Emi’s selective hearing, aided by an earache

We have an earache at our house, for the first time ever in the history of Beau & Tam’s Excellent Adventure:  Raising the Offspring.

Four-year-old Emi is the victim.  We have all, as a collective household, been suffering through colds, flus, and general mulligrubs for the last… oh… let’s say five weeks, and about a week ago Beau and I grew suspicious that all three of the kids might have an earache.  (Have you noticed that earaches are kind of an old-fashioned catch-all culprit for general childhood maladies?  If one of my kids so much as sniffles, my mom is immediately suspicious of An Earache.)

Well, in this case Grandma knew best.  While neither Asher’s nor Marsi’s aches developed into anything too serious (and, truly, with a baby like Marsi — do you ever really know what’s going on inside?), Emi’s earache did indeed develop into something serious.  At first she said her cheek was hurting.  But within a couple days even she could place the pain in her ear.  (My kids are not great at placement of pain.)

For days we treated that pain of hers, alternating between ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  I kept thinking that she’d feel better in the morning.  But she never did.  I did some online research and stuffed her ear with olive-and-essential-oil-soaked cotton balls.  I tucked her in with a heat pad against her ear.  But nothing really seemed to help long-term.  By day she half-dozed on the couch and by night she wandered the house, moaning in her tiny voice, “My ear hurts.”

After yet another sleepless night, I finally decided that something must be done.  Sunday morning I bundled Emi and headed up the graveled Sumatra Road to visit Dr. Grierson — neighbor, past employer, long-time family friend, and retired old-fashioned country doc.  The kind of guy everyone wants to know.  The kind of guy who keeps an otoscope on the end table next to his recliner.

He sat in his recliner as he examined Emi’s ear, then decided a dose of amoxicillin for Emi would do both Emi and her mommy some good.  So Emi and I left Daddy at home with the other two kids and spent our Sunday driving to and from Billings, standing in line at the Walmart pharmacy trying to avert our eyes from the items in the “family planning” aisle, and scrounging the grocery store for the kinds of healing whole foods and ingredients for homeopathic tricks that my more hippified friends believe in.  At this point, I am willing to change our lifestyle and our eating habits to gain a completely healthy family!  (I even made homemade chicken bone stock yesterday.  Not to brag or anything.)

In the interest of a holistic approach to health, Beau and I are even thinking we might endure flu shots all around next season.  We’ve always figured, as a family, that we were too healthy and wholesome to need flu shots.  But there’s nothing like being sick all winter to make a believer out of a doubter in traditional medicine!

A bittersweet side effect of the earache has been the realization that Emi, at least temporarily, cannot hear very well at all.  At first I was getting after for blatantly ignoring my commands.  I would say, “Emi, pick up your jammies and take them to the laundry room,” and she would just keep wandering by like I’d said nothing at all.

Before long we realized that the girl just plain can’t hear out of the one ear right now.  Thankfully she’s feeling good enough to grin today, but she’s still plugged up on that left side.  She’s either oblivious or just trying to make the best of her deafness, because she’s already got the old man trick down:  We’ll ask her something like, “Emi, do you want tomato soup or noodle soup for lunch?”, and she’ll just nod agreeably and smile and give a thumbs-up; I’m sure she has no idea what she was asked.  It’s funny and sad at the same time.

Communication with Emi, our sweet middle child, has always been a fragile and precious thing.  Here she is in our family, stuck between a boisterous big brother and a demanding baby sister.  While she should be hollering for attention, she mostly just tries to keep the peace — or sneaks off into the corner to read to herself.  She is the one who covers her ears when the baby cries because, presumably, it is just too much noise for her to bear.  She speaks in a tiny little voice.  On normal occasions I have to stoop down and put my ear close to her mouth in order to understand what she’s saying.  Now, thanks to the earache, I’ve also taken to getting down on her level and making eye contact with her so she knows when I’m speaking to her.

Which there’s absolutely nothing wrong with.  I am a proponent of getting down on a kid’s level.  It’s just that I sometimes forget to do it.

The thing about our quiet middle is that when she does speak, it’s usually well-planned and thoughtful and insightful and, more often than not, witty.  Take, for instance, her take on the recent (dare I say gaudy?) American Rodeo, which we watched on RFD-TV.  Beau asked her today what her favorite part of the show was.  She said, in her excitable pixie voice:  “When the cowboys were walking up the stairs and the girls were wearing their zucchinis and waving their pom-poms!”



Her interest is a sign that she is on the road to healing.  The rest of us are feeling better, too.  Spring is in the air.  And just as soon as flu season is behind us… we’re gonna finish unpacking.

© Tami Blake

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