The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 12, 2012

MICHELE BENDER | Taking a dip in the gene pool

Michele M. Bender
The Tribune-Democrat

— My decomposition continues. In June, I became the proud owner of a hearing aid.

Not that I didn’t see this one coming.

Some folks proudly tout legacies from their gene pool … intelligence, height, athletic prowess. Apparently, I emerged from a septic tank.

If there’s an ailment, disease or disability out there, one of my ancestors had it and generously passed it on.

I’ve never written about my Uncle Red, Mom’s brother, because there’s nothing good to say about him. Words like jerk, oaf and warped just don’t do it.

This is a guy who removed his dentures to eat because food made them dirty.

A diabetic, Red refused to follow diet rules or take meds regularly. The disease finally did him in.

Meticulous foot care is vital for diabetics. It was my job to haul Red to the podiatrist every other month.

We went through a lot of doctors.

One afternoon, at another new office, a nurse approached us in the waiting area. “Mr. M., please have a seat in Room 3 and remove your shoes and socks.”

Red continued to thumb through a Sports Illustrated.

“He doesn’t hear,” I explained. “Do you want me to tell him for you?”

“Please,” she replied.

At the same moment she asked, “Are you going to do ‘sign’?” I smacked him on his arm, pointed one hand and held up three fingers

with the other, and bellowed, “Red, go get ready!”

I suspect everyone who was there is still laughing.

Now, Aunt Sis, my deaf relative on my dad’s side, used her hearing aids and read lips.

I can do that, too, to an extent. When other drivers mouth epithets on the highway, I generally get their drift.

Sis’ handicap was discovered when she was in seventh grade at Garfield and the school nurse administered an audiology exam.

Gigantic Beltones powered by 12 horsepower Black and Decker motors didn’t help enough.

We stood in line one morning at Rite Aid, waiting for a prescription, when Sis’ piece began to whistle. Loudly.

The other customers paused and stared. The pharmacy staff peered over the partition, searching for the source of the piercing sound.

Sis remained oblivious.

The clerk handed Sis her bag. “What’s that noise?”

Sometimes, my evil twin possesses me. The devil makes me do it.

“What noise?” I inquired innocently, tapping Sis on the shoulder. “Do you hear something?”

“No,” she replied, “I don’t hear anything.”

“Neither do I,” I agreed.

The two of us gawked at the crowd as if they were all crazy. Then we left.

I plan to make the most of my life in spite of handicaps. I want to slide into home plate on my Judgment Day, smile up at St. Peter and gasp, “Whew! What a ride!”

I encourage all to do the same. 

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