Saturday, December 30, 2006

MUSIC

My daughter has been spending several afternoons a week with my mother. What do I do with the free time? Listen to music at really high volumes. Not the Curious George soundtrack, which I actually adore. And not even Madonna's Immaculate Collection, which my daughter adores. I've been listening to Hole. To Pink Floyd's The Wall. I've been listening to REM. The music I listened to before I went deaf. I test myself to see how much of it I notice missing at a regular listening volume, and then I just blast it into my living room so I can see at what decibel level I can hear all those fabulous nuances I'd forgotten at some point were there. This is how the deaf girl entertains herself when she's all alone.

The real truth of the matter is that other than what I've lost in music, I am really quite comfortable with the whole deafness thing now. I think the shift occured this summer when I stopped saying, "I'm going deaf." I just, instead, started saying, "deaf." That was it for me. A simple act of acceptance in a word. If you're becoming something, you live in a state of anticipation and its consequent fear. But if you are something, then that's just a fact of being. I think that as long as I was, in my perception, "going deaf," I was hoping that something would somehow stop it. It became exhausting to check in on it, guaging how much hearing I'd lost overnight or something. I'm much happier being deaf than I was when I was losing my hearing. I now have energy to focus on other things. Like rocking out to track 10 of Celebrity Skin.

LIPREADER

LIPREADER

Maybe he likes to be
listened to by the deaf girl,

the way she watches
each word begin deep

beneath his facial muscles
before it even becomes

a thought. He likes to see
her turn her entire body

toward him, square her
shoulders as though

she’s about to listen with her heart.
When she’s ready, she lets him know

he has her full attention. She’s
focused. She takes a breath.

She lets him know she’s
ready to have this conversation,

just as an astronaut is ready
to step onto the moon

or a cloud is ready
to burst open with attentive rain

and he’s forgotten what he
wants to say but wants so badly

to move his lips.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Daughter, My Deafness

"You can't be deaf," my 3 year old daughter says into the rearview mirror at a stoplight. "You have to be my mama."
The light turns green and I readjust the mirror so to see the traffic behind me.
My daughter's face disappears, as does her voice. What I want to do is pull over, get out, crawl into the seat next to her carseat and insist that my deafness has nothing to do with whether or not I can "be" her "mama." I don't want the drama though. I don't want to frighten her. At the very least I don't want her to think she can drop bombs like that and get me to pull over every time.
"I am your mama. Nothing changes that."

The conversation began because I was practicing my signing at the stoplight. She asked, "Are you signing?" Then she started waving her arms in the air, "I'm signing, too." As we pull onto the Interstate I tell her that once we both can sign it won't matter if I can't hear everything. I tell her that this is why it's important to practice. In my mind, I'm signing this.

As we drive home, in the far corner of my eye, I see her little hands making words in the air. Her words. It is the same as the gibberish she first spoke when as a baby she realized mouths are important for more than nursing and crying. This is sign language baby talk, and I encourage it just as I encouraged her early attempts at speech.

In my heart, I'm breaking a little. I'm feeling the urgency of establishing her trust that I'll always hear her in one way or another. It's also trust in myself that I'm trying to establish. She knows I love her. She'll always know that.

"I'm deaf too," she says when we get home, her hands moving the air between us. She then asks, "Why are you deaf?"

Here are the answers to this questions: (I've tried all of them, and each time they form the why-loop toddlers are so good at creating)
"I am deaf because my ears don't hear everything."
"My ears don't hear everything because your great-Poppee was deaf."
"Great Poppee was deaf because his body's ears didn't work."

"I am deaf because God thought I should listen more."

And then we get onto God and then on and on and on.