: when you’re sad, crying is ok – but so is laughing.

Grandma showed us living your faith was in the quiet way you give, serve, share, and show patience to those who need it the most – not how many Sundays you made it in to church.

She showed us love can find you, even or especially when it seems like it never will again.

Grandma showed us how to milk cows, feed calves, and carry buckets of water that were – at the time – almost bigger than we were.

We learned early, watching her, a woman can do anything a man can. She never told a girl there was any job on the farm they couldn’t do, and she never told a boy there was a recipe in her cookbook we couldn’t manage, if we were willing.

She tried her best to show us how to make bread as good as hers – even if none of us ever managed it; it was enough to try, and even better if we tried with her, in her kitchen. In fact, she shared every recipe she knew, gladly, from caramel rolls, to chicken, to squash casserole so good we’d go back for seconds, and then go back for thirds, put whipped cream on it, and call it dessert.

My kids remember that, and holding her hands, and the bowls of candy she somehow always had set out, and the fact she had the fanciest, best decorated garage any of them had ever seen.

Everyone who shared some of their lessons with me, including my kids, eventually wound down to the same thing, by the end: “These are just a few of the things I remember – there are a thousand more.”

And of course there are. In a life that touched so many, for so long, it’s impossible to fully take in the impact of our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend.

So how can we remember her?

I would say: think of the small things – the little lessons, the tiny moments, the snippets of advice.

When you holler “no dirty feet in my clean sheets!” remember why, and share that remembering with someone else. Tell that story, and then tell another one, and another; as many as you can.

Some will make you sad, and you’ll cry. Some will make you sad, and you’ll laugh, and that’s okay too.

Don’t worry you’ll run out. There are thousands.

We are, all of us, a collection of stories, when you come right down to it, and Floy Jean, my grandma, was a good one.

She was, in her own words, really something.