Hearing in a Deaf World
Hearing in a Deaf World
Another question I’ve been asked frequently is how it was different for me as a hearing child of deaf parents. The answer is that it was absolutely the same as growing up with hearing parents, but with differences. My parents taught us right from wrong, they worried about us, they punished us when it was warranted, and they made sure we were loved and cared for just as hearing parents would. My mother was the enforcer and my father was the good guy and the one we wanted to judge our offenses. There were always more similarities than differences, yet the differences were largely glaring.
Before Video Phones and TTY devices before that, my brother and I had to make phone calls on behalf of my parents and be their interpreter when someone called our house. There was no training for us on proper phone etiquette – my parents didn’t know how to use the telephone and couldn’t teach us - but we did the best we could for them. I remember one call that my mom asked me to make for her. I don’t recall who it was or why I was calling, but the very rude woman who answered yelled at me to not call back and hung up on me, but not before I heard her say “this is ridiculous – there’s a stupid kid calling and she SAYS she’s calling for her DEAF mother? Yeah, sure……” and then the click of the phone being hung up. It was one of a handful of times that I remember being so upset that making phone calls for my parents was my job. I cried after this particular call and pleaded with my mother to please ask someone else to make it for her – maybe my aunt or grandmother. I was always a sensitive child and this particular call shook me to my core – I’m not sure why it affected me so much, but it did. I dreaded any time my mother asked me to make a phone call for her for a long time after this one, but I understood that it was one of my jobs and I had to just do it.
When the TTY was invented, the deaf community was elated. A whole new world was opened up to them. They could finally call each other and their loved ones on the phone! Well, they could call whomever had a device, at first. The first TTY we had was a huge machine with a keyboard and a paper roll. The words of both parties on the call were printed out and that was how the conversation occurred – the first text messages! I can recall my mom going back and reading old phone calls, much like the way I read back her old text messages after she passed. It was a way of reconnecting with someone you love and remembering conversations you had with them.
As time passed, it seemed as though the latest and greatest TTY devices came out in rapid succession. They became more like computers, until they were eventually replaced with video phones and now iPhones. I’m so grateful for the deaf community to have these devices, which provide them with freedoms that my parents never had and spares their hearing children from having to make sometimes difficult calls on their behalf.
Hearing in a Deaf World. The Series.
More to follow.