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.

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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.

Deaf Events

Growing up, I knew a lot of the deaf community in the suburbs, and that’s because of something called the Western Suburban Assosciation of the Deaf, or WSAD. WSAD is a huge community with lots of fun events for deaf people, and it was the only time I ever communicated with other CODA’s.

There were two events that I looked forward to every year. There was a big deaf picnic during the summer that I always liked, and it was how I ended up meeting one of my good friends. The other was candlelight bowling. Every year around Christmas, WSAD would host a Christmas bowling party and it was what I looked forward to every year.

WSAD is how my parents have also met a lot of their friends because there are a lot more deaf events than you may think. There is a deaf bowling league that my dad is involved in, there’s a big deaf day at six flags, and deaf ice cream socials. I haven’t been to a deaf event in many years, but I remember loving them as a child and I remember being really excited to go to everything every year. These events are a great way to immerse yourself in deaf culture, and there’s even a huge deaf expo at Harper College every year that I definitely recommend checking out if you’re interested in this world!

Animal Behavior

Something that I think is really interesting is how animals interact with humans and how they adapt to certain things. You may be asking what this has to do with either deaf people or being a CODA. Well, throughout my life, I haven’t had many pets, but when I was in high school, my dad adopted some cats.

When I meet other deaf people that have animals, I like to ask them if they think their pets know that they’re deaf, because my cats absolutely know that my dad is deaf. They love my dad and they know exactly how to get his attention. They still meow at him, but they know that he won’t be able to hear them, so they will always reach up and tap on his arm with their paws. I don’t know many other cats that do that with hearing people, but these cats have adapted and know that tapping is the best way to get attention.

A few years ago, I was cat sitting for my dad, and at the time, the cats didn’t have free range of the house and lived in my dads bedroom. It was fairly late at night and I woke up because they were running around the room and jumping in boxes. I woke up and turned on the light and yelled, “Hey! I can hear you!” Since then, they know that I can hear and have even adapted to that.

Getting Permission

So, as I’ve said many times before, growing up was very different for me. For example, my mom or dad couldn’t just pick up the phone and call me out sick from school. They would have to use the TTY and relay service that I mentioned in another blog post and call that way. Something that I contemplated many times was calling myself out of school since no one could truly prove that it was me and not my parents. I was always way too scared to do that though, so I was a mostly good kid and went to school.

One experience that I had difficulty with was when I was 17 and in the car with friends when we got into a pretty bad car accident. All my friends were able to call their parents and have them tell the paramedics that they didn’t need to go to the hospital since none of us were badly hurt. However, I couldn’t do that. I had to have my mom actually come to the accident, which luckily was only a mile away from my house. I’ve had a lot of experiences with things like that, where I have to do a lot of explaining that my mom can’t just get on the phone and give permission for something. I remember being really happy that we weren’t far away, and that my mom could easily drive the five minutes to me.

I’ve had a lot of experiences where I have to pose as my mom on the phone because the phone company or whoever I’m talking to for her won’t let me make decisions or changes for her, even though she’s deaf and can’t just get on the phone and authorize something. I definitely understand the reasoning, but at the same time, it can be a hassle. Although my parents being deaf has always been an easy way out of a telemarketer conversation. I would always answer the phone and when they asked for a parent, I’d say they were deaf and I would always get lots of apologies and a quick end to the conversation.

Going Deaf

Something I get asked often is how my parents became deaf and if I’m worried that my children could be deaf. Deafness happens in so many ways and I actually think it’s really interesting to hear everyone’s stories because they can be so unique.

With my mom, she had a fever of 106 at 4 months old, and that essentially melted her hearing away. However, doctors didn’t know she was deaf for quite some time. My grandma would take her to the doctor because she was concerned that her daughter wasn’t really reacting to noise. Every time she would go to the doctor, they would call my mom’s name and tap on the bed that she was on, thinking she was reacting to the sound, when really she was reacting to the movement. It took my grandma hiring specialists to finally realize that she was deaf.

My dad was born deaf and there wasn’t really ever an explanation that we knew of. We recently learned that his mom had a fever during her pregnancy and that caused stress on the pregnancy and he lost his hearing from that. The doctors didn’t predict that he would be deaf, but thought he might have learning disabilities.

Because of how my mom became deaf, I don’t have a super high chance of my children becoming deaf, but because of the advances in technology and because of my upbringing, I know that having deaf children won’t be a difficult thing for me to deal with.