TITLE: WHAT DO YOU HEAR?
By Paul Posney
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I see something…
Tommy and his sister, Katie had played the game; "I see something" since they were old enough to talk. They’d learned the game from their father.
Tommy and Katie were close. Only a year and a half apart in age, he being twelve and Katie 10, her birthday only two months away. Tommy's friends had come to accept her as part of their group.
When Katie started saying, she was having a hard time reading; her parents took her to the eye doctor. Tommy teased with her; that she would come back with glasses. The doctor examined her eyes and declared she would indeed need glasses fore she had what he called, “Hyperopia” or far sightedness. The doctor explained it was a common ailment and nothing to worry about, but he was wrong.
By the time Katie’s Birthday arrived, she had stopped playing games with her brother. Her eye sight had gotten so bad she could only see shadows, dark images of things and people. No longer could she play with Tommy and his friends because she wasn’t able to see. Her Mother and Dad had taken her to the Doctor several times, but he saw nothing wrong with her eyes, finely he recommended she be taken to Los Angeles where a specialist could examine her. There, they determined she suffered from a Tumor in her brain that was causing the problem to her vision. The Doctor told Katie’s parents that she would need to stay in the Hospital for more tests and so he could begin treatment to remove the tumor. The Tumor was caused by cancer cells; that now were causing permanent damage to Katie’s visual cortex and sight.
Tommy missed his little sister; he missed having her there to play with. He missed hearing her voice as she spoke. Katie was his sidekick. She was his first mate when they played pirates. She was his dance partner when their Mom and Dad danced in the living room together. Tommy realized; Katie wasn’t just his sidekick, she was much more… Katie was his little Sister, his sidekick, his dance partner and he loved her for all of them, but… She was also his best friend, the person he could tell his secrets to. She never told anybody, she wasn’t just his friend and sister, he realized through her eyes, he was her best friend; and, big brother too! Tommy missed Katie… a lot. Playing games with her was fun, he remembered how she would laugh when he couldn’t figure out the answer to her “I see something…” turn. Suddenly he realized; Katie couldn’t see to play the game. Then, he started to cry; suddenly the reality of her blindness hit him.
Katie can’t see! No longer could they play games where the eyes were needed.
Tommy didn’t know how long he had cried, he had laid in his bed and fell asleep.
As he sat up, he remembered his last thought; “They couldn’t play any games where Katie needed to see”.
Katie had been in the hospital for six whole months, Tommy had gotten to visit her once a week, and special visits once in a while. They had some dumb rule about how old you have to be to visit somebody sick. Katie’s doctor would give special permission when Katie had an operation or radiation treatment. The doctor said Tommy’s visits helped Katie get better. Really, the Doctor knew Katie and Tommy were very close. He had even commented to their parents one day; how she always seemed to improve after his visits. Katie had been the one to tell Tommy she would never see again. She had taken his hand and said; “Tommy, you have to be as brave as the pirate captain now, because I won’t see again ever. That’s what the doctors all say, that the tumor hurt my eyes to much.”
Today, Katie was coming home, and Tommy was excited, he almost forgot she was blind… almost!
When Katie came home, Tommy was so happy he ran up and hugged her hard. “I missed you so much Katie, I’m glad you’re home!” he shouted as he grabbed her. Tommy’s parents looked at each other and smiled, “You don’t have to shout son” his Dad said, “She can hear just fine” his Mother finished. Katie’s mom let go of her daughters hand and ask, want to help your sister to her room? She’s still tired and needs lots of rest. Tommy took his sisters hand and led her slowly to her room. He removed her shoes, and told her… If you need anything, anything at all just call! He noticed her eyes looked okay except they seemed to be staring. He kept this thought to himself as he walked away. Tommy then went to his room and lay on his bed, wondering what it was like to be blind.
Tommy was awakened when he heard “Dinners ready; go wash up son”.
Tommy did as he was told and then peeked into Katie’s room. She was gone!
Tommy’s first thought was she gone back to the hospital. He started to yell to his dad, when he heard her voice; his heart jumped for joy; Katie was home!
Katie was sitting at the table, he watched as she seemed to be playing a game by her self. She would reach out with her hand and slowly find her glass or the salt and pepper shakers, then, he would see her lips move like she was saying something. Then she’d repeat the process with something else. Finely, he had to ask… Katie, what are you doing?
Katie explained she had learned it in the hospital, it was like a game. She told him that because she couldn’t see what was where, she was taught to place things within her reach by pretending she was a clock and her hands where the hands of it. She told him how she used just the top half when she was at the table; then, she showed how her glass was set at 2:00 o’clock, and the salt and pepper were placed at 11:00 o’clock. She said her food was put on her plate the same way except the whole clock face was used for it. This game got Tommy Thinking…
After dinner, Tommy took out the trash, which was one of his jobs around the house. While he was placing the lid back on the can (it kept the cats out) he heard a siren off in the distance. He wondered if it was a Fire Truck, an ambulance or a police car. He ran out to the front yard and watched as an Ambulance raced by. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine it as Katie would.
He listened to how the sound went high then low. He listened to how it changed as it went through the intersection. After a few minutes he opened his eyes, then, a police car went by. Again he closed his eyes, as he listened to its siren, he noticed that it was faster changing from high to low. He noticed also; the siren stayed the same as it went through the same intersection.
Days turned to weeks, and everyone worked hard at helping Katie adapt to her situation. Tommy had even come to call himself, her boy Friday; after a character in the book he had just finished reading to her. They listen to music together and made a game of naming the bands of the various Cd’s. One day, He and Katie were sitting in the front yard when Katie said; here comes Mr. Wells. Tommy looked, just as Katie said; Mr. Wells, the mailman was walking up to the neighbor’s mailbox. “How did you know Katie?” he ask. It was easy; she replied;
I could hear old man Robinsons dog barking as Mr. Wells walked past his yard like he always does.
Just like the night he took out the trash, this too got him thinking…
The following evening, when dad arrived home from work, he announced he had a gift for the family. He brought out from inside his jacket, a small ball of fur. As he held his hand open, it moved; it was a kitten. It was snow white (except for four tan socks on its feet). He said he got it from a man on the corner by where he worked. He handed it to Tommy, who instantly placed it gently on Katie’s shoulder, next to her neck. Startled, she jump just a little; and Tommy said, it’s okay… it won’t hurt you. Katie reached up and held the kitten where it rested.
Can you hear that? She stated! It’s making a funny sound; like a real quite motorcycle. Everyone started to laugh, “It’s called purring, sweetie” her mom said.
Tommy realized she had never held a cat or kitten so she didn’t know they purred. Tommy had an idea…
For the next few days, Tommy carried around a writing tablet and a pen. His Mother and Dad would see him outside doing one thing; then stopping to write in his tablet. It didn’t matter what he was doing, suddenly he’d pull the tablet out from behind his back (he kept it tucked partly in the back of his pants) and begin writing. Once, his Dad ask his Mother; “Honey… what’s he writing?” Her reply was; “your guess is as good as mine”. Finely, During Dinner, Tommy’s Dad, having watched for almost a week, ask… “Son, what are you writing in that tablet you’re carrying around?” “Oh; nothing much, just a surprise” was all Tommy said.
The following day, Saturday, Tommy asked permission to go downtown with his friends. He explained he had some research to do for his surprise. His Mother smiled and told him to be back by lunch time. He agreed and took off. He and two friends walked around town and finely came to the town square. The town square was a park it had a gazebo, playground; with various swings, slides and other toys, for the children to play on. It also had a small pond that people would sit near and picnic. It was still early; around ten in the morning when they arrived.
Tommy and his friends watched and listened to everything around them. Tommy also made more notes in his tablet; based on he and his friends observations.
By lunchtime, Tommy had said goodbye to his friends and gone home. His Father was mowing the lawn and Tommy made a note of that in his tablet.
His Mother was making sandwiches, and Katie was practicing reading her new Braille book, The ABC’s in Braille. That book still confused Tommy; because instead of words, it had bumps on the pages that represented letters. Katie had tried to show him how it was used but, it just didn’t make sense to him. Tommy noticed that Katie had; Boots the kitten, snuggled next to her on the couch.
Mom called for Father to come wash for lunch and told her children to do the same; which they did together. As they washed, Katie splashed Tommy playfully by cupping water in her hand and saying; “Look what I caught Tommy”. When he said where? She knew by his voice where he was standing, and splashed him, laughing as she did. “HEY!” he shouted, but he thought, it was so nice to hear Katie laughing again. Katie, he realized was adjusting to her blindness well. He decided his surprise was ready to share with the family.
Tommy spent the rest of the day, (after lunch) in his room. He had all the notes he needed for his surprise, but now he had to put it all in the right order. Several times, he had to ask one of his parents how to spell some word. At Dinner, his Mother had to call him twice before Katie appeared at his bedroom door announcing dinner was ready. So into his project, he had tuned out the world around him. “What you doing Tommy?” Katie asked. “Oh; just writing something” was all he gave for an answer. At Dinner, Tommy’s Dad ask him; How’s your project coming son? It’s almost ready he answered, and then he began eating.
Once dinner was over and dishes were placed in the dishwasher, Tommy took out the trash, as always. when he returned, he went back to his room and got his tablet.
After dinner the family normally gathered in the living room and shared their day, or, would watch (or for Katie, listen) to the television. However tonight, Tommy announced he was ready to share his surprise. He started out by saying how he had missed playing games with his sister. Then, he bought out his tablet. This is for you Katie; because I love you! Tommy’s parents smiled at each other but said nothing. Katie, surprised by this statement blushed and smiled too.
Tommy said he had a game he wanted everyone to play. Then Tommy turned on the TV, he got the remote and after checking his notes, he inserted a video cassette into the VCR. He explained his two friends had helped, and Mark, his other best friend had made him this tape. This game, he said, is called… What do you hear? He explained; the way it’s played is you close your eyes and then you hear a sound and you say what you hear, not just, what the sound was. That was the only rule. He said he would do the first one to show how it’s played.
He turned on the Video and closed his eyes, what he heard, was a dog barking;
Katie quickly said; that’s old man Robinson’s dog! Tommy said;”yes Katie it is… but, what do you hear? Mom and Dad both looked at Tommy and Dad Said; what do you mean son? Katie started bouncing on the couch excited, and shouted; “I Know, I Know!!!” Tommy smiled at the site and asked “Okay Katie, what do you hear?” Katie answered; I hear; Old Man Robinsons dog barking and, what I hear is, it’s saying, here comes Mr. Wells with the mail! Mom and Dad looked at one another confused. Tommy said; “Right!” Seeing the look on his parents face, he told them how Katie had known before that he was coming, as they sat in the yard.
Playing the game
They continued to play, listening to all kinds of sounds. Since Tommy had his tablet, and it listed what sound were what thing, with its possible meaning. He had given these possible answers; a great deal of thought. He had sat in his room and played this video several times, trying to hear them as he thought Katie would. Finely, after hearing his father make a comment to his mother, he knew how to listen to them. He had heard his dad say; “Women are creatures of the emotional realm, Men are creatures of the physical realm.” That was the key!
He knew he had to listen not with his head and ears, but, with his heart.
They each took turns, if they got the answer right (or “close enough” as Tommy would say; after looking at his tablet) they could choose the next player. Dad got an Ambulance Siren; Tommy, with his list of each sound in order knew it was an Ambulance. Dad guessed a police car and said he heard it as “I’m chasing a robber”. Tommy laughed and told everyone what it really was. Mom and Katie both joined him laughing; as Mom quoted him with, “I’m chasing a robber” then, she said in a baby voice; “Does my sweetie what to be a Policeman?” Tommy laughed harder and looked at his Dad, his face was as red as a Tomato, and when he said so, even Dad; started laughing. Mom got the sound of the Town Square Clock ringing twelve times, “That’s the town clock saying its Twelve O’clock!” she said. “Well Duhhhh…" Dad replied, and again, everyone started laughing. “What do you hear honey?” He finished; still laughing.
Tommy jumped in with “close enough” and said he wrote the answer as, it was lunch time in town. Katie got a car horn, she thought for a moment then said; that’s the city bus and it’s saying; ”Climb aboard if you want a ride.” Tommy looked at his Sister surprised and said, “No fair, you looked at the answers” with out thinking, suddenly he felt bad. Mom and Dad both looked shocked. Katie, however, started giggling and said; “You caught me, I peeked when you were in the bath tub.” then she fell over sideways laughing so hard it was contagious. Everyone started laughing and Katie then said; you should see the look on your face Tommy, at least the way I imagine it in my head. Everyone got quiet. Then, Tommy smiled and put Katie’s hand to his face so she could tell he was smiling. Katie simply smiled and said; my turn!
Katie reached down, as usual, Boots was lying next to her, she picked her up and put her next to Tommy’s neck, “Can you hear that?" Katie asks. Sure, Tommy answered, Boots is purring! “Ahhh”, Katie said smiling… but what do you hear?
Tommy quickly answered; I like to purr. Katie, copying Dad said, Duhhh! And they all started laughing once more. “No Tommy, said Katie, its saying; “I love you”. Everyone smiled. Then, Katie put Boots down and grabbed her brother, her arms reached around him and she hugged him hard. Thank you for this game Tommy; its fun! Tommy hugged her back tightly and replied… I love you Katie! tears of love filled his eyes.
© Paul Posney / 09/2005
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