I’ve been cleaning out my mother’s papers since she passed away in February 2012. She had four file cabinets plus several bookcases that were dedicated to her interests and correspondence. She wrote letters for political causes at the national, state, and local level, collected news articles of interest, and compiled vast research in a number of areas. One of those areas was hearing loss, as my mother suffered from near deafness in one ear and ~10% hearing in the other.
My mother, born in 1928, was a child of the Great Depression. She often spoke about the many many ear infections that caused her a great deal of pain. In a pre-penicillan era with no money to see the doctor, she could only suffer. However, she blamed the ear infections for her hearing loss, which began at a young age.
As I was rummaging through a file cabinet full of hearing aid information, I came across my mother’s correspondence to an audiologist. She was always looking for a new doctor and a miracle hearing aid and/or cure for her handicap. I found a letter she wrote in 2008 to a doctor in Kansas City, Kansas in which she attached a brief history of her childhood struggles.
“When I was in second grade, our family moved from Fort Worth, Texas to San Antonio, Texas. The school principal thought I should be advanced to the third grade and directed the second grade teacher to test me orally….As the teacher spoke individual words to test my spelling ability, I kept turning my head to listen with my right ear. She told my mother she suspected I had a hearing loss….I remember being about five or six and screaming with terrible ear aches. To relieve the pain, my mother heated the old fashioned iron on the stove, wrapped it in a towel, and told me to place my ear against the warm towel to relieve the pain.”
I had written the story of my mother’s ear infections in my family memoir, but nothing captures the memory like her own words. I plan to go back to my (still unpublished) book and make the appropriate modification. I’m sure my mother wouldn’t mind. History is history and she would want me to be as accurate as possible.
Who knew that a folder benignly titled “Hearing” would contain such a precious story? I begged my mother to write her childhood stories before she died. She never did, but it turns out that she left just enough for me to discover on my own. I only have to look for it.
Save family papers until you have a chance to sort through them. You never know what you will find!