How do you spell master communicator?

File this under our ever-growing chronology of amusing stories of the increasingly hearing-impaired.

I am making dinner and the husband is working on his computer at the kitchen table when one of the grandchildren runs into the kitchen and breathlessly asks, “Grandpa, how do you spell Kate?”

She is clutching an index card and marker. Clearly it is a matter of great urgency. The kids are playing school and making a nametag for the youngest (the youngest in any crowd routinely having little-to-no say in the roles which they are cast).

“What was that?” he asks, looking up from the computer.

“How do you spell Kate?” she asks.

“I’m not sure I understood you,” he says.

His ears aren’t what they used to be, but whose are? Many older people seem to struggle with their hearing as they grow older, however, there are ways to make communicating with grandchildren easier. Sometimes, people with hearing issues find that hearing aids, like tvears for example, can help them to better understand what is being said. These might make all the difference for Grandpa. However, the girls do have high-pitched voices that often sound like teeny tiny squeaky little mice which can make it worse sometimes.

I momentarily consider intervening and spelling Kate for the child, but decide it will be far more entertaining to let this play out on its own.

“How do you spell Kate?” she asks a second time.


“No, KATE!”

Still not comprehending, he says, “Use the word in a sentence.”

“Ok,” she says. “How do you spell Kate?”

She’s got him now. He said to use the word in a sentence and she did use it in a sentence—and a fine one at that.

“No, no,” he says. Having perfectionist tendencies, and insistent on thorough communication (communication so thorough it can sometimes rewind to the previous 30 minutes, or even the previous two centuries), he attempts to illustrate.

“Let’s say the word you want to spell is car. OK?” he says.

“OK,” she says.

“When I say ‘use it in a sentence,’ I would say, ‘I am going to take a trip in my car.’ See what I mean?”

“Yes,” she says.

“OK, so use the word you want me to spell in a sentence.”

“OK. How do you spell Kate?”

His head is on the table and his shoulders are heaving. I think he’s laughing, but he could be sobbing. He can’t possibly make it any clearer. Or any more confusing. But that doesn’t mean the man will stop. He is about to illustrate with yet another example when her twin sister barrels into the room to serve as interpreter.

“Grandpa!” she shouts. She waits for eye contact. Good move. You can tell she has worked with the man before. “Grandpa — Kate like in KATIE!”

“Oh,” he says in a here-to-save-the-day tone of voice. “K A T E.”

A short while later, the youngest appears in the kitchen wearing a nametag that says Kate Love. Apparently they went out on a limb and spelled Love on their own. They’re fast learners.