Can you hear me now?

April 4, 2013

By Pat Detmer

Most women who write humor columns provide stereotypical and mildly negative monikers for their husbands — like Beer Boy or Garage Man or He Who Eats and Burps — but when I started writing columns it was hard for me to come up with a nickname for my husband Fred because there’s so little to complain about. I finally settled on The Sainted One because that’s what he is: a patient, forgiving man who has learned to live with someone who is not always as patient and forgiving as he is.

The name stuck, so much so that once when I introduced Fred at a book-signing on Whidbey Island, a man shook his hand and said, “Fred? And here I always thought your first name was The.” Just a few weeks ago, a reader recognized me in the Palm Springs Airport and asked if that was The Sainted One at my side.

That’s how he’s been perceived all of these years: The Sainted One, operating with an unruffled, Zenlike calm, staking claim to a tranquil island in a sea of fluctuating hormonal tsunamis, cool, composed, beloved by all. But now I know better.

He wasn’t Sainted. He was deaf.

For years, I was the one who complained about the yippy dogs, the unidentified squealing and moaning from the new refrigerator, and the mysterious and nameless plumbing and house-settling sounds. Our interchanges were like an auditory version of the old movie “Gaslight,” where Charles Boyer makes Ingrid Bergman believe that she’s crazy by denying reality. In our own personal Gaslight, I began to believe that I was nothing more than an edgy, impatient witch who was just one step away from taking a brickbat to anything that made noise. “What was that?” I’d snap in alarm, and The Sainted One’s response (unless there was a 747 landing in the driveway with a convoy of wailing fire department vehicles to support it) was “Huh? I don’t hear a thing.”

Turns out he wasn’t kidding. He couldn’t hear a thing, but since he got fitted for his hearing aids several weeks ago, he’s been as acoustically alert as a Cairn Terrier on methamphetamines.

I feel a certain smugness now when he asks me why I must crumple the newspaper so loudly. I smile serenely when he wonders aloud at the popping sounds that he hears when he stands (his knees), or when he questions the volume of the fax machine or asks if the front door squeak was always that obnoxiously loud.

I ask you: Who’s The Sainted One now?

 

You can reach the new Sainted One at patdetmer@aol.com.

 

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