One time, my dad got into a fistfight on the soccer field of the high school. The fields weren't in use, and there were no known witnesses to Daddy whipping this guy's ass. In the process of said ass whipping, the guy managed to knock out my dad's hearing aid.
Daddy lost his hearing as a Marine in Vietnam, when an explosion near his head deafened him almost entirely in one ear, and significantly in the other. He nearly lost his life, and as he was airlifted out the medic coded him as dead, until Daddy corrected him.
The VA fitted him with increasingly sophisticated hearing aids over the years. Still, the television volume at our house was never lower than a mild roar, and if you wanted to be heard, you spoke loudly. We are excellent enunciators.
You could always tell if Daddy was talking to someone he didn't know, or know well, and they were speaking too softly. First, he'd turn up the hearing aid. Then, he'd cock his head and watch their mouths, trying to match the vague sounds to the movements of their lips. Finally, he'd say politely -
"I can't hear you, I'm deaf. I'm a Veteran."
That last part seemed to explain it all. I'm a Veteran. Don't you know we can't hear?
And if they still didn't speak up, Daddy would smile and nod and do his best to understand. Sometimes, it didn't work out - like the time his boss asked him to rip out a few boards on a deck, and came back to find the entire deck dismantled.
We lived across the street from the soccer fields where Daddy whipped that feller's ass. The soccer fields that belonged to the high school I attended. I was sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework when Daddy walked into the house that afternoon. You'd never know he'd been in a fight; the crease in his Wranglers pressed as sharp as it had been that morning.
"Kelly Marie," he said in his Texas twang, "Come with me."
We walked across the street in fading daylight and he told me what'd happened. I didn't have to ask if he'd won the fight or not, I knew he had.
It didn't take me long to find it, with sharp eyes and a commandment from my father, which was akin to an order from God himself. Find it, he said, and so I did. We were halfway home before I had the courage to ask. He had his arm around my shoulders, and his smell enveloped me - honest work and Aramis. I kept my face down as I asked, "What were you fighting about?". He stopped, and took his arm away, and I turned to look at him.
Tall and dark, even darker in twilight, his face changed. He raised his eyebrows and gave me a half smile and said with a laugh, "I have no goddamn idea. I couldn't hear a word he said."
2 weeks ago