Two Days, Three Anniversaries

Pearls are the gift of choice if you’re celebrating a 30th anniversary.

Caroline and I celebrated one anniversary yesterday, and we’re celebrating two today. No molluscs were harmed in the making of this anniversary.

July 7 is when Caroline and I met in Thunder Bay, Ontario at a sandwich machine at the Lakehead University Fieldhouse. I was there to teach and perform at a youth conference, and Caroline was there as a chaperone. We were barely older than some of the participants.

We met. We spent the day walking and talking. Then we parted company for the evening.

July 8 is a big deal for two reasons. First, I asked Caroline to marry me. It’s one of those life-changing decisions you should never take lightly. She said yes. I said I was serious; so was she. I insisted I was really serious; so was she. She was a little curious about what was the holdup to asking her to marry. We’ve always been on the same page.

Fun fact: our first kiss came AFTER we were engaged. Timing was a bit, um, compressed (and the order of things doesn’t matter anyway when you’re talking 26 hours).

The second anniversary on July 8 just struck me this morning:

The day I met Caroline was the day I met hearing loss.

The day I met Caroline was the day I met hearing loss.

“Oh by the way, I know we JUST got engaged (after a day), but you need to know I’ll probably eventually be deaf.”

You’d think that would hit you like a ton of anything, but no. Instead, I quickly calculated the parts in play: she stole my heart, her ears sucked and would eventually be a significant obstacle. OH yeah, well, fine. Be deaf for all I care. I love you. Moving on. Next topic.

That was kind of it. Caroline reminds me that I actually said something like, “I’ve seen some news stories about ‘ear implants.’ By the time you need them we’ll probably have a solution for that.”

Aaaand, so true. Caroline categorizes it as a prophetic statement, but that’s overstating the fact that I read incessantly about anything having to do with hearing and sound. Ever since a close call with hearing loss when I was nine years old (because of a really nasty middle ear infection), I’ve been a sound nerd.

Caroline needed hearing aids when we met, we just didn’t know it. Co-workers had mentioned she was missing things. Caroline didn’t enjoy or do very well in high school – which was odd considering her deep curiosity and love of learning that I’ve always known her to have. It’s likely her hearing was the the reason why. It’s not just convenient, it’s the most probable cause. Caroline, like most people, got hearing aids about a decade after she really needed them.

A year after we married (a blog for May 2020), Caroline got her first aids. They were small in-the-ear.

I’m not proud of the horror, mild revulsion, and initial thought when I saw Caroline with a hearing aid for the first time. You know all those unkind thoughts you have (ugh, work, handicapped, dumb, ignorant etc etc). Yeah. All that.

That horrific moment was only a moment, but it’s stuck with me. It’s still the clearest most memorable insight I carry with me about how people often think of the deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) – if they’re thought of at all.

The moment was indelible. It was the beginning of “Caroline’s hearing is crap and it’ll only…ever…get worse.” That is, until January 29, 2018; Activation Day. Caroline’s Cochlear Implant bridges the silence gap that isolated her, even from me.

For 30 years Caroline and I have thought and talked about hearing, every day. Every. Single. Day. We didn’t talk about hearing loss. We talked about hearing. When she couldn’t hear “I love you” we made up our own tapping code. We still use it. I could give it up. I don’t want to. It’s how we said “I love you” for decades. It’s our way.

It takes a big bridge for that much water to pass under. I’m happy to report that it all JUST squeezes under a bridge 30 years long.

It’s a perfect fit.

Andreas’ Side of the Story

After a whirlwind week in Nashville with #cochlearfamily, we’re back in Edmonton. It was 12C and raining when we left Nashville. Hours later we touched down to -27C with a windchill of -35C and an extreme cold weather warning. We both smiled and said, “Home, home” when we stepped outside.

Cliche alert! In spite of the contrast in weather, we were warmed by the memories of Nashville and Cochlear Celebration. Yes, that cliche. But it’s true. We had a fantastic week sharing our story. And it is OUR story. We are hearing impaired, and WE have a cochlear implant.

One of my favourite parts of our story is Andreas’ side. Rather than re-hashing what’s already been written, you can read Andreas’ blog for Cochlear here. He can be loquacious in conversation, but on paper he cuts to the chase.

Have some tissues handy. You’ve been warned. 😉