If you had asked me, when I was seven years old, what my life would be when I was 71, I might have said something like this: “I will live in a house near the water, maybe a river or the sea, …
If you had asked me, when I was seven years old, what my life would be when I was 71, I might have said something like this: “I will live in a house near the water, maybe a river or the sea, among leafy trees, with dogs and a man who loves me. I hope I will have children and maybe grandchildren who love poetry and art and music. I will write a newspaper column like Grandfather does, in a quiet place away from distractions. In the summer I will spend every pleasant day in my pool, that I will keep clean myself, like Grandma does. I will always ride my bike.”
My life today is just that, with all the adult issues and distractions, but pretty much the way I imagined my best life to be when I was seven.
My mother used to dream big. Almost every wish was prefaced with “when we get rich—.” We never did. Maybe that’s why my wishes were smaller, more aligned with those I saw real people enjoy, no matter their net worth. I once exclaimed to my daughter, “Why does everyone think I’m rich?!”
“Because that’s how you act!” she replied.
“I can’t help that!” I said, and we laughed. Maybe it’s true I act that way. I feel rich when my granddaughter smiles when I sing to her. I feel rich watching the changeable river from my bedroom window. I feel rich when my dogs curl up beside me or greet me when I come home. Or when I see the lilacs I planted in full bloom on my birthday. When I eat fresh tomatoes and green beans I planted in the raised bed my husband made, I feel rich. We have more than many and less than some. I am grateful for all of it.
On my birthday this year, I bought hearing aids for myself and my husband. We waited longer than we should have, saying “What?” so often that even good friends suggested we might need them.
But which ones? The decision seemed complicated and expensive. I was waiting for Joe Biden to make them affordable, maybe even covered by Medicare. But we bought ours over the counter, as they call the inexpensive kind. Online, to be accurate.
The first difference I noticed was birdsong. When I stepped out onto the porch, a chorus of birds sprang from the bushes. Before the hearing aids, all I could hear were the red-wing blackbirds. Now there were cardinals and their mates. Finches, orioles. At night, spring peepers.
I didn’t need the Washington Post to tell me that “being around birds is associated with better mental health,” but I was happy to read the article, by Richard Sima, that quoted two scientific studies that said seeing or hearing birds could be good for our mental well-being. One of the studies found that “listening to short… audio clips of birdsong could reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and paranoia in healthy participants.”
That alone was a pretty convincing argument for hearing aids, but there is more. With them in place, my husband’s low tones turned interesting again. I never noticed the creaking refrigerator door before. What else have I been missing?
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