The other day I was listening to my playlist. Vivaldi's Four Seasons came on and every note sounded so flat that if it weren't for the rhythm I wouldn't have known what it was. I couldn't over-ride it with imagination. I couldn't correct it by adjusting my hearing aids. This means I have to go back to the audiologist and get my ears tested in the dark little booth. Clinically, it means my hearing has declined considerably. Aesthetically, it means I have lost Vivaldi.
I have been listening to Vivaldi all my life. I know the Quattro Stagioni like I know the lullabies my grandmother sang to me and which I have sung to my daughter. I know them like I know Beatles songs.
Hearing aids are digital denial. They delay the actuality of deafness. Mine are excellent, and when I get them adjusted, I will hear Vivaldi again and enjoy that illusion that I can hear. However, here at the middle moment between technological cover-up and neurological over-ride, my degenerative hearing loss is laid bare. And all week I have felt dreadfully mortal, dreadfully frightened, and dreadfully sad.
I've covered it up with everything. From flirtation to food, I've compensated for the loss of this magnificent aspect of life, hearing Vivaldi naturally, with other faces of the life-force, love and nourishment.
Under it all though, and why I'm writing it here, in this blog that started out as serving this very purpose, my deafness is expanding.
I don't have an answer. And I don't have a desire to gloss over this, find the golden fleece. I don't want to tell you I am okay with this, and I don't want to hear any of the slightest attempts at telling me there is a good side to this. For this, just listen. And I'll try to do the same: just simply listen to deafness.
I've been fearing this moment for ten years. When I was first diagnosed at age 32 the first fear was losing music. Such beauty. The miracle of the song. These particular works I comprised in a list and played over and over again so I could remember each note. If I remembered each note, I believed, then I'd always hear them.
I didn't think I would hear something different, that the notes would lose parts of themselves. I didn't know enough about sound to foresee that. Lesson one in deafness: it's not about silence. It's about shape. The shapes of the sounds change long before the sounds vanish. That's the practice of losing hearing: it's a constant re-learing of the sounds sounds make.
Now, in order to hear Vivaldi's Four Seasons, at least until I get my audiogram then the adjustments to my hearing aids, I close my eyes in a quiet room.
Here, I hear it.
This is where I am now. With the memory of that music.
The beauty of Il Quattro Stagioni invites me to remember that they are, after all, about the seasons of life as well as the year. And this is an early autumn for me, the first of my five senses to go. I can hear as I write this the storms of those violins, tearing away the once full-sap shreds of summer. And that has always been my favorite part. And this is that. This is what that sounds like when I live it.