I’d forgotten how upset I was after receiving the first letter. It’s been a long time, but when the second envelope arrived, it all came flooding back. Thinking about the circumstances leading up to my rather unattractive meltdown. Ugh. At least I’d been alone. It’s been about 15 years. I would venture everyone thinks about how they’d react, what’s expected of them if they’re selected. I did. Being responsible. Making a difference.
The 5 years preceding the first summons had been tumultuous for me. Mom and Dad were both on a downward spiral and I was 750 miles away. I visited for a week about every 3 months but it’s not the same as hopping in the car for a half hour ride to their house every couple days. Like clockwork I noticed with dismay, the changes in their demeanor, behavior and overall health every time I stepped foot into my childhood home.
At the time, my job consisted of 20 hours a week, and I could set my own hours, which was helpful taking all those trips to northwest Iowa. I was Parish Visitor and the ordeal I was experiencing with my parents was happening to most of the folks and their families I visited on a regular basis. Still, it’s much harder to deal with all the complexities involved when it’s your own parents. A small part of me was resentful every time I went home. (Not about the time spent with them, helping with chores and cooking. Those I really kind of enjoyed and knew how grateful they were for my help. Some peace of mind when their freezer was fully stocked with measured out meals, sweet breads, cookies, soups, even homemade fudge and penuche). But I didn’t want and wasn’t ready to face the new crop of health and emotional issues every time I came back. I wasn’t ready to accept that during the last 90 days one or both had slipped another notch.
I was going through some stuff myself. Menopause had struck, rendering me irritable, forgetful, sleepless, losing my hair, developing homely new age spots on my hands and face, plus hot flashes (without warning) at the most inopportune and embarrassing times. What a freakin trip. Man wish I could have a do-over for that half decade.
Then this whole ‘noggin’ issue started up. What first felt like weird allergies/cold/funny feeling in my head in the beginning eventually led to a hearing loss diagnosis. Which did not seem like such a big deal. My ENT’s recommendation was getting a hearing aid for the ‘good ear’ which then sent magnified sounds to my impaired ear. Which worked well-for a couple years-until I began losing hearing in my, thus far, perfect ear. Well heck. ‘Lefty’ was losing the ability to hear and understand clearly at an alarming rate so the consensus was to deal with my right ear exclusively and get a new hearing aid.
My hearing loss was now saddled with 2 complications. First and foremost was the noise. How is that even possible? If you’re deaf, your world should become silent. Oh what I wouldn’t give for golden silence. Complete quiet. My head feels too big-oversized (no, we’re not talking ego, introvert here, try to keep up), filled with constant racket. Sounds like a wind tunnel, chain saw, dentist drill, snow from a TV station off the air, live wire pinging on the ground after a lightening storm. All these loud sounds at different times. But never given a break from them all at once. Since 1998 I have not had one second of silence. Not one. Ever. This is caused by my brain trying to help me as I continue to struggle deciphering the spoken word. As more sounds become garbled, my brain started making goofy noises to compensate for words I had trouble understanding. These words are not unfamiliar to me but cause me all kinds of problems because they’re somewhat similar. Like late and lake. Only one letter difference but to a deaf person, I don’t often hear the end of a word. (Not helping brain-at times it’s enough to drive me crazy). The other biggie is Meniere’s syndrome, which causes fluctuations in my inner ear affecting my balance. Holy cripes. (Still, could have been much worse. At least it wasn’t my eyes. Thanks for that God).
And that’s when I got the first letter. Jury duty, in the form of a summons (basically no choice-it’s your civic duty, which I wholeheartedly endorse and agree). But I had huge misgivings about serving. Would if I were seated on the left of a testifying witness? Well forget about it. No way I’d understand what they’re saying. Same if a young child was giving testimony. So I called my ENT and asked what I should do? “No problem, we’ll write you a note.” (felt like I was back in school). “Pick it it tomorrow and send it along with your jury questionnaire.”
When I picked up the doctors note it was in an envelope but not sealed. After I got in the car I took out the letter and read it. Besides a hearing aid this was the first concrete documentation of my deafness. I thought I’d never forget the stark realization of those words but I simply can’t remember them verbatim. (And why didn’t I make a copy? Now that was dumb). But the message came through clearly. Something like, “Denise has a PROFOUND hearing loss and does not have the necessary tools to adequately serve as a juror. Please excuse her.”
The word profound hit me so hard, I just sat there and sobbed. ‘Profound’ made it so real and inevitable. This was never gonna go away or get better. Probably get worse (which it has). No it wasn’t a serious or terminal diagnosis like cancer, merely a tiny blip in my life. But both ears. Why both? One was bad enough. I felt pretty low for weeks. In a funk, wallowing in self pity.
Well I just got another jury duty summons in the mail. We moved 150 miles east 4 years ago to be closer to our kids and grands. Guess county jury duty information, exemptions do not move along with you. My first instinct was to make an appointment with my primary care guy and have another note written to excuse me again. I happened to mention it to my brilliant clinical psychologist daughter who then asked, “why don’t you want to be on jury duty? I think you’d find it very interesting.” “Well because I think I’d have a lot of trouble understanding what’s being said.” Shannon responded, “Mom, I was just testifying in court and the defendant couldn’t hear. Took them about 2 minutes to hook her up with headphones. It’s not a big deal. What’s the worst that will happen? You’ll be excused. My guess, you probably won’t be called at all.”
So I resisted the urge to get an excuse for sidestepping my civic duty. Filled out my questionnaire, stuck it in the prepaid envelope and threw it in the mailbox. Assuming most courtrooms now come equipped with headphones. I’ve been using headphones for years in movie theaters and at home to watch TV. They’re cordless with adjustable volume control. And if they don’t offer headphones, or I pose problems not foreseen, I’m sure I’ll be excused. Not as big of a deal as I surmised. I can do this. Just hope they’re patient and ready for-“huh? Would you mind repeating that? What? Did he say cat or calf?” Oh brother duck….