You Think You See, But You Have No Idea

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Jasper, Alabama, United States

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Mom: The Fighter

I'm part of the 1980's hearing impaired "lets figure out how to fix them" children. You know, the time when they were discovering that early detection was key. Experimenting with what would work - audio, visual, cued... Then putting us out there with hearing aids to fend for ourselves so they could see how it worked. A time when hearing impairment was still "in the closet".
My mom had never seen nor heard of a hearing impaired child with hearing aids when I was diagnosed and fitted with my aids. (December 1979) If a child was hearing impaired with hearing aids it was probably stricken with other conditions that landed it in an institution of sorts. That was the idea people had then anyway. It probably didn't help that I lived in rural Alabama at the time either. I was fortunate that we were swept up by a team of specialist in Birmingham that were doing the, "mainstreaming concept". They went a little too far I think, because for most of my life I didn't realize I was hearing impaired... lol
Of course it was better than putting me in an institution (my mom visited one for the deaf and hard of hearing, and says it was horrid experience, after which she was sold on the "mainstreaming concept" even if no one else was!) I was the youngest child that my audiologist had ever fitted with aids. I was 3 months shy of my 3rd birthday. My mom says that she and dad were so excited to find out I was hearing impaired, because everyone thought I was mentally retarded or worse. Seriously. Even our family doctor just thought I was a spoiled mean brat. I was the baby of 5 kids, my mom knew better, and at her urging he sent me to an ENT in Birmingham. One of the first things they asked my mom was if she was sure she wanted to know what was wrong with me, because it could be more than hearing impairment if it was hearing impairment at all. After a diagnosis there was no turning back into oblivion. My mom never blinked. She HAD to know. Turns out I wasn't spoiled or mean.
Then it was time to go pick up my hearing aids. I have no memory of this trip and what memories I think I have, could have been planted by the many times I've had my mom tell me the story. This is how it goes.
It was December and snowing. The trip to Birmingham took over an hour in the late 70's because the interstate hadn't come through yet. I was sitting in my moms lap as the audiologist put the ear molds in my ears measured them to the aids, removed the molds, cut them, adjusted the aids and then slipped them into my ears. When they were turned on, I peed in my pants and all over my moms lap. I looked up at my mom with scared eyes, and she reassured me it was okay. And in a matter of minutes it was. The ride home was filled with wonder as I watched the big diesel trucks pass by and listened to the sound that their tires made in the snow.
I was never the same after that. Even the family doctor was shocked to see my changed behavior.
My mom once told me that she believe children who where hearing impaired were either introverted or fighters, thats how we survive. I always thought of myself as an introvert, she always referred to me as a fighter.
As an adult I know, I am a fighter.
After all, I learned from the best.


Anonymous said...

I'm from the same generation of deaf children of the fix them mentality. I was mainstreamed too, so I could relate.

If you don't mind, I'd like to point out it is very difficult to read your blog because of the colors- maybe choose a different text color to contrast against the background?

kym said...

How interesting.
You and your mom both sound like fighters.

Good post.