Sleepy Greetings

It’s 10:30 on a Saturday morning, and I’m ready to start the day. I go to wake up my boyfriend, Tyler, gently pushing on his chest.  

“Honey, it’s time to wake up. Let’s go!” 

He grumbles and grunts, rustling the sheets and not opening his eyes.  

“Sweetie, wake up!” 

I shake his shoulders very slightly, just enough to slightly rouse him. 

Still asleep, he turns over to face me and just slightly lifts his head up. Without ever opening his eyes, he brings his fingertips to his chin, palm perpendicular to his body, and his thumb tucked in. He then collapses onto the bed and lays there, almost lifeless. 

For people that don’t know sign language, what he just said to me was “bitch.” 

I sat in bed with my arms crossed, giving him the dirtiest look I possibly can, even if he can’t see it. I play games on my phone, waiting for him to wake up.  

He finally wakes up over an hour later, and I stare sternly at him, with my lips pursed and my brow scrunched. 

“Excuse me, Tyler. Do you remember what you said to me this morning?” 

He looks at me, confused. “No, what did I do?” 

I cross my arms and tell him, “You called me a bitch in sign language.” 

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This Isn’t My Job

My boyfriend, Tyler, and I have decided to go to a deaf luncheon. My mom helps plan the luncheon each year and my uncle is president of the organization that hosts the luncheon, so I figured that it could be fun. Tyler has never been around this many deaf people at once, so I know it’ll be an interesting experience for him.  

As soon as I walk in the door, I’m being pulled aside by mom and another volunteer, because I’ve been offered up as an interpreter. I’ve been told that the person who was supposed to interpret is going to be here late, so now it’s my job to interpret Frosty The Snowman while they put on a skit. I’m not prepared to interpret in front of over a hundred deaf people and I want to hide somewhere. My 15 year old cousin, Frankie, keeps laughing at me, knowing how terrible it can be to be offered up as an interpreter, even though he’s fairly young.  

I’m in a back room with the deaf dance team, trying to figure out how the hell to sign this damn song. Another woman heads into the room with us and I’m told that she’s an actual interpreter. She takes a shot at practicing the song, trying to see if she can figure out how to interpret it.  

She’s doing a hell of a lot better than I could have done and everyone is fawning over her. If this was something I actually cared about, I would be upset, but this is my worst nightmare and she’s saving me from it. 

“Don’t be insulted, I do this for a living and I’m a professional interpreter.” 

I can’t help but laugh at that. “That’s absolutely fine. I’m just a CODA.”  

I run out of that room and back to our table, so freaking happy that I don’t have to interpret for a bunch of people that will absolutely judge me if I do this incorrectly.  

The interpreter does amazing in front of everyone, and Tyler leans over to me and says, “Yeah, she’s a lot better than you would have been.” 

Some people may consider that to be an insult, but I know it’s just the truth and I’m not even a little bit insulted. 

Tasty Treats

My mom and I had decided to go to Dunkin’ Donuts as a treat to ourselves after a long day of errands. I’m nine, so this is the most amazing thing that could happen to me. We look at all of our options, and I’m feeling rabid for sugar. I can smell the sweet dough in the air and my stomach is screaming at me.  

I turn and sign to my mom. “What do you want me to order?” I’m already used to being an interpreter for her and am fully aware that I am her voice in public. 

“You choose anything you want for both of us.” She smiles at me, knowing that this is a dream come true. 

Even though I’m young, I’m very conscious of the eyes on us as we sign to one another. I don’t mind much, but I don’t really understand why everyone feels the need to stare at two people communicating. 

I walk up to the counter with my mom, eyeing the chocolate donuts. The man behind the counter looks at me with sad eyes and greets me.  

“Hi honey, what can I get for you two?” 

I tap my fingers on my chin, not really sure why I am, I just know that I’ve seen people in movies do it while they think.  

“I would like the double chocolate donut and the chocolate donut with sprinkles, please and thank you!” 

He grabs the donuts and hands them to us and my mom pays, while I examine my goodies. 

“Don’t leave yet, give me one second.”  

The man turns around and grabs another donut, while I translate what he said to my mom, both of us standing there, confused.  

He hands us a chocolate glazed long john, which I add to my treasure. 

“I’m sorry your mom can’t hear.” 

“Okay, thank you!” 

My mom and I walk out and she asks me what had just happened. I knew that this situation was weird, but I was too young to understand just how weird this was. Things like this happened fairly often, and it wasn’t until much later that I had understood that I was being pitied for my parents being disabled.

Learning to communicate pt. 2

So I had written about my experience learning how to speak and sign, but I wanted to talk about the opposite of that. My parents are still learning how to speak to this day, because they often mispronounce a word, so I teach them how to speak. I mostly do this with my mom, but if she can’t say a word correctly, we’ll sit together and I’ll slowly say the word and have her copy me. If that doesn’t work, something that she’ll do is put her hand on my throat while I speak and compare the vibrations from my vocal cords to her own.

However, there’s also another side of learning to communicate. By that, I mean that my hearing friends have to figure out a way to communicate without just relying on me to interpret. I often forget that not everyone understands my parents, so I don’t always interpret for friends until they struggle to understand and it clicks for me. One example I have is of my boyfriend. In the 3.5 years that we’ve been together, he has recently gotten much better at understanding and figuring out other ways to communicate other than just having me be the middle man.

Superpowers

In my personal experience, I’ve always noticed that since my parents were deaf, it was always like their other senses were extremely heightened. I’ve briefly talked about this in another blog post, but they would smell my chocolate the second I opened the wrapper and know I was sneaking candy.

Even now, they both can smell things that I can’t at all. We do have to take the garbage out slightly more than I’d like to, because my parents can smell any garbage even with a scented bag and hiding the garbage can under the sink.

Besides having a super heightened sense of smell, they didn’t have many other superpowers, but they used that superpower extremely well. It was usually to catch me feeding my sugar addiction, but as parents it was the best superpower they could probably ask for.

CODA Habits

There are a lot of things that I’ve noticed I do because of the fact that I’m a CODA. They’re mostly just a bunch of random little habits that I’ve picked up over my 25 years of life and how it’s all influenced me.

One thing I do often is sign to myself. Instead of talking to myself, I’ll subtly sign or finger spell my thoughts or a song that’s on my mind. I’ve already mentioned this in an older blog, but I often finger spell words so that I can visualize how things are spelled. Even as I’m typing this, I actually caught myself signing my thoughts to myself instead of typing and deleting everything.

Another habit that I have because of being a CODA is that I visualize things different than most. What I mean by that is that when talking about a certain place, I’ll point in a direction that may not be the actual direction of where that place is. That’s because of sign language in general and how places are referred to. While signing, you don’t need to point in the exact direction of where you’re talking about, but instead you place it somewhere and visualize it in front of you. After placing it in front of yourself, that’s where it lives. This is fairly hard to explain in just a blog and it can be confusing to people who didn’t grow up like this. It’s actually something I only recently realized that I even do, because I’ll often point in a direction when talking to my boyfriend and every time I do that, he gets extremely confused because it’s not how hearing brains work.

Live Entertainment

So you may think that things like acting onstage may be hard for a deaf person and that they may only be able to get parts as deaf people, but I’m here to tell you the opposite. There is a whole world of deaf theatre that most people would be surprised about.

As a kid, I distinctly remember going to see deaf shows and how much I loved it. How it works is that every character on stage will sign, although they don’t all talk. The cast is also not all deaf, but some were interpreters or coda’s like me. People that didn’t talk had voice actors in the front row speaking for them while they act and dance.

Something that many people have probably seen in their life is that you don’t clap for deaf people. Instead, applause is shown by raising your hands above your head and shaking your hands, almost like you’re trying to get water off of them.