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New Sound
by Jim Oates
05/07/08
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New Sound

By

Jim Oates


When I first met Wilma, I noticed her speech was a little different and she mispronounced some of her words. She had a wire that ran from the inside of her blouse and up through her shoulder length hair to her ear. Her first hearing aid was a large cumbersome device, she wore, pinned to her under garment, a little larger than the size of the modern cell phone with an earpiece attached to the end of a length of wire..

Her hearing problem was a result of having scarlet fever as a child. She was able to lip read and got along reasonably well in school. Not being able to hear certain sounds, some words seemed to have missing syllables, so she pronounced them as she heard them. This was embarrassing and frustrating to her, as other children would often make fun of her speech.

The first behind the ear hearing aid we were able to get for her, a few years after we were married, was quite liberating for her. She always wore her hair over her ears to hide the fact that she wore an aid. I remember thinking, this little device hanging on her ear cost the same as an expensive stereo. I did not mind that expense because her quality of life was greatly improved.

It is amazing the technology that is packed into such a small device. Over the years the hearing aids have improved greatly, and she was able to enjoy some music; where as before, music was just so much noise to her. She was not one to sing aloud, especially in church, she would mouth the words under her breath, as she was not able to follow the melody.

On one rare occasion, as we were worshipping in church, I heard a sound I had never heard before; it was not pleasant. Wilma was singing aloud. I was startled, embarrassed and pleased all at the same time; Wilma had been so moved by the Spirit, that she just could not contain it, and just had to let it out. No one else seemed to notice. I was so pleased that she had the freedom to express her feelings.

It was perhaps, only in the last twenty years of her life that she seemed to be taking notice of different sounds, especially nature sounds. She would ask me what a particular sound was. It may have been a song sparrow, a robin or some other bird or insect. She learned to identify doves and attempted to imitate their cooing, mating call.

One evening in spring I took her out to the pond in our back yard, as the wild life was in full orchestration. The spring peepers, those tiny frogs about the size of a thumbnail, were singing their high-pitched mating songs. I was able to single the odd one out with the beam from my flashlight. It puffed itself up and emitted its shrill love call that was soon to receive an answer. Wilma was thrilled to relate the sound to a particular frog. One frog would call and soon the answer would come across the water from the other side of the pond as each species sang its own peculiar song. Soon the whole area was filled with song as a leopard frog and a green frog began singing, then a bullfrog with his deep bass voice joined the chorus.

We sat in our lawn chairs with only the moon and stars for light as we enjoyed this marvelous symphony of nature, this back and forth calling filled the air with the sound of music. I was delighted to watch her child-like glee, as she began to differentiate between the various sounds. Sounds, that I had taken for granted all of my life; Wilma was now hearing and identifying for the first time in herís.
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