- Bewildered CODA
- My little, long forgotten, slice of the Rust Belt, Ohio, United States
- I am the only son of Deaf parents, which is the same as being an only child. I went to college to be a history teacher and somehow fell into being a bi-lingual/bi-cultural mediator,(interpreter). If that wasn't enough, I somehow captured the heart of a beautiful lady and had kids...how did this all happen?
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Hey, hello there my old pal. So glad you've dropped by to see how things are here in my little slice of the Appalachian Rust Belt. Yes, yes it has been a long time since we last sat and chatted. You know how it is with true friends, no matter how long it's been since they visited, true friends can pick up as though no gap in time ever happened.
What's been going one here? Well, where do I start? Seems best place is to start is with today. How's that sound with you? Good, then let's start right here and now.
As it happens to be, I'm sitting here on the front veranda of Leland Manor, taking in the all there is to be had of a warm June rainy day. Oh, there are a great many things to be had on a day like today. The rain has a wonderful way of refreshing and making my little slice of the Appalachian Rust Belt seems all anew and shiny. I'm well aware it's all an illusion, yet illusions can be good things. How so you ask? Let me get another cup of strong, black coffee and I'll share the facts about illusions. What? You don't like strong, black coffee!? I'll have you know, that's the only way a true coffee drinker takes their caffeine. Why, my Grandfather use to always say, "Strong and black is the only way to have coffee. As a matter of fact, it's proven fact that the very best cup of coffee is one that's so strong and black it's on the very verge of busting out of its mug once poured and staggering off to become the star of its very own Japanese monster movie as it smashes up the town".
Enough of all that, now you just sit back in that rocker and ruminate as I illuminate the facts of illusions as they stand. Just let me get my pipe a puffing smoothly, and drink some of this coffee before it burst it's ceramic prison and demolishes my little home town in a stampede of highly caffeinated mayhem.
A truly well crafted illusion is a mighty thing indeed. With just the right amount of care, commitment and wit, an illusion can withstand the most forceful shaking meant solely to destroy a carelessly created illusion. A well crafted illusion is nothing more or less than the ways things "are" as presented by a creative mind to not so creative minds. Nothing short of the misplaced, sharp tipped needle of reality can pop the world as created by an illusion, and make the ways things "are" into a way things "should have been". It's a sad day when an illusion ceases to be and fades into the realm of folklore and legend.
Take for instance what happened in my former life. Way back in the murky past. ( It's one of those time in your way back life that's best labeled as "things better not talked about, unless I'm drinking with good friends and then all stories seem funny and no one will remember what I say in the morning" in your mental filing cabinet. ) Back during my experimental marriage days. ( Oh come on! You don't know what an "experimental marriage" is?! It's a first marriage when you learned all what not to do and say in a marriage. ) Back when I was residing in my first house with my experimental wife and experimental child. ( Come now, we'll get nowhere in this story if you can't keep up and I have to keep explaining the most simple things. Now pay attention, I'm only going to explain this once; an "experimental wife" is the wife you learn what not to say and do and expect to keep a wife, and an "experimental child" is your first child and that's the one you learn what not to do to all future children you may have. What? Was it an "experimental house" too? Well of course not, that would just be ridiculous and tomfoolery to say that it was an "experimental house". No, that was " the kind of house you only buy once". )
The illusion started the day we moved into that house. There we all were, my experimental wife who was heavily pregnant with my experimental child Zack, my parents, Deaf Bob and Deaf Bob's Wife, and a whole gaggle of Deafie friends, helping to moving all the paraphernalia of everyday life into our new home. All was good, it was a warm sunny February day as we pulled up the pick-up trucks and vans. The mood was light and hands were a flying as we all signed away.
The street was a happy place with friendly neighbors who all started to come out with smiles. We all kept signing away and laughing. The new neighbors all stopped and their smiles faded and brows were raised. We all still signed on, all be it slower as we looked around. All the new neighbors were gone and in their places we could see closed doors with eyes peeping at us from behind closed blinds. We all stopped signing, looked at each other in a moment of awkward silence...then busted out with the greatest Deafie laughter and proceeded to unload the vehicles
Months went by and all we got was polite smiles and waves from the neighbors. When one or two of the braver and more evangelical neighbors did try to do more than smile and wave, it became clear by the wild exaggerations of their mouth movements, not to mention the yelling, that they all thought we both were Deaf. Having learned well from a life time of CODAhood just how to address such a situation, I smiled and waved back. Never once did I let on for one iota that I could hear all they said as they talked about the poor deaf couple next door.
NERDAs can say and do some of the most amazing things when they think you can't hear. I swear it's true, I kid you not friend, I am continually dumbfounded by otherwise intelligent people who some how think can in there wildest dreams that contorting their mouth, lips and face like a lump of Silly Putty, and yelling loudly while they drag out every syllable repeatedly, will some how enable a Deaf person to understand them. It is truly a mystery to me. Why don't they try locking themselves in a good glass box and see if they can understand what someone from Outer Mongolia is saying to them. Good luck to them is all I have to say.
I have to tell you about the day the experimental wife looked out the window to see me trimming the hedges. Well, I wasn't really trimming the hedges. I started out to trim the hedges, but was stopped dead in mid clip due to the show taking place in front of me. I tell you, I was spellbound watching the wild gesticulation of the most fervently evangelical neighbor as she tried to save my soul with her erratic, not to mention overly dramatic, mimed display of my eternally damned soul. When it was clear to here by my unresponsive nature to her hard worked mime show, she though and accompanied the mime show with banshee like shouting of all she just mimed. It was like a running narrative that was on a delayed time. ( I know full well that comes are to be silent but clearly she didn't know that fact. ) Between the energetic mime show and lung bursting yelling, she worked herself into an over heated, read faced, mouth foaming, aerobic soul saving hot mess.
At what point do you think I let on I could hear? That's right, I never did and here's why. First, it was taking all mental concentration not to bust out laughing at the scene. Secondly, every card carrying CODA enjoys a good laugh at times like this. Thirdly, she never thought to ask if I could even hear, so why interrupt all her hard work. If nothing else, my Deaf Mon did raise me to be polite.
After what seemed like a life time, the show in my front yard was still going on strong with no end in sight. I'll give the crazed neighbor this, she was nothing if she wasn't persistent. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see the experimental wife looking at me with the look of awe and horror. She signed to me, not too happily mind you, through the window, " What the hell is going on?"
"I'm trimming the hedges. They are all over grown."
"Duh! Who is that and what's wrong with her?"
"Oh, she is one of our kind neighbors. She is trying to save my poor damned soul. Very loudly too".
Even less amused the experimental wife said, " I know it's loud, you don't need to tell me that".
Puzzled I asked, " She's really that loud, you can hear her?"
With a look of total bewilderment at my idiotic question, the experimental wife said, " No I can't hear it, but I can feel the window glass vibrating from her yelling".
It was truly on of those moments you just have to step back in awe and wonder. This neighbor was so loud the windows are shaking. I hadn't thought about that. She really did want to save my poor damned soul.
My thoughtful awe of the sheer power behind the evangelical neighbor ladies effects was interrupted when the experimental wife asked, " Should I call 911 or something? She looks dangerous. Maybe she needs some medical help?"
"Do you realize what you're saying!? You're safe in the house. I'm out here with this loony lady. Any sudden and threatening moves you take could only have one outcome. That's to make you a widow and then won't you be upset. My life insurance isn't paid up and to make it worse, you'll have to come out of the house some da, with no one to protect you from her deadly soul saving!"
"I would be left alone with her...I won't call. "
All the while the experimental wife and I were having our animated chat though the window, we failed to notice that the evangelical neighbor lady had stopped all her exertions and was slowly starting to back away with out turning her back to me. I didn't know for sure if it was our signing that scared her, or the sharp pair of hedge trimmers I was holding as I signed that finally made her leave, and I didn't really care. It all just added to my amazement. Thinking about it still fills me with chuckles I can't stop.
A few years later, when my experimental child Zack was older and riding his bike up and down the street on an early Saturday morning as I was mowing the lawn with my extremely loud mower, one of the neighbors stopped Zack to ask him a question.
"Can you please tell your father that 7:00 am on a Saturday morning is not a good time to mow. The he neighborhood doesn't appreciated all the noise so early. We are all aware of your father's...ummm...limitations, and we feel bad about it and all...his limitations that is. In fact, the neighbors are taking up a collection to buy him a new, quiet mower."
Zack gave the neighbor one of those looks that only a six year old can give when they are perplexed and said, "why don't you just tell him all that yourself? You know, adult to adult".
Now it was the neighbor's turn to try his hand at the perplexed six year old look as he replied, " I'd be more than happy to talk to your father myself, but I don't know how to do that."
" You seem to know how to speak just fine. That's all you need to do. "
" No, I know how to speak. I don't know how to sign so your father will understand me. You understand, with his limitations and all. "
Zack just shook his head and slowly said, " It's OK you can't sign, no shame in that. But you don't need to sign with my Dad, he can hear you just fine. He just acts like he is deaf. "
The neighbor just looked at Zack as what he just heard slowly sunk in. Then he asked one last question, " Why would he act like he is deaf?"
Very matter of factly, as he turned his bike to leave, Zack said over his shoulder, " It's what he does when people assume he is deaf, but never bothered to take the time and ask if he is deaf. My Dad always says when you assume, you make an..."
"That's just fine, I know what I am when I assume. No need to tell me", was all the neighbor man said as Zack ride off.
So you can see, illusions are powerful and wondrous things. What illusion? The illusion I so carefully crafted with the old neighbors that I was Deaf. Yes, that was wondrous and powerful an illusion. So powerful and wondrous it saved me from having to have my soul saved on many occasions. That illusion was worth its weight in gold to me if only for that reason.
Makes me sad to think, all my hard work I put into crafting that illusion. Creatively creating a "reality" from all the assumptions those old neighbors made back then. Then to is my beautiful creativity so unceremoniously done in by the sharp point of Zack's innocent answer of truth, well it's was just so sad.
That's why I say uncontrolled truth, unleashed by an innocent mouth, without mature judgement to temper it's deadly affect, is a far to awful weapon to use. Best it be economized at all times.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
It is true, the greatest joy in a young CODA's life is that of terrorizing of deaf people. Seriously, nothing can make a CODA erupt into uncontrollable, rib splitting, knee slapping, breath robbing, laughter like the scaring of an unsuspecting deaf person. No ordinary, run of the mill scare will work either, mind you. I'm talking about a full out, hair standing on end, dancing on tip toe, total loss of bladder control, face reddening, clutching at the air, shrieking like a steam whistle, faint inducing scare. What I ask you, can be as delightfully gratifying as that for a young CODA?! ( Having grown older and more mature, I have naturally put aside this juvenile amusement of my youth. No, now I rigorously and strictly constrain my terrorizing instinct to that of scaring my wife. )
I remember a time, during the early days of my marriage with Farah, back before all my brain cells were taken hostage by a pink tinted world, with pink colored logic. ( This would also be a time when "pink" was merely a word denoting a color and not a bewildering and intimidating reality of my life. Nothing I tell you, nothing, can stupefy a grown man like the birth of a daughter. ) It was during Farah's last pregnancy, I so innocently embraced the romantic ideal of not knowing the gender of the baby, thereby rending myself blissfully ignorant of the upheaval our lives were to take on one early spring evening when I came eye to eye with volatile reaction terror has on pregnancy hormones. ( I sit here shuddering as I recall the three month incessant groveling I had to preform before I could even think about sleeping in my bed again. Believe you me, no one can grovel like a bedroom banished, newly wed husband. )
At this point in our story, let me take a moment to explain an important fact about the male mind to those of you who, with no fault of your own, happen to be female. The male mind is a dazzlingly complex organism. It is home to many different and diverse personality trait. Each personality trait in the male brain has an individual and unique voice, governing a separate activity and/or emotion. All these personality traits mix together to create the wonderful, brilliant, and all be it humble, men you all know and love. Now, to make all this even more convoluted, since ASL is the native language of most CODA's, it makes perfect sense that all the personality traits in a male CODA's mind sign and do not speak. ( You can cease the frenzied typing of texts to Farah. I can assure you there is no need to alert her to the questionable state of my mental stability. While I'm sure you are all well meaning, let me point out that if your read my blog, your mental stability is equally in doubt. Besides, Farah is fully aware of my questionable mental stability all along, yet she married me anyway. )
Arriving home, I soon found myself engaged in a spirited conversation with one the voices in my head, who happens to be a groundskeeper, of Scottish decent, wearing a kilt made of the Royal Stuart tartan. We were chatting about the state of the lawn and how the hedges needed a good trimming. This kilted part of my personality emerges anytime I survey the vast lands on which Leland Manor is built. ( For those of you who think you're one step ahead of me, let me assure you that this kilted, groundskeeper personality trait does indeed sign ASL to me in a thick Scottish accent.) As we rounded the side of the house, still talking about the landscaping, there came a distant, nagging, hand waving commotion from the back of my mind. Since I was busy with the kilted, Scottish groundskeeper in the front of my brain, little attention was given to the wild Voice of Doom in the back of my brain.
Then suddenly, all in a flash, the little Scottish groundskeeper of my personality was forcefully grabbed, thrown feet over head... ( Let me tell you, when a little Scottish groundskeeper gets tossed feet first into the air, there is little question as to what he has on under his kilt. )... and landed with a reverberating thud somewhere in the murky depth of my mind. Next thing I know, the Voice of Doom in up in my mental face signing his message of disaster. Trust me, with the manic signing and pointing made by the Voice of Doom, not to mention the disconcerting and unsettling mental image of the upturned kilted Scottish groundskeeper, I had a bit of a problem focusing my attention on the darkened, very pregnant figure emerging from back door of my house. The Voice of Doom's signing exploded into vivid, blinding colors in my brain, "This is what I've been trying to warn you about you dolt!"
It was at this point that the world suddenly stopped and I was left looking at the back of my wife. Nothing seemed to be moving at all, even those annoying tiny bug that buzz around your head by the millions during spring evenings were stopped, frozen in mid air. I was at a mental crossroads, logic told me I had one of two choices, both were leading to unavoidable disaster. Do I reach out and touch my wife so she knows I am here? If I do that, inevitably laughter will pour forth from me when she screams and I will be shunned till after the baby is born and has turned 18 years old. Or, do I just stand here with the neighbors billion watt security light, the security light that ironically is suppose to discourage lurking strangers like me form loitering around our backyards, wait for Farah to turn around, see my darkened shape looming in front of her due to the billion watt security light causing me to be silhouetted to my wife's eyes? If I choose to just stand there, once Farah turns, screams and dances around in abject terror, the inevitable laughter will spew forth from me and I am shunned ( For those of you Deaf-Impaired people reading this blog and are yelling at your screens, "why don't you just didn't call out to her you idiot!", let me remind you Farah is deaf. It is physiologically impossible for me to yell with a sound loud enough to make her aware of my standing behind her. DUH! ) Logically, I had no hope, this was a lose/lose situation. All I could do was stand there like a man, put on the blindfold as I await my impending state of shunned.
As quickly as the reality had stopped, it unfroze into an excruciatingly slow motion of Farah beginning to turn, stand straight up, and see my silhouetted figure standing before her. Still in slow motion, I was able to observe her face painfully distort into a look of shear terror with her mouth opening. Up to this point, the slow motion spectacle before me had all been in silence, but with the opening of her mouth, sound was suddenly reintroduced to my world and it took all the strength I had to remain standing upright as the inhuman, banshee like wailing hit me with the full auditory force equal to an atomic blast, square in the face! ( I have read since, that Farah's scream registered an 8 on the Richter Scale, as measured by the United States Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado. I kid you not. ) Then, as predicted, waves of uncontrollable and undeniable laughter sprang from my very core, rumbled up and out of my mouth. Never in my life had I been racked by such convulsive laughter.
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!" bellowed Farah in my face. I leaned forward into the full force of her auditory punch. ( Have you seen the video of Astronauts during G Force test, spinning around and around, faster and faster, with the skin on their faces being pulled back till it looks like their skulls are about to be skinned? That's what my face looked like as Farah's scream pealed my skull like an orange.) I stared directly into my wife's mouth and watched the little bit of skin that hangs down in the back of her throat swing wildly as she continued this monumental scream. Seeing this just made the mirth running wild in my brain kick into overdrive and I was blinded by a water fall of hilarious tears.
And then it suddenly stopped. Much to my relief, when the monumental scream stopped, my facial tissues snapped back and I was able to stop laughing and breath again. Seriously, I was starting to get worried whether Farah may have done permanent damage to m y spleen with all the laughing I was forced to endure.
Monday, February 18, 2013
I can hear you all, poo pooing this. Rolling your eyes and shaking your heads in disbelief. Thinking to yourself that surely this man is deliberately embellishing and exaggerating his point. Nay say I. All I have said is true, pure and simple.
Just the other day, Kisha, my little Amazon Princess, came home horrified and beside herself due to one such social fopaux. There she sat, face all scrunched up in deep thought in our living room. Eyes red and puffed from where tears had been.
Being the good father I am, I paused in my tracks before she saw me, quickly studied the image of her in such raw emotion. (Boo and hiss all you want, I'm a father and unchecked, raw emotion saps any and all courage I have. Sure, if this was one of my sons, I'd give them the Dad look, tell them to suck it up, punch their shoulder and all would be fine. No messy emotions to clog a male moment. But no, this was unplumbed, unfathomable, unmaleness emotion from my daughter. Leaving me unnerved, unintelligent, and uncoherent.) My eyes darting around the room whilst my mind flipped through various mental maps of how I could make it though the living room and to the stairs without her seeing me. Just as I was making my final choice of which way was best to dash for safely, I started to draw back and spring forward in a near sprint to the stairs. Out of nowhere, I was blindsided and tripped up by the arched right eyebrow over the eyes I had suddenly spied with my peripheral vision. So caught up was I in the fight or flight instinct, that I had not noticed Farah sitting across the room from Kisha. I nearly fell on my face in a vain and clumsy attempt to regain my balance, ineptly trying to appear cool and innocent to my wife as only a husband can do in those moments.
There I stood, looking at Farah, my eyebrows arched impossibly high in mock innocence, deftly avoiding direct eye contact. There sat Farah, looking directly at me, her single eyebrow arched and mouth pulled up on one side. (Let me take a moment to point out the sheer force of a wife's gaze while communicating non-verbally her will and the complete inability of a husband to do anything but his wife's will,when he is caught in just such a gaze. It's staggering...simply staggering...This is a power best used solely for good.) Try and I might, my eyes were drawn to her stare. My inner Manness screamed in totally panic, "In the name of all that is good man, do not look directly in her eyes, or all hope is lost...NOOOOOOOOO...", yet, unable to escape the undeniable pull of her feminine gaze... I did just that. I looked directly into those all powerful, brown, almond shaped eyes...all the while, my inner Manness wept inconsolably. (How do wives do this I ask you?! How do they get this power over their husbands?! It's simply not right.) Not a word was spoken as I turned to Kisha, braced myself, and asked her what had happened at school.
Slowly, Kisah turned her head and looked me dead in the eye and explained that it had been the single most embarrassing day of her kindergarten career. You see, for the last several days, Kisha's teacher, Mrs Pundit, had been working hard on the proper way students are to get the attention of a teacher when they wanted to speak. All the students practiced raising their hands and waiting quietly, patiently to be called on by the teacher. Over and over the kindergarteners were drilled in this indoctrination of mass hypnosis. That is everyone but Kisha. Oh, don't get me wrong, she did well when the class as a whole practiced raising their hands, but once the constraints of mob rule were removed and Kisha once again could give free rein to her independent mind, a brilliant genetic virtue found in the female line of our family, she reverted to old comfortable custom of pounding her foot on the floor and waving her hand at whomever she wanted. Mrs. Pundit, clearly astonished, waited for her to stop. Kisha, who being a kindergartener, continued to stomp the floor and wave her hand and all the while had permitted her mind to wonder to the next interesting thought, without realize the error of her ways. By the time Kisha's attention had returned to her constant foot pounding and hand waving, the entire gaggle of kindergarteners had slowly backed away from her, leaving her as the center of attention. Normally, being the center of attention is a good thing, one that Kisha enjoys to a great extent, but not at that moment. Mrs. Pundit tilted her head and asked Kisha what she had been doing? In her very best kindergarten anthropologist way, Kisha explained the time honored custom, and socially acceptable way, of gaining the attention of those living in her home, when they weren't looking at you. All was going fine with her explanation...that is till she add at the very end, "...how else am I suppose to get people's attention in my home?! Duh! Half of them are deaf". After the prolonged laughing from her classmates subsided, Mrs Pundit thanked Kisha for the impromptu diversity awareness training and as tactfully as she could manage, Mrs Pundit pointed out that what Kisha had been doing was perfectly understandable and appropriate at home, but there were no deaf people in her kindergarten class and thus the foot pounding and have waving was unnecessary.More laughter erupted from the other kindergarteners.
After watching a very dramatic rendition of the unfortunate day's events, I'll admit the uncontrolled laughter I let out with may not have been the best parenting tool to use at that moment. (Hey, I'll have you know, it's part of CODA culture to laugh uproariously at another CODA when the have unintentionally shown their deafness to unknowing NERDA's in a very embarrassing way. We laugh from the shared experience, we have all been there and done that at some point in our lives.) When I finally got my laughter under control, I sat in silence, all the while starting to sweat buckets as both Farah and Kisha just stared at me. The pressure was on and I was expected to share some words of wisdom to set the world right for my little Amazon Princess. Quickly, I pulled from the back of my mind the story about the day I got my first in school detention. Kisha eyes got wider and wider as I told her about the first day back to school from summer vacation when I walked into Mrs Mildred's classroom, took one look at her and said, "Man Mrs. Mildred, you sure have gotten F-A-T over the summer". No one had explained to me, while it was expected and correct to be blunt with deaf people, that hearing people didn't appreciate such untempered honesty. Swiftly, the unapologetic hand of justice swooped me up and placed me into the chair of correction. A chair I was to become all too familiar with in the Principal's office as repeatedly ran head long into the expectations of the hearing world.
Once I finished talking, I was greeted by the marvelous sounds of my daughter's laughter. Shaking her head, Kisha walked over to me, hugged me and giggled some more.
Giggle all she wanted at her Dad. Whether she knew it or not that day, she had the best response a CODA can give to the duel nature of our lives. Giggling is the best response for the day when reality moves in and a young CODA has to learn how to straddle the span between the culture they love and the culture they have to live. A CODA's life is spent straddling between the homey, comfortable, coziness Deaf Culture holds for CODA's, and the foreign,ill-fitting, disconnectedness of hearing culture with all the hard lessons it brings.
As Kisha walked away from me, she stopped and looked at Farah. With all the loving, tender, warmth a young CODA learns from their home culture, she signed, "Don't worry Mommy, I feel better now." She looked at me, shook her head and started to giggle a different giggle. This time it was the giggle of an older CODA, a giggle of experience.
Continuing to giggle, she signed, "I feel much better now I know Dad was way dumber than me when he was little."
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
I walked into the building not suspecting a thing. All was the same as any other day I had picked her up. Then, out of nowhere, Ms. Cherry descended upon me. (Ms. Cherry isn't the real name of the after school program director, but being a typical CODA I acted deaf and gave her a smile and nodded the first time we were introduced and walked away hurriedly. Hey, I admit I may have been more polite and paid attention that first meeting, but there wasn't an interpreter there that day Farah and I met her and I for one did not want to see Farah walk away smirking as I was cornered and became extremely uncomfortable while this strangely kind and caring lady invaded my personal space, the whole time telling me how "special" I was to marry a "def" lady. Har har, it is not funny. So now I have no clue what her real name might be. I gave her the name "Ms. Cherry" because she had a plump, round, reddish face...excuse me, I grew up thinking visually and a cherry was the first thing I thought of the first time I saw her head.) I didn't see her coming as I was signing out my little Amazon Princess from the program that day.
Quietly Ms Cherry said to me, "Mr Leland, may I have a word with you?",as she looked at me through huge doe like eyes that just dripped sucrose and empathy. ( Let me tell you, I was instantly freaked out! I have seen that look in hearing peoples eyes before and heard that tone in a hearing person's voice and it is always followed by some comment about how sorry they are that I have "death" parents, or how "amazing" it is for to "def mutes" to get married and have hearing children. The memory makes me shudder.) "I require just a moment of your time to share with you, from the whole staff here at the after school program, how sorry we are to hear about your wife being let go from her teaching possession. We all know how hard it must be for someone of her "condition", you know, being "def" and all, to find a job."
I stood there a moment, totally perplexed and stunned as my mind did mental gymnastics in an attempt to put together how my "def" wife had lost her job and how Ms. Cherry used the word "condition" in place of the word "deaf", as though it made it better some how.? (Believe you me, Ms. Cherry had had me swearing bullets when she said Farah had a "condition". I kid you not, the last time Farah had a "condition" we got the blessed tax deduction known as the Amazon Princess. I nearly needed the defibrillator broken out at the mere thought of Farah having another baby. There are no words to explain how relieved and ecstatic I felt to know Farah's "condition" was only deafness. ) "Excuse me... what's this about my wife loosing her job and she doesn't have a "condition" she is simply and happily 'D-E-A-F', not 'D-E-F'". ( I have found it always helps hearing people to understand when you slowly and clearly enunciate the word "D-E-A-F" to them the first few times you talk to them about deafness and or Deaf Culture. Just a bit of hard learned advice when you attempting cross cultural, or cross lingual mediation.)
"No need to be embarrassed, loosing a job is nothing to be ashamed of Mr. Leland. We don't mean to pry, nor do we mean to ask for any sort of explanation as to what happened. Lord knows we have seen a good many people in our town here loose their jobs in the past few years. Good people with no "condition". I'm sure your wife will find another job soon. All she needs to do is keep plugging away."
All I could do was look at her and cock a single eyebrow in utter dumbfoundedness. She totally missed the whole "D-E-A-F" versus "D-E-F" comment. ( This is a common Politically Correct Poisoning situation . Oh trust me, hearing people somehow, for some unexplainable reason, are under the baffling and mistaken idea that not saying the word "deaf" will somehow make deafness less painful for them, but in reality in only makes their ignorance about deafness and Deaf Culture all more bewildering and laughable to the rest of us.)
Taking a step closer, cocking her head to the side while making direct eye contact with me, Ms Cherry put my hand on my shoulder in that creepy, compassionate, mortician sort of way and said, "Kisha has been explaining to us all about her mother's "condition". She got all teary eyed and near close to hyperventilating trying to talk about it and her mothers loosing her job. "
"Who is Ms Cherry?", interrupted Kisha with her head tilted to the right, all the while arching one eyebrow above her one wide open eye and squinting the other eye.
"You know, the lady in charge", I told her, discreetly pointing and giving a repeated sideways nod at Ms. Cherry, all in a vain attempt not to draw any more attention than the few kindergarteners already watching us.
Still having her left eye squinted, right eye wide open and brow arched high, Kisha tilted her head to the left side and signed, "Who?"
Back and forth Kisha and I went as my signs got much more descriptive. ( Understand this, when your getting more and more descriptive about someone's appearance, the descriptions start to take on unflattering characteristics as exaggerated gestures and tendencies of the person you are describing get added in. By the time your done, even an ancient Egyptian Mummy could understand who is being described, regardless of whether the Mummy knew how to sign or not.) With all the highly animated signs and gestures both Kisha and I used as we went back and forth, vainly trying to establish who Ms. Cherry was, the entire room of 30 overly active and loud kindergarteners had ground to a total standstill. All 30 of them moved backwards toward the walls fearfully, in an attempt to give us more room to continue the odd gesticulating show. Finally, totally exasperated and caring not for polite etiquette, I just walked right over to Ms. Cherry, stood behind and over her and emphatically, being all too much of a smart alec, pointed with both hands right at Ms Cherry's head, making a facial expression of "DUH", just to make the point.
With a look of total enlightenment, my little Amazon Princess signed, "Oh yeah, her. What about her?".
Taking a deep breath, I recapped my question, I re-signed what Ms. Cherry had told me. With a look of puzzlement, Kisha signed she didn't tell her any such thing. "Yes you said...", I signed over and over. "No, I did not", signed Kisha over and over. Back and forth we went for ten minutes, all the other kindergarteners, still up against the walls, bouncing their little heads back and forth between us and knowing nothing of what we signed, till Kisha finally said with her voice, "N-O I D-I-D N-O-T", in an highly enunciated and slow manner so as to ensure her mentally deficient Father finally understood her.
Amazed, I was momentarily at a loss for signs due to her response...then I signed back, "Ms. Cherry said that you were almost crying and telling her your Mom lost her job. Why would you say that?". Walking closer to me, Kisha spoke and told me she had not said any of that. I kept signing and Kisha kept speaking and walking closer till she was right in front of me and said, "Dad, why are you signing to me? I can hear you know?!".
Taken back by the fact I had slipped into signing mode without realizing it, I quickly came up with the best explanation I could when put on the spot by my kindergartener daughter, "Because I can".
As Kisha and I talked over the teary eyed conversation she had had earlier with Ms. Cherry, parents started to arrive and peal their frightened kindergarteners from the walls where that had stayed the whole time we had our give and take. Silently they all left us alone with Ms. Cherry. Slowly, cautiously, Ms. Cherry approached us just as a mental picture of the entire conversation between Kisha and Ms. Cherry gelled in my brain and came into befuddled focus. "Ms. Cherry, did Kisha say her mother had been "cut out" and thus left without a job?"
"Yes, that's what she told us and we all understand how harsh that must be for someone in your wife's..."condition", she said slow and quietly, all to make sure I understood what "condition" meant.
Sending Kisha to get her shoes and coat on, I explained in my best grown up hearing person way, slowly and quietly so as to be sure she understood what I meant, that this had all been a misunderstanding due to a clear clash of cultures and languages. The night before, Farah had had a serious talk with Kisha about how her talking all the time in our home without signing was "cutting out" Farah and Jaden from the collective family life in our home. Kisha listened closely as Farah told her how when a CODA refused to sign around deaf family members, it is rude and insensitive, "cutting out" the deaf family members from the CODA's life. If Kisha "cut out" Farah, then Farah wouldn't be able to do her most important job, being Kisha's mommy. She asked Kisha if she wanted her to loose her most important job? Eyes welling with tears, Kisha said she never wanted that to happen and held Farah tightly.
I believed I had done an excellent job of clearing up the misunderstanding and made my move to get us out of the building as quickly and painlessly as possible. This sadly was not to be. Much to my dismay, Ms. Cherry launched into a lengthy and dramatic soliloquy about how relieved she was that this was all a misunderstanding. On and on she talked in the way only hearing people can when they don't fully understand the cultural, or linguistical clash between hearing and deaf, but are too proud to admit it, yet continue to talk as though they do. I simply continued to nod my head and inched us out to the parking lot, started the van and began to pull away as Ms. Cherry wound down and stopped talking.
At that point, Kisha and I did the only thing we could, we waved quickly, turned our heads and we left. Never looking toward Ms. Cherry again, fearing if we did she'd start to talk once more. ( It's a self defense tactic CODA's learn from deaf people when they try to escape overly verbal hearing person. Comes in quite handy at times.)
So now you see why I say language can be a funny thing? See the confusion that ensues when we talk and believe all we say is understood exactly as we meant it? Kisha knows this lesson now.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Yet, I am given pause and my days of wooing my lovely wife come to mind.
What? How did a guy like me, manage to get such a wonderful and beautiful lady like Farah? In a word: CHARISMA. ( I hear all that laughter, knock it off! I'll have you know, there were many a young lady smitten with my James Bond like charm and style. Stop laughing!) Let me enlighten you with a tale of our first date.
For those of you who don't know, Farah and I live here in Appalachia. Everyone who knows anything, knows that Appalachia is the most blessed place upon this green Earth. (Sociological and Archaeological studies have time and again placed Appalachia as the most likely spot for the Garden of Eden. I kid you not.) The big city where Farah and I lived when we first met, had some of the most chic and sophisticated establishments for romancing a lady.
In our city, there was no more fashionable or trendy eating establishment than Nick's Diner. Nick, the chef and owner of the Diner, had studied at the finest restaurants in Europe.( He was destine for the big time of the culinary world. His face and name were known to all the epicurean fat cats...that was till the Foie Gras Catastrophe of '83 in Schaan, Liechtenstein. Shunned by the gastronomical elite, Nick turned his back on the gourmet world he once ruled and brought the height of culture to our city.) Always one to be prepared, I had called ahead to reserve two stools with the best view of the palette Nick used to create his master pieces, the grill. With the delectable fragrance from the greasy grill wafting over us, my hands danced in the air, seductively wooing Farah with signs of flirtatious intrigue, spiced with passionate affections as only a CODA coquettishly smitten can manage. Before we knew it, Nick plopped his signature plate, "European Sampler", before us. Deftly Nick unscrewed the wine bottle and poured it into the matching jelly jars, then he served us. What could have been more romantic for a first date than a European dinner, accompanied by the fizziest wine from the fertile grape fields of Lodi, Ohio?
After dinner, I whisked Farah away to see a movie. Like Fred Astaire I gracefully dance down the street, all the while poetically signing sweet nothings into Farah's alluring brown eyes. All I could see was total adoration shinning from her eyes... that was till fate delt me a crushing blow and suddenly, without the slightest warning, stuck a newspaper box out in front of me. Unable to rip my eyes from Farah's captivation smile, I struck the demon newspaper box and inelegantly hobbled around, attempting as best I could to keep my suave persona intact. There was no choice but to look away, so as not to let her see the unmannly look on my face as pain ripped through my screaming knee and raced to my mortified brain. When I was able to gaze back into those saulty eyes, where I once saw loving veneration, I now saw, and heard, uncontrollable laughter. ( Hey, you try keeping a Sean Connery debonairness when your fighting the urge to cry like a little girl.)
|Buster the Projection|
The last part of our first Sweetest Day was spent driving up into the hills outside of our town. It wasn't hard to impress Farah with my car. I was the proud owner of a 1974 Volkswagen Thing. Bright yellow, four door, rag top to be precise. One of the finest examples of German engineering ever known. Nothing sets a romantic tone like the distinctive putters of a Volkswagen's air cooled, four cylinder motor. That is till you run out of gas. ( Here again is a hazard of signing and driving. All my attention was on what Farah was signing to me, so I never noticed the fuel gage. ) Being stuck on the side of a hill in the dark with a lady as stupefyingly beatiful as Farah was not an unpleasant time. After watching the stars for a time, we pushd the car till gravity helped and we coasted down hill and into town. ( Do you really think I would elaborate on what we were doing on that hillside at night? I think not.)
We have had many Sweetest Days since that first one, but none as memorable. That day set a pattern of hand holding, fine dining and Farah laughing uncontrollably at my slapstick blunders at the hands of demon newspaper boxes. I wouldn't have it any other way.