Love you Mom... Thumbs up Dad
It never dawned on me that having deaf parents was anything special. I never hid the fact that my parents couldn't hear but I didn't openly discuss it with my friends. In fact, most of my classmates growing up had no idea I used another language when I went home. My teachers would be cast into the awkward position of meeting my folks for the first time, not knowing how to communicate with a deaf person. Then they would always seem to apologize for the awkwardness and they would sit shocked, watching me or my sister interpret the meeting. Parent/Teacher night always proved to be entertaining.
The other day, I was listening to the radio while driving to an assignment and I heard a comedian introduced as a funny guy who had deaf parents. He was a CODA, (Child of Deaf Adults) and the announcer went on with a hint of curiosity and mild excitement as he questioned the guy about this odd concept. "Wow, what was that like?", and "So you know sign language, cool" It got me thinking, maybe it is pretty cool after all. Frankly, I am so used to the concept of having deaf parents that it has always been normal but its easy to forgot that my normal is miles away from average.
It was GREAT having deaf parents! Really, I would recommend it to anyone "shopping" the idea around. Not only do you get to learn a cool language with your hands or be apart of some fascinating culture, you get to be as loud as you want! Granted, the luster of being loud diminishes as we get older. At 16, the last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself but at age 7, I was yelling, "THUNDER CATS, THUNDER CATS, HOOOOOO!!!" at any and every public outing. I never got in trouble, my father never told me to be quiet, and in my mind I was free to be a Thunder Cat! It makes sense now looking back, my sister never liked being seen with me in public... Sigh, hearing people.
I was in 8th grade when that new Snoop Dogg album came out! I was so excited and had my Mother take me to the mall to buy the new cassette tape, (folks born in the 90's, Cassettes was pre CD and post 8-Track). Let me tell you, I was the coolest kid on the planet. The whole school could hear us coming a block away, my Mom driving me to school blasting some S-N-OO-P, D-O-GG-Y, D-O-GG, you see! Windows rolled down in that 1985 Chrysler 5th Avenue and she would drop me off right at the front steps! Some days, I would just leave the music on and let her drive away. I always wondered about the looks she would get in that small Texas town. My friends would come up to me and say, "Man, your mom is awesome!!" I know, she was pretty cool and she didn't even know it. Sorry Mom
Although I never really identified myself as a CODA, they actually have meetings at local, state, and national levels for gatherings to discuss all things pertaining to children of deaf adults. It really is a special group of folks that by birth are thrust into two cultures and at a young age are required to interpret between them. What is normal? I didn't think it was odd when my father required us to watch television without sound for a couple of hours a day. We weren't allowed to use our voice at dinner and all family discussions were by hands only! Punishments usually included reading some kind of deaf history book from my father's massive library and then writing a book report before all was forgiven. Needless to say, I quickly became an expert on Laurent Clerc, (If you don't know of him, you didn't have deaf parents). Am I normal? No. Are my parents methods of punishment normal? No. But it has given me a deep respect for the culture and language that I share with my family, deaf Americans, and other CODAs.
When I look back at my upbringing, I have come to the conclusion that being different has taught me to be more understanding. I was raised in two worlds, one hearing and one deaf. They both gave me perspective and an appreciation for what I have and who I am. So I might not have realized it before but yeah, being a CODA is pretty cool... But as I learned from the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue" down the road when my son gets in trouble, I think I'll have him read.... A FICTION, A BIOGRAPHY, A SELF HELP! Anything but Laurent Clerc!!
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