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Tatum: Yet another joy of middle age
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I am afraid I am slowly driving my beautiful, long-suffering Beloved nuts.

Basically, every time she says something in my general vicinity, I respond with the following insightful and intelligent statement: “Huh?”

It doesn’t matter whether she’s talking to me, herself, or one of our four-legged home schooled children. If I’m in the area, that statement is going to enter the conversation. Then she has to take time out to repeat what she said to me, or tell me she was talking to the dog, or herself.

A couple of weeks ago, it took me five “huhs” to realize she wasn’t only not talking to me -- she wasn’t even in the house. I was apparently trying to get clarification from someone on NPR.

The other day, she asked me if I was getting hard of hearing. After the obligatory “Huh,” followed by something of a moment of quasi-illumination on my part, I replied: “Heck no, I’m not getting an earring!”

After several years of this, I have finally admitted I may be hearing things a little differently than I used to. I don’t know if it’s early Old Timer’s disease or just 45 years of loud guitars and wax build up, but I’m definitely receiving some unusual auditory signals these days.

I heard the ceiling fan bumping the other morning and thought it was one of our dogs drinking water.

“Don’t drink so fast; you might get sick on the carpet,” I said.

To which my Beloved, from downstairs and all the way across the house, replied “Huh?”

I hear telephone numbers on my voice mail, write them down, erase the recording, then upon dialing the wrong number realize that I have somehow hopelessly juxtaposed the numbers.

It’s yet another situation which once again begs the question, “What fresh hell is this?”

Back in the days when some of my known associates and I were trying to help the world through such freelance medical experiments as drinking a quart of cough syrup, then trying to establish the exact number of holes in one ceiling tile of a typical dorm room, such moments were called “Heareage” (pronounced heer-ee-ahj). The term essentially means you thought you heard something which wasn’t actually happening, like the sound of a CIA helicopter landing outside the experimentation facility (it was actually the thwap thwap thwap sound the HVAC fan seems to make from across the street under certain self-induced neurological conditions) or you thought you heard a fellow medical pioneer say something they didn’t (“Did you see a body drop out of that helicopter out the window there? I think I did. Let’s go see”).

I don’t remember the results of our bold forays into the world of medical science, other than the number of holes in one ceiling tile in a typical dorm room, not counting the ones made by blow gun darts, shuriken, or carefully tossed sharp pencils, is 2,078. Or was that 8,702…

It’s sort of the reverse of a Freudian slip -- when you mean to say one thing (Honey, please pass the butter) but accidentally say something else (Evil Witch, you screwed my life forever). I’ve heard of such things but, thankfully, never experienced them.

For someone in my profession, Heareage can occasionally present a wee bit of a challenge. And it always astounds me -- or worse, resurrects my inner hypochondriac -- when I actually have a moment of misunderstanding, be it caused by Heareage or just plain old garden variety imbecility.

Obviously, I want to be accurate and credible. I don’t want to misrepresent anyone’s intentions just because of years of hard living and an extra load of sawdust between my ears.

But more important, I don’t want to admit -- or even slightly allude -- to the notion that I’m getting dirt old, stone deaf, stump dumb, and strangely in tune with voices only I apparently hear.

On the other hand, with adversity comes opportunity. I’ve always enjoyed the benefits of talking to myself. Stage whispering becomes less of a hobby and more of an endearing personality quirk. Tuning out sales pitches, street sermons, request for favors from virtual strangers, or any other such unwanted white noise becomes much easier.

Also, it explains a lot of actions which might otherwise be looked upon as more evidence at my commitment hearing, such as when I hear the phrase, “Honey, please go wash the car,” as,  “Honey, please go buy a guitar.”

It becomes another “I must use this power only for good” moment.