My younger brother’s obsession with Ludwig van Beethoven began at the doctor’s office when he was seven. His legs, far too short to reach the floor, dangled off the patient table, and our mother kept scolding him for kicking while her worried eyes remained fixed on the dried lips of the...
<p>My younger brother’s obsession with Ludwig van Beethoven began at the doctor’s office when he was seven. His legs, far too short to reach the floor, dangled off the patient table, and our mother kept scolding him for kicking while her worried eyes remained fixed on the dried lips of the pediatrician. I sat beside my brother in a short chair upholstered in uncomfortable fabric, alternating between watching Jake smash his blue and red toy cars together – each collision accompanied by crashing noises – and listening to the adult conversation.</p>
<p>“I’m sorry, what was the word again?” my mother asked, pushing her mousy, brunette hair behind her ear.</p>
<p>“Otisis media. It usually occurs in infants or very young children, but it can also develop in older children, especially if they’ve had frequent ear infections like Jake.”</p>
<p>Jake had suffered about two ear infections a year for as long as I could remember – and I usually remembered, because all he did during those weeks was cry until he was packed in the car, taken to the doctor’s, and given the pink bubblegum medicine that I would always try to steal because it tasted good.</p>
<p>“So what does that mean?”</p>
<p>“Honestly, we won’t know until he gets older. He will experience some sort of hearing loss, but we don’t know how severe it’s going to be. I think we should fit him with a hearing aid, just in case.”</p>
<p>My mother looked at Jake, concern and fear muddled together in her eyes. “Jake, honey, are you listening to what Dr. Cullen is saying?”</p>
<p>The cars in Jake’s hands slammed on the brakes, and Jake looked up at the doctor for the first time during the visit. He shook his head.</p>
<p>“Jake, pal, I think you’re going to have more trouble hearing noises soon,” the doctor said, bending a knee so that he reached Jake’s level. “But don’t worry; you can still do a lot, even if it gets a little harder to hear – Beethoven was deaf, and he turned out just fine.”</p>
<p>Jake forced us to stop at the library on the way home, determined to find out as much about this mysterious Beethoven as he could. His skinny little arms reached for the chubbiest Beethoven book on the shelf, and I had to help him carry it to the checkout counter. I also had to help him read the book when we got home &ndas...