while studying sign language i learned that hearing people who have a deaf child regularly do not learn sign language themselves. they don’t learn it even when signing is the preferred mode of communication of their child.
it’s a complicated issue with a long history and strong opinions on many sides, but as a student, to me, the obvious reason was acceptance.
the obvious reason was that a hearing parent could not accept that their child was deaf and they were still waiting for the fix to come along. for them to learn to talk with their hands was a way of giving up, of saying that the fix ain’t coming.
maybe even that there wasn’t anything to fix.
we played hooky on monday and i didn’t take mazzy.
i would have had, the kids would have had, a different sort of day if mazzy was there. not bad. just different. so i dropped her off at school and we headed out to the botanical gardens.
the kids ran off where my eyes couldn’t follow and i reminded myself that it was okay. that they would come when i called.
fall beauty kept tugging at my eyes. i saw a late monarch flit in the perennial garden and i couldn’t look away. i couldn’t move my feet. i meant to walk towards ella’s laughter, but i kept looking at that butterfly. its drop and catch flight against the blue sky.
i don’t know who blinked first.
i walked and took note of the sky.
the gathered billowing clouds were pulled apart like spun silk and in between they were gauze, like the spider web puffs pulled near to invisible over the bushes in front of suburban homes this month. finest lines of clouds connecting one to the other and thought i’d never seen it quite like that before.
i got to walk around. i got to see.
we played hooky on a perfect day in late september. mazzy went to school.
sometimes we’re most offended by things that are actually true of our own lives that we can’t face.
i was so righteous when it came to the hearing parent who refuses to learn sign language. and when i was younger, i ranted about the horrors of abusing a child – but if you’d asked me if i’d ever been abused, i would have said no.
our pain comes out sideways and half true.
it may be that our battles with special education all these years have less to do with the most appropriate setting for mazzy and more to do acceptance or lack there of of her disability.
i can’t truly appreciate what it means to have down syndrome. i can only guess and quickly forget and start again assuming that mazzy is just like me.
i reset at typical.
and i guess i need to accept that, too.
at the heart of this child/parent difference – hearing and deaf; typical and special needs is a separation, a divide, that no parent wants to embrace. to release the hope for an eventual sameness; like that of my other children and myself – well it just feels like bad parenting.
it feels like letting mazzy go into some abyss that i won’t be able to retrieve her from.
but every parent has to let go, i know that. maybe through grief, through actually losing them. maybe because they get to go to college across the country. maybe when they walk down the aisle. i know we have to let kids go.
but disability brings it so soon. too soon.
we walk back to our car. abe and ella have cups of frozen yogurt with toppings piled on high. they get right in their seats, no stopping to crouch down low and look at the tiny stones inlaid in the cement. no waiting and reminding. no bargaining, no running.
we’ve got to get going, i tell them. we’ve got to hurry. we need to go pick up mazzy. she gets out of school at three. we need to go get our sister.