Monday, March 17, 2008

How the Journey in Deafness Touches Others...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!! I think...not many Irish around here, and it's pretty rare that I even remember a holiday, but I'm a few months away from Dublin, so I'm getting in the groove. So many funny things have happened in the past few days. First of all, dinner in Siena was an emotional experience. Hysterical because we were sitting across from "a couple"- American university students- to give you an idea...Lucy Liu and Skip from Family Ties - one of the strangest couples I've ever seen. Every now and then, he caressed her face, he just wasn't doing it for me. When they ordered dessert, they ordered chocolate cake, coffee mousse and...two cappuccinos - THAT is SO American! Cappuccino is strictly for breakfast, not to be ordered with dessert- Italian etiquette 101.

Speaking of dessert, I ordered the chocolate cake and Luca ordered the coffee mousse...dogfood (no offense to the commenter), the mousse looked like tuna patè. You have to understand, we were dining in a gourmet, 5 star restaurant that we used to go to years and years - 10 to be exact- ago, and Luca's dessert sucked. I told the waitress/owner who actually remembered us from 10 years ago. I can't believe I said this...she came over to the table and asked us how dessert was, I looked at her (must have been the bottle of Chianti talking) and said, "This dessert tastes like shit." Luca shot me a look. She started laughing and brought another chocolate cake. She charged us for three desserts anyway, welcome to Italy. We so did not care. That chocolate cake was beyond. The whole atmosphere was beyond and the strangest thing was that the opera was playing in the background the entire romantic dinner except for one different song. I swear "We are the World" started playing in the background, and I haven't heard that song since 1989 when I met Luca as part of an Italian exchange program. So, of course I started bawling and Lucy Liu and Skip shot me a look. My poor can dress me up, but...

Sunday morning we hit the outlets and there is nothing sexier than trying on clothes with your husband sitting in the dressing room with you...unless you happen upon the Lindt Chocolate store and discover the "Varesina."
You have NEVER tasted anything in the form of coffee until you try this concoction- Lindt hot chocolate, espresso, steamed milk served with a dark chocolate spoon- Oh MY GOSH! After the first, we returned for a second and it was just as good as the first...seems to be the story of my life, lately.

BTW, I have a new cellphone - PINK!!! I showed Rhonda and she almost threw up, I love it!

Okay, now here's the point of today's post. One of the blogs that I avidly read is Christina's journey with Christian and she posted a beautiful blog a couple of days ago. She had her first "guest blogger," her best friend write a little about her perspective on what Christina's family has been experiencing. Friends may not realize the important role they play in all of this, and we do not always realize how our experiences touch others. Enjoy!

I can't reiterate enough just how important a good support system is for families of D/HOH children. I know for my family, especially during the early days of Christian's diagnosis, that our strong, loyal, and close-knit group of family and friends in our support system is what got us through. They held our hands during the uncertainty, prayed for us during the myriad of tests, and listened to us cry over and over again.

Just as Chuck and I are working to understand Christian's hearing loss, our friends and family are as well. They have amazed us with their willingness to learn how to effectively communicate with our son.

I'm proud to include a guest post from one of my closest and dearest friends. She has been on the front-lines of our support team, and I asked her to write about her experience this past year.

Tina was my first friend to have a baby so needless to say, for me Christian was a highly anticipated, very important, special little guy. Christian was only a few months old when I took the summer off from work to study. I was so fortunate that summer as I got to spend a great deal of time with one of my closest friends and sweet Christian. At that time, Christian's diagnosis was unclear and Tina and Chuck were struggling with their own feelings and how they were going to handle Christian's different abilities. As a part of the inner-circle I didn't really know what to do other than to be there for my friends and their sweet boy. Once it was clear that Christian is deaf, Tina and Chuck faced that challenge head-on. I was so amazed and inspired by the strength and courage that my former drinking buddies had as wonderful parents!

As I had never really known anyone who was deaf, I was initially afraid how I would handle this. I mean, Tina had developed this whole support team through her blogging. These are people who actually get what she's talking about. Maybe my words of advice won't matter to her anymore. Would I say something that was offensive and ignorant? Would I use the wrong sign? Would I even learn how to sign?

But then I realized, here's the thing... Christian doesn't know he's different. He only knows his life as it is and as it has been. He's not going to be disappointed if I use the wrong sign! And my friends... Tina and Chuck are just amazing. They have learned sign language so quickly. They are raising Christian to be bi-lingual! He knows ASL and English. What a leg up on most kids his age. And Christian is just the same loveable, laughing, adorable, highly anticipated, very important, special little (well actually he's huge!) guy he always has been.

Tina explained to me their family plan for communicating with Christian and when I thought about it, it makes total sense. When I'm around Christian I try to limit the background noise and speak slowly and clearly to him. That's not really any different than if I were speaking to any child who's learning the proper words for the world around him. I've tried to master the few signs that he already knows. To me, this is really no different than if another friend was trying to teach her child to speak Spanish and thus asked us to say "agua" as well as "water." Once I got over my own insecurities of not being fluent in ASL, I was willing to try using it more. It's not like Tina and Chuck knew ASL before Christian was born! We are all learning together and I am all for learning regardless of the reason.

And then, there it was, my moment of clarity. I've never seen a more beautiful birthday party. All of Tina and Chuck's close friends and family were in their kitchen surrounding Christian with love and well wishes. We all signed Happy Birthday while we sang it! It was an absolutely beautiful moment when I realized - it does take a village. And I'm not going anywhere. If anything I've got a reason to start getting regular mani's if I'm going to be talking with my hands a lot more! And ASL is so fun! Spirit fingers for applause?!! I love it!


Anonymous said...

having people aound you that loves you made everything easier!! ;-P

Valerie said...

We all need friends like that!

My group of close friends are the ones that don't remind repeating if I need it. They accept me as Valerie, not deaf Val. They love my daughter as their own and they love Starbucks too.

Christian's mommy you rock!!! Keep it up. You are raising a great baby.

Tiffani Hill-Patterson said...

Love it! Our family and friends and teachers and therapists have made life so much easier for us.

I love the "guest post" – that's what it's all about.

Divided said...

Ohhh, that brought memories back for me when I ordered Cappuccino at lunch in Italian collegues glaned me a disapproving look and shook their heads. That was my first Italian etiquette 101 (and my last). Oh, how I love having Cappuccino in the morning with croissant!! Buon giorno!!

Divided said...

oops, meant to type "...glanced" me a disapproving...