In the early 1990s my Grandma Adams, who had been a widow for several years, began to hang out with a widower named Bob. Grandma and Bob got along famously. They complemented one another: Grand­ma was hard of hearing and Bob was almost blind. My brother tells a story about joining them one night at a restaurant. Grandma, Bob and my brother were just tucking into steaks and baked potatoes when an amiable fellow approached the table. His demeanor was that of a longtime friend, and he talked to Bob and Grandma for several minutes. Grandma and Bob nodded and smiled as if they knew what was going on.

After the gentleman left the table, Bob asked, "Who was that man?" Grandma replied, "I don't know—what did he say?"

Grandma has been gone for years now, but this story remains a family favorite. We laugh freely about it because we are not laughing at Grand­ma (she loved the tale herself). We don't assign to Grand­ma any moral responsibility for her hearing loss and its sometimes amusing (and sometimes frustrating) consequences. Her physical capacity to hear had simply worn out.