These last few weeks I’ve resorted to gestures to help get an old friend’s attention. I still talk to her, but I was pretty sure it was a lost cause. We’ve known each other a long time and boy does she have a history of being selective with her hearing, but now it’s different. Now it’s not on purpose. It’s not born of her characteristic stubbornness anymore. Now it’s born of what I can imagine is an alienating oppressive silence. There’s the surprise–the startled double-take–when I come into a room and she’s not expecting it. As if I materialized at her side out of thin air. There’s the sudden tension exuded when I lay a hand upon her shoulder.

But have I done anything about it? Have I taken her to a doctor? Insisted she be examined? That’s the last thing she might want, and it’s also the last thing I considered–until my mother came over on Sunday and set me straight, chiding me for ignoring her hearing loss instead of investigating its causes. But she’s just old, I argued–105 in people years. ” Well, I’ll take her if you won’t,” mom said, and I was instantly both ashamed and amazed. My wholesale acceptance of my friend’s disability shocked me the way I regularly shock her with my presence, and from it I promised my mom and my Shadow that we would be going to the veterinarian’s without further delay. Or denial.

Will Campbell
[email protected]