Monday, October 11, 2004

A "one-person wrecking crew" gets through the week.

I've been quiet for a few days... the last week has been kind of stressful. The most important thing on our minds right now is that Husband's mom is unwell. Without going into details out of respect for her privacy, she's expected to be okay, but I don't have to tell those of you with aging parents that it is terribly upsetting when they get ill. I am extremely, extremely fond of my mum-in-law, in fact I call her "Mum" because Husband does. My own family is far away and she and my dad-in-law have been the best surrogate parents they could be to me, knowing how I miss my family. They are the much-loved matriarch and patriarch of a big extended family, and when they are ill, there is a lot of anxious worry. And of course I worry about Husband worrying, and the responsibility on his shoulders, and so on and so forth, world without end...

Last week, Husband was in Montreal for several days and it was the first time I had lived alone since going deaf. That was stressful, too -- hard on him, hard on me.

Hard on him because one can, if one is not careful, become a one-person wrecking crew without sound cues -- and I am still just learning the mistakes to be made, then learning how to avoid them. I have on three separate occasions walked blissfully out of a room leaving faucets on full-blast behind me -- no floods, thankfully. I have knocked objects off tables and books off bookshelves and strolled on without realizing it. I have broken a wine glass while putting away air-dried dishes because, I think, I didn't realize without aural cues that it was there and how harshly I was handling the dishes. I can't hear when the oven or the microwave timers go off. I left a debit card in the machine - didn't hear the "beep beep beep" reminding me to take it with me. While every experience is a lesson learned, and I have begun developing systems for making sure I am more careful, Husband was not particularly happy about leaving me alone for three days (especially in charge of the fretted-over indoor cats!). So we made checklists and posted them by the door ("faucet off?" "microwave off?") and I promised to go through each one every morning as I left for work (and I did, too); and I text-messaged him each day at 9 am and 9 pm; and I generally behaved myself because I understand how hard this is for him.

Hard for me because I found the time pretty miserable; I told him the house was far too "visually quiet" without anyone else moving at eye level. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to fall asleep at night, but I did, almost instantly, every night, because I suppose my nervousness about any potential unheard intruder was outweighed by sheer exhaustion (besides day job I had class on Tuesday and Thursday nights and worked on Wednesday night as well). To be honest, an intruder never was a real fear, more of a, "y'know, theoretically..." We live in a very safe neighbourhood in a very safe city. It was odd a couple of times when the cats "started" simultaneously, obviously responding to some conversation or vehicle outside, but nothing ever came of it. So while his trip went uneventfully, I was extremely glad to meet his flight and am very, very happy to have him home.

Speaking of classes, we have only attended four so far, but I wish I could describe the revolution in communication that has resulted for me! Last Monday night I went out and met C. at the pub and we chatted as we waited for Husband to turn up, and I noted to myself that 35 minutes passed before she had to reach for the notebook. 35 minutes, in a conversation solely between me and her! Then, on Friday night just past, in the same situation, I noted it was 45 minutes before we needed to use the notebook to clarify a point. It's phenomenal, considering that two weeks ago C. was only learning the alphabet.

Part of the reason, I think, is because learning ASL and being around people who sign completely changes the way you communicate. You find out that signing is much more than Sign A = Word A. Instead, you develop a completely new, sort of expansive way of communicating, using your body, your hands, your facial expressions, even the direction you are leaning in, to communicate your message. You absorb this by osmosis, watching signers, almost unconsciously mimicking their easy communication flow. That, plus fingerspelling to fill in the gaps and introduce names, ideas and concepts into the conversation, is what is making it possible for me to have whole conversations with C. and Husband now without writing -- once you "get" that concept and absorb it, it's organic and grows on itself exponentially.

So one very quickly reaches a level of conversational ability that far surpasses one's actual vocabulary. It's a surprising and exciting, even giddy, development. It has changed much for me. On Friday the conversation came around to this, how things had changed for me in the past few weeks. I said that if I had been told back in June that the cochlear implant was not an option for me, my instinct would have been to "throw myself off the Princess Margaret Bridge". Now, I said, I realized that even if I got the CI tomorrow and it was unsuccessful -- or if I was denied it -- I knew that I would be okay. I'd get along. There was another life for me, another future for me. I was still counting on the implant, I said -- but all my eggs were not in that basket now. Most of them were. But I had these other eggs, over here, in this other basket.

C. said something remarkable to me in that conversation, too. She signed that since we began taking the lessons, "I don't feel sorry for you anymore." I found that incredibly affecting, actually. I think I even teared up a bit. Because I don't feel sorry for me anymore, either. But to know that she understands now, and that she doesn't, that was a very rare thing and I am so glad that it is true, and that she told me.

So it has been a rough week in spots but in the end, an optimistic one... maybe the very first where we are glimpsing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Happy Thanksgiving, eh?



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