CODA

6 02 2008

I was talking to my friend Mary the other day, Mary is a lipreading tutor too but she’s hearing. She came out with an interesting comment, that her parents are both deaf and use BSL. I asked her about her experience growing up, as I felt it would in some way be the reverse of mine, being a deaf child of hearing parents….

My mother was sent off to deaf school in 1923 when she was 4. She is still alive, age 88 and is now in Salisbury where I was born and grew up. She went on to Mary Hare school for the deaf in Newbury when it first started (now it’s a grammar school). It was an oral school and of course she learned lipreading – no signing, which was frowned upon then. Hence she became an excellent lipreader. Grandma had German Measles which is why mum was born deaf. Mum was one of 6, all the rest hearing. Mum has no hearing whatsoever, the cochlea cells must be flattened, the same as my father who was genetically deaf I think, as he had a deaf brother (who never married) and a deaf uncle. My father coming from an Irish farming family, I never found out very much about the deaf side. My father died 18 years ago and never saw me become a lipreading teacher. I have a feeling, that had I have been a boy, I may have been deaf myself or carried a deaf gene. I’m not absolutely sure.

My father has always been a BSL user and went to Dublin school for the Deaf. I am convinced he had a manual job working in a firework factory because of his disability. He didn’t know “what to do with me” when I was young as I was hearing, and treated me like porcelain! So I suppose I was very spoiled. I had a hearing sister 6 years younger than me who was always in hospital with physical and then mental problems who died last year, age 50. Dad was an extremely sociable person and loved deaf people, and my son age 23 is now like him and I am too in the fact we love to meet people.

I felt very loved and safe when I was young, the first 5 years were in the country so I never mixed much with the hearing world. So now I tell people “I had incredible stability and love – more than what a lot of people get now”. My parents were married for over 40 years.

I WAS their “ears” and of course, didn’t know anything else. I probably thought everyone had deaf parents. Thinking back, we had “home signs” and my mother “spoke” to me in her deaf voice, having been brought up orally. This is why I am not brilliant at BSL now as we lipread at home rather than signing and my dad was always out at work. I was the eldest of a group of 6 hearing children at the deaf club. Every Sunday we had a church service and a tea afterwards, then play and home at 9pm.

It was the only time of the week when us children were allowed to be ourselves… we used to run riot and make lots of noise… there was nobody there to tell us off and they were all signing like mad to each other anyway! It was great, a huge sense of freedom.

I now realise how we were all our parents’ ears. It never bothered us though. I feel lucky in a way as I feel I was brought up on “vibrations” (!) and sometimes I am now very sensitive to atmospheres.

Through seeing the isolation I think my mum felt in the outside world of reality 24/7 (not at the deaf club) I have now utilised that, in becoming a lipreading teacher for deaf and hard of hearing people with an acquired hearing loss. My students do NOT feel isolated in my classes! It’s my prime aim that they are ALL included during the whole lesson. I’m doing what I already know, and I’m totally fulfilled now, I feel I was put on this earth to do this job (started at the age of 47 – 10 years ago) and love it.

Difficulties with having profoundly deaf parents .. only four things really.

1. people stared at us when my mum used her deaf voice and I got embarrassed (but later on – I’m proud of them)

2. I could not have any help with my homework! Luckily I went to a girl’s grammar school and have horrible memories of struggling night after night of doing homework, not being able to ask for advice because I knew they wouldn’t know! Another memory was sitting in the class of 12 year old girls thinking “they don’t realise how lucky they are to be able to just go home and sit round a table and have conversations with their parents”. OK I probably had a chip on my shoulder, as probably a lot of us did then.

3. I was lonely and torn between the two worlds of deaf and hearing. But I did have a best friend (from age 5 when we moved from the country to the TOWN!) over the road who was one of 6 children. I loved going to her house with all the noise going on. I learned the piano at the age of 7 which was a great comfort to me when I returned to my quiet house. I can remember crying a lot before I went to sleep because my parents couldn’t hear. Mind you they didn’t know anything else. What you’ve never heard, you won’t grieve over, they were probably sad too, that they couldn’t hear my piano playing as I got quite good at it until 15 when boys came along!

4. Perhaps I have always felt “responsible” in some way towards my parents and never had a “normal carefree” childhood. I don’t know, it never did me any harm and I can make up for it now!

I am what is called a CODA. Child of Deaf Adults, and am now proud of it. I now LOVE silence!

(Father met my mum at Salisbury Deaf club when she was 21. He taught her sign language, they married and had me 10 years later)

Actually, I have heard it somewhere that nowadays to be your parent’s “ears” could be a form of abuse… absolute rubbish I think!

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2 responses

6 02 2008
codadiva

Thanks for sharing. I’m a coda too. There is no way being the “ears” is abusive! It shapes us to be able to be the people we are today!

http://codadiva.wordpress.com

8 06 2010
krazjim

I wrote a little bit about being a CODA, too. It seemed a lot like being a parent (which I am now). The hardest work you’ll ever love!

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