Living with a deaf mother


Some of my favorite childhood memories involve being delighted by delicious smells, courtesy of my mother's hard work, as I walked through the door. Everything about my mom represents home to me. She is normalcy in every sense of the word.

She is also deaf.

I am glad to tell my mother’s story in honor of Deaf Awareness Week, but not simply because I want people to be more aware that there are deaf people in this world. Instead, I want people to understand what deaf is - and what it is not.

For my mother, it meant a unique childhood. She played on playgrounds, rode horses and laughed like her other “normal” brothers and sisters.

But she also missed out on some things. 

No one noticed she had a problem until she was 5 years old and going to school for the first time. Most likely, the loss was disguised by the fact that it was gradual and she had instinctively become a very good lip-reader.

Her hearing continued to worsen, and by the time she was in her thirties, hearing aids were no longer of much use. She decided to get her first cochlear implant.

Soon after she had gotten her "new ears,” she began asking us what certain sounds were. 

At 6 years old, it never occurred to me that telling her she was hearing birds sing for the first time would be cause for her to weep.

In fact, it never occurred to me that she had never heard birds before. For the first time I was beginning to understand just how much she had been missing.

My mom has always seemed normal to me, and others agree. So whenever I tell people she is deaf, they are shocked. 

“But she seems so normal,” is the common response. 

I think that is odd, almost like they look at her differently. Before they knew, she seemed normal, but now that they know, she is not. 

I don’t like it when people infer that deaf people are not normal.

Who decided normal meant “like you?”

No one can claim to have shared all the same experiences and hardships as another person. Why are people with mental or physical differences singled out?

My mother's disability does not define her. She is a mom, a wife, a postal carrier, etc.

In honor of deaf awareness week, I propose a challenge. 

Instead of getting stuck on the differences you have with others, be aware that everyone lives and suffers in different ways than you. Then you will begin to realize that "normal" is relative in every sense of the word.