In a Perfect World
Words of Wisdom
Here’s some good advice: don’t let your dog run free unless you want to shorten her life span. Our little Scotty dog, Fiona, met her fate out on the road right after New Year’s, so 2008 started off on a dismal note for the Seaver family. Dane, our oldest son/deaf, has been mourning the loss of his “hearing ear dog.” Fiona’s gawky black ears--the most animated feature of her compact little body--have been his personal alert system for years now.
Far superior to any flashing technologies, Fiona worked 24/7 without complaint and seemed to know that she was called to extraordinary duty. Without any formal training, she performed so well that Dane had no reservations about holding down the fort on his own whenever we were gone, even for days. Fiona clued him in on all important noises with ear semifore and fluent “Caninish” (dog body language). Without visual contact of any kind—even when roused from deep sleep--she knew if the person at the door was friend or foe, which she conveyed with ear tilts, head turns, lunges, anxious pacing or so many other variables of her expression. For the record, “foe” included all FEDEX delivery men and for some mysterious reason, our niece, Melissa. Fiona was utterly reliable, although her judgment had to be, at times, questioned.
We all miss her terribly, and my attempts to write this column about anything but Fiona’s many fine merits have come to nil. I’m finding the carpet spots endearing at this point. So it seems like a good time to divert to the wisdom of others for your sakes. Here are some pearls that have spoken to my heart as I have sought input, insight and inspiration for the experience of raising a deaf child (as well as his hearing siblings). In no particular, some are from famous people, others from valued colleagues, a few from deaf or hard of hearing adults, several from parents like me, and one from man’s best friend.
"Deafness is a sensory difference. It only becomes a disability when systems fail these children and their families." – Christine Yoshinaga Itano
"Lack of money is the root of all evil." – Mark Twain
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." – Bertrand Russell
"Once I was making an apple pie with little Marshall next to me, and I just stopped short with the realization that I was assuming she already knew what an apple was, where it came from, and why we were making it into a pie. So I started working backwards to fill in the gaps of what she couldn’t hear and therefore, didn’t know. “Marshall, this is an apple, let’s go outside and see a tree where apples grow. Look, here are the seeds inside the apple that made the tree grow.” Then we went to the store and I showed her where you buy an apple if you don’t have an apple tree. I decided to approach everything with the expectation that she could “hear” everything and nothing at the same time. I had to fill in all the language and everything that it meant. 'Marshall, mommy is baking an apple pie because she loves you.'" -- Carter Felvey
"Prayer is original research into unexplored territories." – Richard Foster
"Effective communication access results in shared meaning." – Cheryl DeConde Johnson
"If I have learned anything, it is that bitterness consumes the vessel that contains it."
"When are you hearing people going to realize that even though I have great speech, I still can’t hear a thing!?!" -- Karen Putz
"Our theories determine what we measure." – Albert Einstein
"There are years that ask questions and years that answer them." – Zora Neale Hurston
"When I was a little boy, my class went down to the gym and practiced doing Christmas songs and the Nativity story for weeks. I was the only deaf kid, so I wasn’t expected to sing. I think I was one of the Wise Men instead. But it was fun and it got us out of lessons. One day we all got in our places and suddenly the curtains were opened and, voila, there was a huge crowd of people sitting there watching us. I was so shocked I couldn’t move! No one ever bothered to explain to me the purpose of what we were doing, and so this is how I learned what a play was." – Henri Medinilla Grau
"What we believe about ourselves is always more important that what we think others believe about us." – Irene Bender
"I wish I had had the confidence to trust that a cochlear implant would just change what I hear and not who I am." – Stephanie Olson
"Root hog or die." – my Grandpa Gillespie
"It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others." – www.despair.com
"Deafness often still frightens away the ignorant and the self-regarding, and that in itself can be a blessing." – Henry Kisor
"If you were to “pack a bag” for this decision-making journey, it might include three things, 1) encouragement to take the time you need to explore the issues and to understand your child’s unique needs, 2) support from others who have made the journey before you (parents), and 3) a bias-detector—allowing you to recognize that few opinions are without some bias. Recognizing this gives perspective as you consider the input."
"Change is the cost of survival." – Winston Churchill
"Deaf children are not hearing children who cannot hear, but differences should not be equated with deficiencies." – Marc Marschark
"You don’t understand how this feels because you’re hearing." – Dane Seaver
"Some have called her deaf, some say hearing impaired or hard of hearing; I just call my daughter Sara." – Janet DesGeorges
"Our decision was both right and wrong, and demonstrates how perplexing and delicate choices like these are to make and accept." – David Seerman
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." – Zen proverb
"Leave all this for now and come walk in the woods with me." – Fiona Seaver
2008 Leeanne Seaver © for Hands & Voices