Sorry. What? | Opinion

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Dogs, as we know, learn language from their owners. Our 1-year-old “puppy,” Sebastian, is trying hard to understand what’s being said so that he might respond accordingly. In our household, that can sometimes be a challenge. Ray and I often don’t understand what’s being said by the other.

Like most other dogs his age, Sebastian knows the meaning of “sit,” “down,” “biscuit,” “car,” “swim,” “walk,” “come,” “stay,” as well as our names. But, given our age, he has a disadvantage. His breed is referred to as the “Einstein” of dogs, but that assumes cognitive stimulation which doesn’t result from hearing all day, “What?” “What did you say?” “I can’t hear you.” “Never mind.”

Ray might be in front of the television saying something to me in the bathroom while the water’s running.

“I’m sorry, the water’s running, and I can’t hear you. What about cantaloupe?”

“No, I said, ‘Do we have an envelope’?”

“An envelope?”

“Yes.”

“For what?”

“For Jean.”  

“Are you talking to me or the dog?”

“To you.”

I turn off the water, leave the bathroom, walk into the room in which Ray is searching for a new Netflix series. “Honey, I’m sorry, what are you saying?”

“Never mind. I’ll get it.”

“Get what?”

The water in the bathroom sink needn’t be running nor the television be on in order for this common miscommunication to take place. It happens daily when we’re not facing each other. 

Ray tells our friends that I’m losing my hearing. I tell the same friends that Ray mumbles. One way or another, Sebastian keeps missing opportunities to add words he understands to his vocabulary. 

We were just in the convertible with the top down on the expressway rushing to meet my back surgeon. It’s a good thing Sebastian wasn’t with us. It’s also a good thing we have 48 years of learning to be patient with one another. If we were just dating, the car ride today would have ended the relationship.

“Get into your right lane,” Ray shouted over the wind. 

“What?”

“Right lane. Get over.”

“You’re making me nervous.”

Rather than letting it be a tug of war, as it was for many years when our egos sought primacy, we both know that none of this matters in the big picture. What matters is that we’re both in love with the other, whether we can hear them clearly or not. The inconvenience of walking into another room so that we can hear the other more clearly is insignificant compared to having and appreciating the sound of their voice regardless of what is being said.

This doesn’t help the dog much in expanding his vocabulary. He might have done better had he been brought into a home of younger people. What he does get exposed to in our house is love, laughter, patience, forgiveness, and gratitude. I don’t expect he’ll ever know the definition of those words, but Sebastian is immersed in the manifestation of them.

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