Deaf Day by Oline Eaton

The daughter was told that bad ears ran in her family. That’s why she was so close to her otolaryngologist as a kid.

She’d had a zillion ear infections in infancy. Tubes were put in and taken out. Her tonsils were taken out and the tubes were put back in. For all of 1990, her eardrum wept blood.

Every Thursday, the mother picked the daughter up from school and they drove across Memphis to the otolaryngologist’s.

When the otolaryngologist removed the bloodied cotton and peered deeply into her ear, the daughter looked plaintively at the mother, who sat calmly in the corner of the room. Fearing that the mother didn’t fully appreciate her pain, every time the otoscope nicked her inflamed ear canal, the daughter cast sad cow eyes in her direction. The daughter didn’t realize that the spectacle of one’s only child being tortured was likely already torture enough.

Several months into all of this, after an aggressive reconstructive surgery followed by the daughter’s stunningly poor performance on a particular hearing test, the otolaryngologist took the mother aside. Quietly he told the mother that there was nothing more he could do.

The mother nodded curtly, stuck a new wad of cotton in the daughter’s bloody ear and gathered their things. The mother and the daughter returned to the car. The mother drove one parking lot over to a record store, where she marched to the bargain bin and fished out a cassette.

She presented this to the daughter as though it were a great reward. For what, exactly, the daughter did not know, as she was well aware that in a test involving tones she had heard none.

But the mother said they had had a hard day and that they did not know what the future held. She put the tape into the tape deck and turned up the volume higher than it had ever gone before.

That is how the daughter met Elvis. On a day when, faced with the prospect of her daughter going deaf, the mother bought Burning Love & Hits from His Movies, Vol. 2.

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