Recently a good friend of mine lost her husband. They are both Deaf, and their hearing daughter (fellow CODA) is another friend of mine. Both mother and daughter are obviously grieving over their loss of someone so special and meaningful to them. Even though I had never met this man, I am saddened for them. ELF and I went to his wake to pay our respects, and seeing the two of them their with the pain in their eyes really affected me. I went through this with my father just over four years ago.
Part of me still grieves the loss of my father, and it makes me want to go on and on about it from time to time. I wish to avoid that here because I don't want to take anything away from what my friends are going through. But there was one part of it I wanted to talk about. This kind of goes back to one of my earliest posts, where I had mentioned that losing my father was closing a door to the Deaf world for me. A fellow CODA from facebook wanted me to elaborate on it, and now seems like the best time to do so.
Growing up, my exposure to the Deaf community was through my parents. I learned to sign before I could speak, went to all the Deaf club meetings with my family, and know all of their friends and children. It was an experience that so many hearing people in this world never get, and I consider myself to be blessed for that experience. It has taught me a lot about the world.
When my father died, the door that he opened for me to the Deaf community swung wide open for about one week. I helped my mother contact so many of his friends through video phone (my mother has an aversion to newer technology, and still uses a TTY to make phone calls - for those in the know I can see your head nodding "I understand") to inform them of the terrible news. Many of his friends came by my parents' place to visit that week, share stories, and give us copies of their pictures of him for us to display at the funeral home. I still hold on to all those pictures and will never get rid of them. The week finally ended with his service, and the number of Deaf friends who came to say goodbye nearly overwhelmed me. What a community, despite the physical distances from each other.
When the reception had ended, they all went their separate ways, and the door was closed. I still talk on occasion with a couple of his friends, which is nice, but it isn't the same. We don't talk about him even when we want to, but catching up with each other is still enjoyable. But it isn't the same. Natural feelings of talking with a loved one so close to you disappears and cannot be replaced by their friends. Instead, what you get is the reminder that who you really want is no longer there, and suddenly that door seems very close to your face, as if it was just shut on you again. I don't think it's a feeling that will ever go away when I see his friends. So there is my closed door.
As for my mother, she is no longer connected with the Deaf community. I won't get into the reasons behind it, but suffice it to say, her door to the Deaf community is closed to me. My only expereince with anything Deaf through her are the trace whispers that she herself possesses. I'm a little bit bitter about that, but thats a story for my next book, to be sure.
When I grew up and moved away from home, I really lost almost all contact with Deaf people for a while. Aside from family visits, I ran into other Deaf people randomly. It took several years before I found a job in a school for the deaf. It was there that I had opened my own door to the Deaf community again. What's nice about this is that it is a different group of Deaf people being so physically far away from my parents. Nearly all of them have never met my parents or recognize their names. Being accepted into their community is something I hold dear to my heart, and when I really stop to think about it, I owe this to my parents. Without them, my path in life may very well likely have never crossed with paths of Deaf people in any meaningful way, and I never would have had an opportunity to be in their world. Another great part of this particular local community is that because my parents aren't known here, I feel like this is my community. I think you understand what I mean.
So my father's door was closed. True. But because of my parents and what they gave to me, I was able to find other doors that cannot be closed by anyone but myself. And for my fellow CODA who lost her father, the same is true for her. I know she will enjoy that gift from them for the rest of her life. Perhaps all this is true for most of us CODAs who have lost one or both of our parents. Doors close and others open, and if others havent opened for you CODAs despite your longing for it to happen, all I can say is go find one. If you miss what's in the next room, go open a door. Your Deaf parents gave you the ability to find them on your own. I promise you won't regret it.
A good night to everyone, more posts to come....