In my last post I talked about "doors being closed" when a CODA loses a Deaf parent or both of them. When I lost my father his door had closed, but thankfully I had opened others before his passing. It was a gift that my parents had given me as a child and I realized I can keep all through life. It’s the ability to see the doors I can open. It keeps me in a Deaf family, and "family", whether it's your real kin, or the closest of friends that feel like kin, it means your home. Wherever home is, your family is there.
My family is ELF, the many Deaf people whom I love dearly, and my hearing family and friends. They probably rank in that order, too. Any time I am with any of these people, I feel like I am home. I find I cannot stay away from Deaf people for too long, or I start to get homesick. A big part of me belongs there, and sometimes being between the hearing and Deaf worlds can be a tricky balancing act.
My parents are the only Deaf people in my biological family. Everyone else in that family is hearing from my siblings to my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, you name it. I do love them, but being around them doesn’t give me that same feeling of being home as it does being around other Deaf people. Often times I have wondered how great it would have been to have had an entirely Deaf biological family.
I bring this up because a Deaf man I know is going through what is likely to be the last stages of his life. He is a man that would be around my grandfathers' ages, and he may be one of the kindest people I have ever met. We met through our jobs and even though we don’t see each other perhaps more than a couple of times a month, I feel a bond to him.
Every time we come across each other and have a conversation, we almost always talk about our families and update each other. It's kind of a Deaf culture thing to do, and like many Deaf people do with each other, the conversations can go on, which is never a bad thing. It's been like this with the two of us, too. When my father passed away, I really began to look at this man as that kind of a father figure. He always made that time to talk to me and ask me how I've been doing, and he's always kept me updated on his family. In truth, he feels like what I would have wanted in a grandfather.
My actual grandfathers were not the most horrible people in the world by any stretch, but when I saw them struggle to communicate with my parents because they never took the time to learn sign language of any kind, it really bothers me deep down inside. Despite my knowledge of how Audism kept them from choosing to do the most sensible thing, part of me is still upset with their choice to not learn. It's a hot button for me, I suppose, and seeing deaf children with hearing parents who are doing the same thing always reminds me of it. It makes me realize how much influence Audism has and how few of us really know the truth of it. Either way, though, they were my grandfathers and I loved them both. But they were not Deaf.
The things I loved about my real grandfathers are things I love about my dying Deaf friend. He treats me like family and I love him for it. So in that sense I have to say he is the grandfather that I always wanted. I'm not upset that he isn’t, or that I had the grandfathers that I had instead of him. In truth, I am very thankful to have known this man because when I'm around him I feel at home, with my Deaf family.
I saw him yesterday in the hospital and he was looking ok. He was up for conversation, and we talked about fishing spots in the small town where I grew up. Apparently he had fished around the same places when he went up to visit his son who lived even further north from where I had. Small world, right? Just adds to that family feel, I guess. I don’t know if I will get to see him again before he leaves this world, but I believe our last conversation is just what it should have been, like nothing had changed. Here's to you, my friend. May whatever lies ahead for you be everything you ever wanted in this life that you did not get. You are more than deserving of it.
With much CODA love,