In A Perfect World
- Perfect Recall -
I remember dressing my new baby boy in a different outfit every day for the first six months of his life…that was fun…his nickname was Baby Dane.
I remember Dane was six months old when the pediatrician irrigated wax from his ears because I kept asking why he didn’t seem to be hearing anything. I remember thinking he was too little to sit up without help through that procedure…I remember the procedure didn’t seem to help any.
I remember when an audiologist told us Dane was “severe-to-profoundly deaf.” I was so afraid because I didn’t have a clue what to do for a deaf baby.
I remember how confusing it felt that my little boy was a “deaf baby” so unfamiliar to me in this identity…Dane was simultaneously the same and different to me.
I remember it took a long time to figure out that I was the one who changed identities that day…although that certainly didn’t happen in a day…it took years.
I remember the big day of the kindergarten play; Dane was so excited because he got to be an eagle. The only other deaf kid in that mainstream class was also an eagle. I noticed the eagles didn’t have any lines but they did do a silly dance.
I remember before Dane had any naughty words in his vocabulary…his insults were silly, but we’d put him in the corner any way, on principle.
I remember all the strategies to make sure everything we did increased his vocabulary…and that Dane was always included in the communication everywhere we went.
I remember the feeling of despair when all that effort still wasn’t enough.
I remember church, big family gatherings, social and sporting events where all the trying in the world didn’t make Dane feel included in the fast, free-flowing communication.
I remember when our whole extended family took a vacation to Hawaii and Dane had such a communication advantage because he could sign underwater; he wore his souvenir white cotton Gilligan hat everywhere he went for the next two years.
I remember that he never got invited to a hearing kid’s birthday party after the first grade; ironically, Dane has turned out to have more friends and arguably a richer social life than either of his hearing siblings.
I remember when Dane decided to get a cochlear implant…how he loved watching monster movie trailers on the computer just to hear the sound effects.
I remember when Dane quit football…even though he loved football…even though he had a great interpreter—although not on the day the athletic director put Dane’s beloved Coach Graham on speaker phone so he could talk to the boys one last time from the hospital…before he died the next week.
I remember the teachers and administrators who went way beyond the call of duty, they were extraordinary, awesome…Ruth, Cheryl and Susan can each have one of my kidneys if they ever need it.
I remember the voicemail he left on my cell phone…how I love hearing his voice…that I left it there for over a year until it got accidentally deleted.
I remember some teachers and administrators that I would not put out if they were on fire, including that athletic director who excluded Dane from the Coach Graham call.
I remember how handsome he was dressed for his Senior Prom…and the girlfriend who taught him to line dance…and the girlfriend I loved more than he did.
I remember the phone call from the hospice asking if I had a deaf son, and could he come down and sign to an old deaf man on his deathbed who couldn’t communicate with anyone else. So Dane went down there, wide-eyed and wary. I remember him telling me later that the old man asked Dane if he was already dead and in heaven because someone was finally signing with him.