Herb Benham

Herb Benham

The Bakersfield Californian

A friend visited a doctor about his hearing. It’s about that time. We’d rather not think so, but it might be so.

The friend had joined the club recently. The 60s club. When you join the 60s club, a whole new world opens up.

Our problem is we went through the '60s (the decade) and now that we’ve joined the club, we may be paying for all that fun.

Back then, we cranked it up. Cranked it up at home with our large wooden speakers, cranked it up in our cars with our tweeters and woofers and dared Jimi Hendrix and his brethren to crank it up, and they were happy to oblige.

No one thought about hearing problems. That was for old people. Old people who had somehow gotten old and this is what happens when you let your guard down.

We weren’t going to get old. No way, Jose. Getting old was preposterous and even if we did, it was 40 years off.

Forty years? Forty years is like forever. In 40 years, you could build the pyramids, the Great Wall of China and have enough time to slap up the Empire State Building and the Hoover Dam.

We didn’t understand the concept of time flying by back then. Time moved slowly to begin with but suddenly decades flew by like whole states underneath the belly of a 747.

In spite of our best efforts, we have become members of a club we never thought we’d be members of and we find ourselves going to eye doctors, ear doctors and backside doctors. This is a parade of doctors, the kind of doctors that the older people we were never going to be, go to.

“He said I was down to 50 percent in one ear,” the friend said.

Fifty percent? That’s not bad. With 50 percent, if you lean in, put your hand over your ear and squint, you can probably raise it to about 75 percent.

This friend told a mutual friend what he had done. Where he had gone. What the doctor had said.

“Do you have a hearing problem or do you have a listening problem?” he asked.

I laughed. He laughed. Everybody laughed.

A listening problem or a hearing problem? This is the punchline for an often-told joke among those who have been married for a bunch of years. Some people, mostly women-people, say that men often use the hearing excuse to explain why they don’t listen fully to their wives.

Don’t listen fully to their wives? How can women say this about their beloved husbands? Most men I know have been hanging on every word their wives have spoken over the course of their marriages. Not only have they absorbed the rhythm of their wives’ speech but the nuances and meanings down to the period or exclamation point!

This rapt attention has created communication that borders on the telepathic. We know what you’re going to say before you say it, and if not before, after the first word or two.

In order to conserve energy during conversations, energy that could be devoted to remembering anniversaries, buying snappy Valentine’s Day cards or freely buying diamonds, men may nod, retrieve what has been previously said and fill in the blanks much like a crossword puzzle.

We value what you say. Value it then, now, and as long as we both shall be here. Or both shall hear. After that, we will listen with all of our hearts.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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