About Me

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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

Skunks in Brown Shoes

"Dad, what was it like before you were a CODA," asked my youngest tax deduction Kisha.

That seemingly simple and innocent question stopped me in mid rock and caused me to fumble my pipe, knocking hot pipe ashes all over me. As I intermixed choice four letter words with with frantic brushing of hot pipe ash off my chest, that question just lingered in the air like passed gas in a crowded elevator. (Take my word for it friend, neither spilled hot pipe ash on your chest, mistakenly passed gas in a crowed elevator, or a child asking a thoughtful question are enjoyable things to a father. )

For those of you who haven't learned this little fact of life, let me educate you on a truism about fathers; fathers do not multitask by choice. Fathers are simple folk. When we sit; we sit. When we puff on a pipe; we puff on a pipe. Never, never do we ever mix sitting, or pipe puffing with taxing activities like thoughtfully answering questions. No, that would be doing two tasks simultaneously and fathers are just not wired for such complexities. If seeking a meaningful, well thought-out, meant to enlighten and educate, answer to a question, children should at all cost avoid fathers. Fathers were not put on this Earth for such things. Should a child have the need to search out insightful, life altering, answers to soul burning questions, best they ask Nobel Peace Prize recipients, Ivy League Cosmology majors, or mothers. Mothers are just looking for moments to give their children answers that are dripping with emotion, intellect and enlightenment. Never, ever should a question requiring intellect be asked of a father. ( I hear you all "tsk, tsking" and "tut, tuting" as you shake your heads disdainfully, yet I say it is a fact. Let me give you an example which illustrate my point clearly. When my Experimental Child, that's my oldest child Zack for those of you not up on my children's nicknames, was in kindergarten, he mistakenly asked me just such a question. I gave him the best "Dad logic" answer known to man, patted him on the head, and sat back in smug fatherly satisfaction with my own brilliance. Wouldn't you know it, the next day Zack came home with a non-to-pleasant note pinned to him. The note was from his kindergarten teacher, lacking any sense of amusement or understanding of the "Dad logic" in Zack's response to her question. How was I to know, two days before Thanksgiving break, a teacher would be serious when she asked her class to think about something for which they are truly thankful. Zack did think about it, asked me, and returned the with my answer. Let me ask you, what reasonably intelligent person wouldn't be truly thankful they were not born a dog. Just think about it, if you had been born a dog, you'd have a life full of sniffing your friends butts every time you meet them. I for one was truly thankful then, and still am to this day thankful, I was not born into such a life. I can only surmise that my brilliantly deducted "Dad logic" was just too much for Zack's teacher, and that is the reason she gave him his first recess detention. It's just that kind of thinking by the educational system which made my first three years of kindergarten such a nightmare for me and my teachers.)

My first reaction was to give my little Amazon Princess the look only a truly loving father can give. You know the look, it's when a father drops his head low, keeping eye contact with their child, as his brain freezes with the sudden mental charlie horse brought on by the question. As I slowly recovered my ability to speak, I sputtered, "What!? What did you say?"

"Well duh Dad," Kisha responded as she painfully, slowly,  proceeded to sign and speak the question to me again, as though the decreased speed my help my comprehension. ( I must admit, it was amazing to see the same look Farah gives me when I overwhelm her with "Husband logic" on Kish's face. It was kinda scary too.)

Naturally, I did the only thing any mature father would do, I painfully, slowly, signed and spoke, " I understand your question. What I don't understand is what you mean "before" I was a CODA?"

"Dad, 'before' means, 'During the period of time prior to now,'" Kisha said so mater of factly, "You know, that time before you knew you were a CODA."

My first thought was how parents should resist at all cost the urge to teach their babies to talk; it only leads to pain.  Just as I was done regretting Kisha's mastery of language, I was struck by the enormity of what she asked me. All I could do was slump back in my rockingchair and listen to that question reverberate throughout my skull. How could my darling little Amazon Princess ask me such a question, I pondered in total disbelief and despair.

The question was stark proof of a horrifying reality I just wasn't ready to face. Oh, there had been plenty of hints, all of which I willingly choose to ignore in some sort of mental self defense. The hints were times like when her baby teeth come out; her fascination with the little red headed boy at school; or when Farah said Kisha needed training bras. All of those warning signs were easy to push past, but this was a wall of reality I just couldn't climb. As much as I wasn't ready for it, my baby girl was growing up.

I knew this day would come. There was no way to avoid it. I just hadn't expect it to come so soon.

My tiny father brain was awash with flashes of the murky, mist filled memories of my life before I was a CODA. Memories all mucked up by that one damnfully thoughtful question. ( Before you all start typing out scathing comments to me about how "damnfully" is not a word, I'm aware of this, but damn it should be! )
That's not completely true, I have never had a life "before" I was a CODA. No CODA ever has had a life when they weren't a child of Deaf parents. We are born into our lives as children of Deaf parents. That much is true and can't ever be changed.

However, there is that moment in the life of every child born to Deaf parents when they become a "CODA". As much as I wasn't ready for it, my little Amazon Princess has had that moment. The scattered puzzle pieces of Kisha's "duel world" life had snapped into place and she can see the whole picture. She saw crystal clear that what she had known as the "duel world" life of living between her mother's loving world of "Deaf", and the outside, much larger world, of "Hearing", were not her world. No, my baby girl had discovered she walked through two worlds, seeing the beauty and ugly side of those worlds, speaking the language of both worlds, but she lived in a third world. A separate and distinct world from what she had known. Kisha had taken her first step into the in-between world of "CODA". 

I remembered how for me, there had been two moments in my life which made the puzzle pieces snap together. (Yeah, so what if my life shaping, self defining, world view puzzle had only two pieces that took me 12 years to put together, what of it?! All I can say is I'm simple. Deal with it. )

The first time was while watching Saturday morning cartoons, and the Looney Tunes character Pepe Le Pew came on. Watching him, the first piece of my puzzle became clear, Pepe was a CODA. You know, he's the skunk with a life full of running after romantic love. All is great at first. Then comes the unfailing moment when the world he lives in, catches a waft of his stink, and he is once again cast adrift alone. His relationships with the "un-stinky" world is much a kin to a CODA's relationship with the "un-CODA" world. ( Think about it, Pepe was bewildered when people pointed at him and said "le pew". That's the life of a CODA, right there. CODA's are the "le pew" in the collective nostrils of the world around us. Just like Pepe, CODA's see the world around us as a bewildering place.)

The second piece of my puzzle was given to me by the old time entertainer George Gobel. He had been a guest on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. At one point, George looked at Johnny and said, "Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?"

Right then, BAM, my puzzle had fit together and all was clear me. The mist that had shrouded the world around me was gone.

Each CODA, whether they recognize it or not, has had that moment when a jumble of disconnected puzzle pieces suddenly all snapped together, and their "two bean life" had suddenly fit into a "three bean salad" world.

After being reminded of all that, I began a long talk with Kisha about the world she, Zack and I shared. How it's a special world, a wonderful world, a world that can never be fully removed or split from the world of Farah, Jaden and my parents. A world that is a part of the Deaf world. About how without Deaf, there can never be CODA. Separate and different are the Deaf and CODA worlds, yet intertwined and inseparable.

"Let me just sum up all I've said by telling you this Kisha, never has any person, in the whole history of the world, ever lived without being born. Yet, in all the millions of people born on this world, there has only ever been two kinds of people; CODA's and all the rest who wish they were a CODA. Do you understand?"

After a thoughtful pause, Kisha looked at me and said, ". Well duh Dad, we speak the same language. I understand, CODA's, like Zack, you and me, are all skunks in brown shoes."

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

A Day In the Life of an Bi-Cultural/Bi-Lingual Mediator

Can you believe all the recent news about the counterfeit and defectively conceived facsimile of an interpreter in South Africa? I was dumbfounded by the audacity of the whole thing. This is a clear and unquestionable case of why NERDAs must never take on such awkward and crudely executed public bamboozlement! No, such public skullduggery is always best left for the professionals, such as CODA's.( I dare say, a novice CODA could have pulled that off without even breaking a sweat. ) A mass public, high profile hoax is always best left to the professional, highly trained practitioners of CODAesque tomfoolery and must never be attempted at home.
Dumbfounded aghastness exploded in my brain and left me thunderstruck in incredulous disbelief that high, governmental, Harvard cultivated and educated, muckety-mucks could ever be so easily hornswoggled by such a train wreck of visual nonsensical gesticulations and hand flailing! Just goes to show, there's a NERDA born every minute. ( What?! I know that's not the exactly correct quote, but hey, this is my blog and I like it. It's called "embellishment"... work with me here people.)
I don't know why I was taken back by all this, it's not like I haven't had to face this before as a highly trained, professional bicultural-bilingual mediator. ( For those of you from Ravenna, that's a fancy way of saying "professional interpreter".) Let me illuminate my ruminations for you with a story from one day in my life at work.
Whoa! Back up the indigent, self righteous, looking-down-your-nose, ethical wagon my friends. Fear not my fellow practitioners of the dark interpreting arts, at no time will I give out any confidential information. To you I give my solemn, yet slightly satirically soiled vow, that all the incriminating facts such as names, location, and whatnot have been changed to protect the ignorant and witless persons and the innocent bystanders. Hey, for all you know, this whole story is a pure concoction, song and dance prevarication of a sick and feverish mind. ( Once again for the Ravenna people, that all means I may have made this all up for all you know. ) Yet, in an attempt to pacify your noble sensibilities, as a gentleman, I promise, however bland and unamusing as it may be, no ethical guidelines have been breeched. ( For those of you who have indigently yelled out your objections at your electronic media screen, "He is NO gentleman", you're way ahead of me, commence patting yourself on the back, you would be correct, I am no "gentleman"...never shall there be such an aberration of nature as a "gentlemanly CODA". The mere thought makes me shudder! )
With that taken care of, let us resume the blog. ( Geez, oh man! NERDA's and their sickening adherence to civility and decorum. Thankful am I never to have been hindered with either of the twin curses of civility and/or decorum, nor can I imagine I shall ever be so afflicted. ) 
So, there I was, minding my own business, waiting in the local halls of municipal justice, all ready to take my part in the American national pastime of suing thy neighbor. ( Contrary to the common misbelief, I am capable of minding my own business, thank you.) After torturous years of plying my trade in Municipal Courts, it has become my firm and fervent belief that the courts have become the modern day Coliseum, with the litigating parties slugging it out in a quasi-gladiatorial fight to the death in front of  a spectators, salivating to see juridical rhetorical bloodletting.
For those of you who have not familiar with the judicial process involving interpreters, here is a brief explicating. ( Stop the groaning, brevity is in my blood.) When interpreting services are required by a court, the Bailiff  contacts an office like mine and we send a legally qualified interpreter to the court at the time and date specified. The Judge will administer an oath to the Interpreter, whereby the Interpreter swears or affirm to interpret all that is said and or signed during the court proceeding to the best of the Interpreter's ability. ( To break it down even more, if something is signed in court, I say it. If something is spoken in court, I sign it. No additions, deletions, or deviations from that is signed, or spoken.) All is fairly simple and straightforward...or so I thought.
As fate would have it, the demigods of Interpreting were going through a dry spell, saw an opportunity to liven thing up a bit, with the added pleasure of tormenting me. ( Tormenting me seems to be a favorite enjoyment of a great many demigods and mere mortals. ) The torment and mischief came from the deletion of uninterestingly small, yet pressingly paramount, piece of information. The lack of this information was diabolically deleted so as to transform me into Mr Bean in the court room. 
As I was saying, there I was, patiently waiting to preform my job, sitting in a sea of various washed and unwashed life forms, all supposed to be human, and  all shoehorned into a lobby conspicuously devoid of the necessary ventilation system to mitigate the odd eye-watering fragrance. ( I kid you not, the lingering scent was so odious as to cause my contacts to shrivel up in pain and attempt a last ditch escape by leaping from my eyes. ) So desperate was I to remove myself from the crush of my fellow man,  I toyed with the idea of pulling the fire alarm I spotted on the far wall as my eyes darted around desperately, looking for a means of escape, as my lungs, sinuses and olfactory senses screamed for relief. Just as my hand raised in a frantic grab for life at the fire alarm, I heard the life saving words, "Where is the sign guy? We need the sign guy now". Little did I know how compressed and contort my body could become till I skirted through the maze of vermin infested bodies, all without breathing mind you, and scurried to the Bailiff as he called me.
Soon, I was standing before the Judge's bench, in my usual place, so as the deaf person can easily see me, the Judge and any lawyers present. As the court proceedings started, so did my flawless and effortless interpreting of what the Prosecuting Attorney said as his opening remarks. ( Ok, no stress yet.)
As the  Prosecuting Attorney drones on and on, bloviating in the finest legalese, a low level alarm starts to flash in the back of my brain. The alarm was triggered by the fact that there was a second deaf person, seated on the opposite side of the Deaf Defendant, in the courtroom. ( This would be the first bit of uninteresting, yet essential, deleted information. Still no stress, just a bit more work to ensure both get all the information. Being a professional, I sweat not. )
Then, just to make things a bit more interesting, the alarm in my brain has moved up a notch as the Prosecuting Attorney pointes out the presence of a third player in this drama. ( Second piece of hitherto undisclosed nugget of pertinent deleted information. Now I'm starting to glow, yet all is under control since the third party is a non-signing NERDA.)
Let's take a moment to recap the courtroom setup before the fun starts, shall we? Seated before me at the Plaintiff's table is the signing impaired, NERDA who filled the lawsuit against the Deaf, non-speaking, Defendant who is seated  on my left, in the jury box. ( Why was the Deaf Defendant in the jury box you ask? I don't know, yet that's where the court sat him. Don't get bogged down in that detail. )  On my right side, sitting at the defense table, is the other Deaf person, the Material Witness, who has oral skills and speaks for herself. Wondering back an forth in front of me is the Prosecuting Attorney. Behind me, over my right shoulder, is the all powerful Judge. ( The Judge would prove to be the final mislaid, seemingly unimportant piece. The trap has been laid by the interpreting demigods, I witlessly stepped right in and am going to be semi-divinely "Punk'd". More about the Judge to come. )
All is simple, right? Not so, say I. As it turns out, the signing impaired NERDA Plaintiff is in fact the live in boyfriend of the oral/signing Deaf Material Witness. The oral/signing Deaf Material Witness is the good friend, who may have had a romantic entanglement  with the Deaf, non-speaking, Defendant. The signing impaired NERDA Plaintiff hates the Deaf, non-speaking, Defendant. The Deaf, non-speaking, Defendant hates the signing impaired, NERDA Plaintiff.
Now that we have all the game pieces setup on the game board, let the amusement begin. As natural, the whole game revolves around the ever important Interpreter; i.e., me. ( Keep your eyes on the Interpreter gang, that's where all the fun is happening.)
Things start off with the Deaf Defendant telling his side of what happened. As he signed, I naturally voiced to the court what he said. All went well, not to hard. As he told his side, the Deaf Defendant started to get agitated at the situation and started to add some swearing into his narrative. Now, I have never been one to be shy and hesitate when a Deaf person  swears, so I just when along with his swear.
Rap, rap, rap went the Judge's gavel; "hammer, hammer, hammer" signed I. "I'll have no cursing or foul language in my Court. Have I made that clear?", asked the Judge. ( Here was the germ of my being "Punk'd". The rain clouds start to form and the all consuming storm and starts to pick up strength.) Unbeknownst to me, since I was looking at the Deaf Defendant in the jury box as I signed the Judge's warning about swearing, the Judge as it would be, had fixed his humorously glaring upon the golden locks on the back of my head. 
The Deaf Defendant gave a tame narrative from that point on. One would think after all the years I have been an interpreter, not to mention a CODA, my highly sensitized eyes would have picked up on the subtle, yet meaningful darting eyes and head tilt of the Deaf Defendant as he tried to inform me of the bull's eye the Judge had seared into the back of my head with his glare. But no, I did not notice it. Soon he was done and all was fine in my mind.
Next the Deaf Material Witness was asked to tell what she saw on the day in question. Since she was oral, she chose to speak for herself in court and have me sign what she was saying to the Deaf Defendant. ( "Why didn't she sign herself?", I hear you ask. Simple says I, why do all the work when a captive interpreter is present? ) She presented her take of the events in question to the court, all the while the Deaf Defendant shook his head and scowled at her retelling.

Then came the moment all had been waiting for, the signing impaired NERDA Plaintiff slowly rose to his feet, surveying the swelling crowd of legal gad flies, and readying himself for a testimony of  Academy Award winning performance. ( I kid you not, as our sideshow of  an American judicial hurricane broke upon the courtroom, more a more of the supposed human life-forms from the hall way outside of the courtroom, started to migrate into our courtroom. Clearly, they had been able to sense that someone within the courtroom was about to have their proverbial judicatorial blood spilt before the day was done. ) As he began his tale, all was going well for your well seasoned Hero Interpreter. No need to break a sweat yet I thought. As the NERDA Plaintiff drowned on, I kept an eye on the Deaf Defendant, who was becoming noticeably agitated, and the Deaf Material Witness was starting to lean back and descend down into her chair. seeing this happening before me as I interpreted the testimony of the NERDA Plaintiff, I started to glow from perspiration. Not a full sweat mind you, just enough to make my forehead glow with a dew of perspiration.

On and on went the artful prevarications issuing from the grand standing NERDA Plaintiff. As his words filled the room, a visual image of an over taxed dam flashed in my minds eye. All the fabricated words of the NERDA Plaintiff were filling the reservoir behind the dam. The agitated angry emotion of the Deaf Defendant was filling the reservoir behind the dam. The heightened anticipation of ensuing legal bloodletting of the courtroom spectators filled the reservoir behind the dam. The over worked  and feverish mind of your Hero Interpreter was filling the reservoir behind the dam. Even the fascinating way the Deaf Material Witness was shrinking into her chair was filling the reservoir behind the dam. Higher and higher the tension in the courtroom built, adding unimaginable stress to the picture of the dam in my mind.

The tension continued to sore skyward as the NERDA Plaintiff continued to bloviate and I interpreted.

Turmoil and acrimony built as the Deaf Defendant visually drank in every word as the NERDA Plaintiff continued to bloviate and I interpreted.

Near hysterical apprehension climbed ever upward as the courtroom spectators sat on the edge of their chairs and stood on their tiptoes with hopes of epic legal bloodletting as the turmoil and acrimony built within the Deaf Defendant as he visually drank in every word of the NERDA Plaintiff's continuous bloviating on and I interpreted. 

On and on we went, unable to deescalate till suddenly...

I've heard that when people get swept up in a flash flood, a tsunami or an avalanche, they barely have time to respond. Here and now, I tell you this is true. When the dam in my mind burst, all pandemonium exploded in that courtroom. It burst when the Deaf Defendant jumped up and started to sign back at the bloviating NERDA Plaintiff that what he was saying was lies and inserted expletives that the Judge had previously banned. What was I to do?! Naturally, being the well trained interpreter, I belted out all the expletives I could to match the tone and tenor of the Deaf Defendant. Keep in mind, while I was letting swear words fly, I kept up my interpreting of the ceaseless verbal onslaught of the NERDA Plaintiff.     

Just then, the courtroom of spectators erupted as the Judge's gavel came crashing down, lifting him up out of his seat with each mighty blow. Over the thunderous exploding gavel hammering in my right ear, I could hear the Judge screaming, "Order! Order!", over and over. All I could do was continue to swear as venomously as the Deaf Defendant signed, sign as arrogantly as the NERDA Plaintiff spoke and interject as fiercely and thunderously as the Judge said "ORDER,ORDER!!".       

History says the President James A Garfield could write Latin with his left hand and Greek with his right hand, both at the same time. I once thought that was impressive. That is till I interpreted what the NERDA Plaintiff said, voiced what the Deaf Defendant swore, and thundered what the Judge screeched, all at the same time. Needless to say, my nostrils were flaring, my eyes were popping and I was sweating like a race horse.  

On and on this continued. Around and around it went for what seemed to my feverish mind an eternity. At the moment the blood vessels in my brain were nearing a catastrophic an simultaneous bursting, I heard the Judge say over the roaring of the courtroom spectators, the loudly obnoxious NERDA Plaintiff, overly excited Deaf Defendant, ( Its a well known fact, every Deaf person can pronounce each and every swear word with crystal clarity, regardless of how unskilled they maybe at regular spoken English. It's a fact...look it up.), and myself, blinded by professional madness, interpreting, "Shut the hell up you sorry ass interpreter!"

Instantly the courtroom went silent as I stopped yelling expletives, the Deaf Defendant went silent seeing the crazed look of the heavily panting and brightly red faced Judge. Why, even the arrogantly bloviating of the NERDA Plaintiff was stopped dead in mid mouthful of obfuscating twaddle. As I turned my head to look over my right shoulder, I can face to face with Death. ( I must admit, I very nearly peed myself as I looked into the Judge's eyes. )

In the spirit of brevity, knowing if I were to try and type out all the Judge preceded to unleash upon poor innocent me at that moment, the FCC would swoop down in all their regulatory splendor and ban this blog from ever being electronically published again. Let me just say that after a brilliant hour long defense of my professional conduct in the courtroom that day, and reminding the Judge that he had in fact had me swear an oath to faithfully render all communications, spoken and signed, no matter what circumstances my be in the court at any given moment, saved me from being charged with Contempt of Court. ( I cannot say how happy I was to hear that. Somehow I pictured Farah coming to the jail and laughing at me, then leaving me to serve out my contempt charge. )  Within record time, everyone involved in the case was sent home to await the ruling of the Judge in a week or two via a certified letter.

To this day, when I walk into a courtroom, I am still meet with the greeting, "Look, the Sorry Ass Interpreter is here". Such is the life of a highly trained bi-cultural/bi-lingual mediator.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Laughing Terror

I was just pondering what has to be the most diabolical chemical compound ever concocted in the history of the world. The unimaginable explosive power of this compound is mind-boggling. Splitting of atoms pale in comparison to the cataclysmic combination of a sudden fright and pregnancy hormones. I kid you not, an unforeseen fright to a pregnant woman has enormous effect. Now add in "Deaf pregnant woman" and the explosive power is astronomical.

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. )

The unfortunate incident happened on an early spring evening as I was headed home after interpreting at a local university. Still being in the hormone induced euphoric dementia of  newly wed-hood, my lovely young bride and I exchanged texts, dripping with nauseatingly sweet gigglings about how we pined away the day, yearning to gaze longingly and lovingly into the other's eyes. ( If I hear one more fake vomiting sound, I will be forced, in self defence mind you, to add more explicit and detailed romantic remembrances to this blog. ) 

Just before I pulled out of the parking lot, Farah sent me very romantic reminder that the next morning was trash day. ( I will have you naysayers know, it is a scientifically proven fact that a newly wed man's brain is so hyped up on what biologist have labeled "Whoopee Mania", that even a text about garbage day is romantic. It's a condition unique to recently married men, where enzymes are released, causing a increase to the wildly inflamed imagination of  a hormonally new husband. ) Without delay, I sent back a text that was so sweet I have no doubt her eyes got cavities just from reading it.

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.

Just as suddenly as she has stopped screaming, Farah quickly sucked in more air, impressively inflation her lungs to maximum size, and broke out into a second round of "WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH". All the time,  through this second round of screaming and knee weakening laughter, I had various thoughts flash through my mind like; "Seriously, again?!", "What is the average response time for the local police? The neighbors had to have called them by now with all the screaming.", "I wonder if the baby is deaf, I don't see a scream induced "Alien" like head emerging from her belly." and "Way to go manly man! The fierceness of my incredible imposing Charles Atlas physique has made a world record scream erupt out of your wife. High five to me!"

My self admiration was only cut short by the realization of silence. A quick glance to see the jovial, chipper face I had grown accustom to seeing. No, now I was looking into the malevolent mask of liberated, unrestrained, and unentertained pregnancy hormones. Death is the only synonym to describe the look that looked back at me from her heretofore amorous eyes. ( The mere thought now makes me nearly wet myself with fear! ) Then I saw it out of the corner of my eye, sudden movement of her hand, and my body spontaneously tensing for what surely had to be an almighty, eye balls ricocheting inside my skull, slap. Closing my eyes, for what could surely be the last time in my life, remembering all the stories I had read saying no man ever sees the bullet with his name on it, yet I just had seen mine and it looked strikingly like my fiercely beautiful wife's hand. I stood up straight, shoulders back, waiting for what could only be a life ending sting...but there was nothing.

The gray matter in my head suddenly sprang to life. One side of my brain calculated the odds that I could some how dive away to safety, while the other side of my brain started to wonder where the incoming cranium smashing whack had gone. Then I heard it...at first I was sure it was an hallucination from my fevered brain. How could there be laughter at this moment? Yet, there it was in my ears...her captivating, irresistibly seductive  laughter.  Instantly I knew she was cunningly trying to draw me into a trap, disarming me moments before I got the whack of death only an enraged pregnant deaf wife can deliver.  But she just kept laughing, bursting rays of hope into my troubled soul. With great trepidation I opened first one eye, then the other, only to see Farah bent over in a fit of laughter. What I thought was her raising her hand to slap me was in reality her reaching to get her buzzing cell phone. As I stood before her, eyes as big as softballs, all I saw was Farah  with her cell phone in her had, eyes weeping from laughing. She had just received and read my now blessed, lifesaving  message about getting the trash when I got home. I did the only thing a man could have done at that moment, I fell to my knees in grateful relief, knowing instinctively that the closer I was to the ground, the better chance to bear crawl away to safety, lest the pregnancy hormones take another unexplainable turn in mood and the blood letting resume.

Now don't ask me to explain how a pregnant wife can be ready to rip her husband  limb from limb like a ferocious beast one moment, only to be weak from laughter and hugging that same stunned and befuddled husband a split second later. ( As a point of fact, I heard that Albert Einstein was working on this mind boggling mystery up till the moment he passed away without success. Some say, and I happen to believe, it was the undecipherable enigma of pregnancy hormones that did the great thinker in.  ) All I know is that all men who have ever lived, are living, or ever shall live, should be eternally grateful for this mystery. No man should ever endeavor to solve this most perplexing of mysteries. No, take it from a man who knows first hand, we men are just to accept it and be eternally grateful for the unpredictability of pregnancy hormones.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Straddling Giggles

Public Schools, the down fall of many a good CODA. I kid you not. Public Schools are a minefield of unexploded cultural missteps. Unsuspecting, naive CODA's innocently cross the line of proper behavior in a hearing setting. Norms and mores that are perfectly acceptable in a home, centered around and governed by Deaf Culture, are totally out of place with in the cookie cutter, button down world of American public education as administered by hearing educators.

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

"Cut Out" is Troublesome

Language, what a funny thing. We use it all the time, yet we don't give a whole lot of thought to what happens with it after it leaves our mouth and or hands. Naturally, we all assume once we have shared what information we are trying to get across to another person, that's the end of it. We shared the information; they received the information; mission accomplished. That's what I thought till one day I arrived at Kisha's after school program to pick her up and take her home.

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. "

Incapable of speech, I gestured for Ms. Cherry to wait, spun around and looked for Kisha. Naturally, she was holding court with her friends across the big room. I did the only thing a CODA would do at that moment, I stomped on the cement floor, began the dance one does when attempting to get the attention of someone across the room, admittedly all the while looking much like a crazed baboon. Once I finally had the attention of a highly embarrassed Kisha, I signed in the overly exaggerated way one does when signing a message across a long distance...it's equivalent to raising your voice to be heard by a hearing person far away, yet only making loud noise, not clear communication. Signing loudly usually further embarrasses the person your signing to by creating an overabundance of garbled visual noise, entirely lacking any clarity of message. Reigning in my signs, I asked Kisha, "What did you tell Ms. Cherry  Mom lost her job? Mom didn't..."

 "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

Sweetest Day

Today is Sweetest Day. The finest example of mass marketing  hysteria every created. Where else in the world could such hype be thought up? Only a true evil genius would concoct a holiday that masquerades as a celebration of romance, when its nothing more than a sham to enrich the greeting card companies. There can be no finer example of capitalism.

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
Limpingly, I made it into the movie theatre with Farah holding me up. We picked an action packed movie. Action movies are much more deaf friendly, eliminating mind bogglingly long scenes of heartfelt dialogue that sucks all the enjoyment, and comprehrnsion, out of an uncaptioned movie. As luck would have it though, Buster the Projectionist left the projector on after the afternoon matinee, thereby burning out the filiment within the projection bulb. Being as in love as we were, that didn't damper our evening, so we walked around downtown, hand-in-hand, signing. ( That was not easy as you would think. You try walking hand-in-hand all the while signing and keeping an eye out for demon newspaper boxes. Trust me, it isn't easy.) Finally we made our way to Pop' Caffee and Fillin' Station for the best coffee in our fair city. Sitting at the counter of Pop's, it was made clear to me that this lady, who I was making goo goo eyes with, had ended my carefree days of bachlorhood.

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.