I have been telling a story that I thought to be accurate but I found out yesterday that it wasn’t. Here is the story: I was at an Alzheimer’s unit a few weeks ago to visit a loved one and saw a familiar face on a guy who was trying unsuccessfully to button the bottom button on his shirt. I reached over to help him and asked his name. I thought I heard “Tommy Leetham,” the name of a boy who used to be a fellow messenger at El Dorado Western Union back in the 50’s. I thought, so that’s why he looked so familiar. I said, “Did you once work for Western Union in El Dorado?” and he replied, “Yes, I did, and I later worked in North Carolina.” Then he trailed off into indecipherable language common to his condition. “I’m Dan Ford, Tommy, I used to work with you. Do you remember?” Tommy smiled and shook my hand. I took that handshake to mean I resided somewhere in his tragically disjointed memory.
Since then, I had told that story repeatedly because I thought it was such a great coincidence and because I was so glad to reconnect with an old acquaintance from so long ago. But yesterday, I was back in the unit visiting the loved one and Tommy was in the room. He brightened up and spoke to me warmly. A woman hovered around him, brushing off his lapels in a very wifely fashion. She came over and introduced herself as Tommy’s wife. I said, “I used to work with your husband in El Dorado.” She replied, “He never worked in El Dorado.” I said, “That was way back in the 50’s.” She simply said, “Nope.” I asked her if his name was Tommy Leetham. She replied, “Tommy Ethan.” That certainly ruined a good story. It also confirmed the need for me to actually wear and use my hearing devices. I need to quit hearing what I want to hear instead of what is being said.
Speaking of these wonderful auditory aids the VA provided for me, I really think they help with volume but not much with consonants and “th” sounds. The good part about them is the Bluetooth device they gave me that hooks into the television. It sends out signals to my hearing aids and I can hear everything on television now, even when the set is muted. Not that there is much on there I want to hear, you understand, but I can hear it loud and clear. And I can mute it with the thing that hangs around my neck.
Further, as a teacher, the hearing aids help me hear people on the back row when they enter into the discussion. I can’t tell what they are saying, but I can hear them just fine. If one of them says, “How many pages should this essay be?” I might hear, “So many sages would possibly be,” which obviously makes no sense. I have learned not to articulate what I think they say, I just walk back there a little way and ask the person to repeat the question. Most often, I get it the second time.
I guess I really wanted Tommy to be my old messenger companion. But he wasn’t.