Aunt Ruby Can’t Hear

By Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans bounced on the back seat of the car.

Her mother turned around and looked at her. She smiled. “Hang on!” she said. “We’re almost there.”

Mac sighed. She loved going places, but sometimes she wished the getting there part could be quicker. Maybe someday she would be able to travel everywhere in an airplane. She was certain that every moment of an airplane ride must be absolutely fascinating. Imagine looking down on clouds! But right now the wheels of the family’s Ford rolled forever on and on. And she could only look up at the clouds.

Her father smiled at her in the rear view mirror. “It’s true. We are almost there,” he reassured her. “In fact,” he said, “this is it.” He turned off the narrow mountain road onto a gravel driveway that wound between tall pine trees. He stopped the car in front of the low, gray house.

Mac unbuckled her seat belt and burst out of the car. She stood on tiptoe and stretched. Then she shivered, and hugged herself, and danced up and down. It was cold!

The door of the house opened. Yellow light shone out. “Come in! Come in!” Uncle Rollo called. “You’re right on time for supper.”

“We’ll unpack the car later,” Dad said. Mac and her parents hurried for the warm house.

Uncle Rollo tried to hug all three of them at once. Mac smiled up at him. She hadn’t seen her great-uncle Rollo since she was five years old, but she remembered his thick black glasses and his kind eyes. She remembered the wonderful stories he told about the snakes he had found, and baby rabbits, and other wild animals.

Aunt Ruby came bustling from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dish towel. “Welcome! Welcome!” she said loudly. She folded Mac into a huge hug. Then she held her away and put one hand on her red curls. “You’re almost as tall as I am!” she exclaimed.

The tired travelers washed quickly and sat down at the kitchen table. Mac sniffed. Supper smelled delicious! Aunt Ruby carried serving dish after serving dish from the counter. “These are lima beans I froze from our garden last summer,” she said. “These are our own potatoes. And this is your Uncle Rollo’s special corn.”

Mac’s eyes grew round. It seemed that every single thing Aunt Ruby brought to the table was something she and Uncle Rollo had grown or picked themselves.

Mac ate until she was sure she could not hold another bite. She was too busy eating to talk much, but she listened. She listened to her mother tell about how well she was doing in school. She listened to Uncle Rollo describe the tall fence he had had to build to keep the deer out of his garden.

After supper Mac and Mom helped Aunt Ruby clear the table. Dad and Uncle Rollo went outside to get the suitcases from the car.

“Those potatoes were really good!” Mac said to Aunt Ruby as she carried the empty serving dish to the kitchen.

Aunt Ruby was running hot water into the sink. She didn’t answer.

“I really liked the potatoes!” Mac said a little louder.

Aunt Ruby did not answer, and she did not turn around.

“The potatoes were very good!” Mac practically hollered. She didn’t understand why Aunt Ruby was ignoring her. Then she felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t you know that Aunt Ruby is deaf?” Mom said softly.

Mac looked at her in astonishment. “She’s deaf?” she asked.

“She can’t hear a word,” Mom said. “But she can read lips very, very well. Just watch.” Mom patted Aunt Ruby’s back.

Aunt Ruby looked up at her, and Mac noticed for the first time that Aunt Ruby concentrated on her mom’s mouth.

“Mac really enjoyed your potatoes,” Mom said. She spoke in an ordinary voice, just as if Aunt Ruby could hear her.

Aunt Ruby turned around and smiled at Mac. “I like creamed potatoes too,” she said loudly.

Mac’s face flushed. She felt stupid and embarrassed. She truly hadn’t known that Aunt Ruby was deaf.

Mac spent the rest of the evening sitting on the floor in front of a crackling fire, watching and thinking. Aunt Ruby and Uncle Rollo sat in chairs that were very close together. If Uncle Rollo wanted to get her attention, he would touch Aunt Ruby’s arm. Aunt Ruby carefully watched the mouth of whoever was talking. When she spoke, sometimes Aunt Ruby spoke very loudly, but, Mac figured, if a person couldn’t hear herself talk, she probably couldn’t tell how loudly she was talking either.

That night Mom tucked Mac into one of Aunt Ruby’s spare beds. “Don’t be afraid to talk to Aunt Ruby just because she’s deaf,” she said in her quiet way. “Aunt Ruby loves visiting. Just keep her special need in mind, and make sure she’s looking at you when you talk to her.”

Mac looked up at her mother. “That’s part of what we learned from our Sabbath School lesson this week. God loves everyone ‘cause He made them. He wants us to love them too. And, part of loving them is helping and understanding them when they have special needs. Like Aunt Ruby.”

“Wow—I can see there is good stuff in your lessons,” Mother said with a smile.

“I guess if you can’t hear, you can learn to read lips like Aunt Ruby, and you could get along,” Mac said. “But what would you do if you couldn’t talk?”

Mom grinned. “Knowing you,” she said, “if you couldn’t talk, you’d probably swell up with all those unspoken words trapped inside, and you’d pop like an over-filled balloon!” She dodged the pillow Mac threw at her.

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