Monday, March 23, 2009

Eh, what's that, you say?

So Josi asked me a total fluff question: I want to know at what point in your growing up years did you realize that you're parents were deaf and that most parents were not? Also, did you ever fear you were going deaf as a kid? And did you get made fun of, and how did you deal with that? I'd love to hear how you personally came to accept that issue in your life and how it relates to you as an adult.

Geez, Josi. Could you throw me a bigger softball?

Let's see...I'm betting I probably realized there was a difference when we moved to Louisiana from California. In California, we attended the LA deaf ward and all of my hearing friends had deaf parents, too. I wasn't old enough for school yet so there was no environment where I would see anything different. Louisiana was different. My parents were the only deaf Mormons around. I started school. None of my friends had deaf parents. I began fielding a lot of questions about why they were deaf and how I learned how to talk, all that stuff. There was no single moment where I remember an epiphany but I'm guessing that's how I eventually figured it all out.

I don't remember fearing going deaf, only because being deaf didn't seem like that big of a deal. My parents were both educated, successful, respected professionals with friends and hobbies and a nice house. There's nothing bad about that. In face, when my oldest son was born, he failed the newborn hearing test twice. The nurse brought him back after the second one and tried to reassure me that he'd probably pass at his two week check up so I shouldn't worry.

"But if he doesn't pass, does it mean he's deaf?" I asked her.

"It might," she answered. "Don't worry, though. I'm sure he'll pass."

I shrugged. "I don't care if he's deaf," I said.

She looked appalled. Her expression clearly suggested that she thought maybe that the baby shouldn't be going home with me later that afternoon.

James's dad laughed. "Don't be a dork, Melanie. Tell her."

I grinned. "My parents are deaf," I said. "It's really not a big deal if he is, too."

She looked much relieved.

So, no, I never really feared becoming deaf. Besides, it's not genetic on either side of my family. It's rarely hereditary, actually. I think the figure is down near 10%.

I don't ever remember being made fun of, or of my parents being made fun of, either. People have always been more fascinated than mean. It helps that my parents were both articulate and easy to understand. I do remember several times where adults (cashiers, counter agents, nurses, etc.) were impatient or uncomfortable in dealing with my parents. That made me super angry. Often, I would refuse to help them (the other adults) talk to my parents, so that they were forced to deal with my mom or dad instead of coming through me and treating my parents as inconvenience. My parents always got a kick out of that. I stepped in where there was a genuine problem or disconnect, but only if the other adult was truly trying to communicate to begin with.

However, just to be clear, even though my parents' deafness was normal to me, that doesn't mean I didn't resent it sometimes. It's natural for us CODAs, Children of Deaf Adults. Most of us carry a certain resentment for a while. But I think I'll save that part of the question for tomorrow.

I also haven't forgotten the other questions some of you guys asked (Nancy, Erin, etc.) and I'll answer them, too.

I feel like I should have a more conclusive ending to this post today.

But I don't.

The End.


Debbie said...

What a testament to your parents, I think, that the idea of your son being deaf was no big deal to you. That was an amazing gift they gave you for you to be able to see that life might be a little different, but wouldn't be bad. Remarkable.

Kazzy said...

So, I am assuming your son passed the hearing test later on. To have such successful and great parents is a blessing no matter the circumstances. Living a happy and fulfilled life is the best way to teach our kids to be happy.

Cool post. Thanks.

Annette Lyon said...

This brings me back to my Deaf culture class at BYU. It was taught by a Deaf woman who came from a Deaf family (very rare, as you know). I would have loved to have heard from a CODA.

Kristina P. said...

I'm so glad someone asked you about this. I've always wondered how children without disabilities view their home when both parents have disabilities.

Jami said...

The end is very conclusive.

I guess I haven't been paying attention much, because I didn't realize you had deaf parents. Sorry about that.

Kimberly said...

Remind me not to ask Josi for a fluffy question ever...goodness! Fascinating post though. I love getting glimpses of things I don't understand and sort of nodding and going, yeah...yeah, that totally makes sense.

Becky said...

Very cool post. I'll definitely be back tomorrow!

Emily said...

Very interesting. Loved the ending.

Erin said...

How interesting! I'm kind of jealous that you are fluent in ASL.

wendy said...

Well, now that was certainly something I didn't know --that your parents were deaf. Once I had a best friend who was deaf (and I became very adept at sign language) I still use it a bit with deaf patrons here at the court.

Heidi Ashworth said...

This probably sounds super ignorant but were there simply more deaf people in Louisiana in order to make up a deaf ward? I mean, it seems odd that there would be a whole ward of deaf people in one place like that and then there not be one in Calfornia (though I am sure there is/was one somewhere in CA).

LisAway said...

Why did I get a little tearful at your, "I don't care if he's deaf."?

I have a lot of questions like why were they deaf and how did you learn to talk. :) Just kidding (sort of)

I love posts about your upbringing.

Tristi Pinkston said...

What an awesomely supportive daughter you are ... and what a poor befuddled nurse. :)

Shellie said...

Great Post Melanie!

One of the things I love about blogging is that not only is it entertaining and fullfilling but also educational and a way to understand others!