our summer vacay smiles (bunny-filter by Dane)
It was the first morning of our summer vacation. Before my eyes had opened, my brain registered this sound—light rain. Light rain with an unfamiliar bird chorus. I got out of bed, went over to a window of our adorable rental cottage and looked for the source of all this loveliness. No bird and no rain. This was the sound of a breeze blowing through thousands of heart-shaped leaves on an enormous poplar tree hanging over the lake. The wind was singing through them and the tree was responding with unanimous applause.
As I have often done since becoming the mother of a deaf son, I tried to stop hearing what I was experiencing and just see it. I plugged my ears, watched the light twinkling through leaf on leaf ruffling and the branches billowing. The whole scene became as delightfully visual as it had been auditory.
As a hearing person, honing my visual perspective has been an adapted skill. I’ve been working on my “deaf filter” for years so I could share more accurately and empathically with my son Dane. Paradoxically, my listening-filter has been equally important and just as challenging. A lot of auditory input is just taken for granted by hearing people. My friend Carter, a wise H&V-type mom, told me to think like this: raise Dane as if he hears everything and nothing all at the same time.
That seemed like the key . . . but I had no idea what that meant.
What it came to mean was this: Don’t lower your expectations of him but make sure Dane has everything he needs to meet them.
What did he need? There were plenty of people with an opinion on that, but I wanted his perspective. He was too little to tell me for such a long time, so I practiced seeing the world like he saw it. I still do.
I try to think of myself as Deaf looking at the trees lifting leaf on leaf . . . lovely and loving.
I try to think of myself as Deaf . . . feeling a face without touching it.
I can’t hear them . . . I have missed every joke, every barb, every insult, every condescension and offense that is What are ya, deaf or something?
I apply a profoundly-deaf filter to see the things I want to remember more completely.
Nowadays Dane shares his perspectives readily. I want to capture them, so we started co-writing a book this year that includes his thoughts on many of the issues I’ve explored in this column. It’s time to for him to have his say. I expect to know him better after reading what he writes.
Dane is excited about this. Months ago when it was still winter, he sent me a three-word text: leaf on leaf
Intuitively, I replied Is that the title of our book? He wrote, Yes.
Now I know why.
(From my regular column, In a Perfect World, this essay appears in the Fall 2017 issue of The Communicator)