Posts Tagged ‘Child of Deaf Adults’

Child of Deaf Adults – Part 1

A.Introduction.

There was a beautiful woman called Jana Orbach who was deaf in one ear and almost deaf in the other. She was born completely deaf in her left ear and her hearing was slowly deteriorating (as is for all of us) in the other.

There is a very handsome and very tall man whose name is Menachem Orbach, who was born with two perfectly functioning ears, but, following a surgical procedure to cure his meningitis at 10 months old, his hearing was completely lost. Menachem is, in fact, as deaf as a deaf man could be. To illustrate his inability to hear, I could say that if you turn on your stereo and turn the volume as high as possible, he still won’t hear it.

Jana and Menachem are two people who made love sometimes in the late Autumn of 1984 and begat, doting and dazzled by their infant, the person who wrote these words, on the 28th of August, 1985.

Mom said it was an easy delivery.

I am Jana and Menachem’s second-born (to be followed by no other offspring), and my name is Shai Orbach. As a son of a deaf father and a hard-of-hearing mother, I proudly title myself as CODA, a child of deaf adults. Because my particular “CODA-ness” is a bit intricate (it’s not just “two deaf parents”, the hearing loss is not genetic, etc.) , I have chosen to begin this article in this fashion. From now on, I will focus mainly on what it was like to be an Israeli CODA, and what it is like, in general, to be a child of deaf adults.

As a short clarification of why it is that I chose to write of my parents in this manner, it is fit to mention that my mother passed away last April (April 1st, 2007), on the very same day I completed my 3 years-long IDF military service.

B.Childhood

It is hard for me to recollect much of what it was like being a young (infant, toddler, and eventually, boy) CODA. As an infant, I know as I was told by my grandmother and other family members that I was a quiet infant, crying very little and all-in-all, giving my two parents a good deal of serenity as is possible for any parent with a very young child.

My parents, at first, did not sign to me much, and rather chose (I would bet, due to family pressure for being “normal”), to communicate with me using their voices. This was not a big problem for mother, who was hard-of-hearing, and if I yelled really hard (even that eventually stopped working), she noticed that I’m calling her name. I did, however, know sign-language enough for very simple conversation, so the reason my sign-language today is fluent (and is enough for me to use it for interpreting) is because I was exposed to ISL (Israeli Sign Language) from a very early age.

It is, unfortunately, also important to point out that the fact that mom and dad chose not to teach me ISL caused a major communicational barrier between them and myself until young teenage, in which I began teaching myself the “missing words” in my vocabulary.

Regardless of the daily communicational hurdles my folks and I had to overcome, we, that is, my sister Keren, myself, Shai, my father, Menachem, and my mother, Jana, were a rather happy, rather normal family.

The most “not normal” thing about my family, and notably the only thing outstanding in our family (in a country with a huge variety of sub-cultures and customs) is the fact that we were, in plain terms, Deaf.

I consider myself and my sister, with our perfectly functioning ears, to be Deaf. The capitalization of the word Deaf in this instance is not a bizarre typo. I distinguish between a person who cannot hear or interpret voices into meaningful units of speech (words) as “deaf“.(this is not my idea, but I can’t recollect to whom the credit for this usage belongs to)

This, of course, is opposed to a person who belongs to the subculture of the Deaf. One might be Deaf even if he/she is completely without any disability, or, for all intents and purposes, armless, legless, blind, and anosmic.

I was Deaf ever since I was born. I was climbing chairs as a little ankle-biter during deaf-parties, utterly silent excepting a roar of laughter or a sharp intake of breath, and, of course, the “tsk-tsk” noises often made by signers who use their lips simultaneously (as far as I know, the most common of all deaf people).

Due to the fact that I signed very little, and hence spoke very little to my parents, I was a very, almost pathologically quiet young boy. At one instance, I was examined by a psychiatrist who merely stated that I’m “gifted”, an ego-booster that members of my family mention quite often. At this point, I wish to say that if I am gifted in any way, I would like someone to ruthlessly pinpoint what that gift is, as I’ve been wondering all my life whether there really is a gift I possess. (Off-topic, the meaning of the name Shai in Hebrew is “gift”. Usually a small, unremarkable gift, but a gift, nevertheless J )

Being a CODA is a huge, tiring, heart-tearing, emotionally-exhausting responsibility. A deaf parent should have a right, as any, to bear children and care for them, and, this I say of personal experience, have them well-bred as any other parent (and perhaps even better so).

But deaf parents must also be aware that their CODA offspring will endure the yoke of CODA at all time. This yoke is the ever-renewing “CODA task” that must be fulfilled. As young children, Keren and I learnt very quickly how to deal with bankers, technicians, correspondents, mailmen, neighbors, plumbers, etc. Needless to say, as two children who could barely sign, it was a bit short of a nightmare. But somehow, we fared through it. Keren managed most of the CODA work (but not all of it!) until I became a bit older. Then, at a critical point in every Israeli person’s life, Keren joined the IDF, which leads me to the next chapter of my CODA experience: Teenage.

C. Teenage

By my teens, doing CODA-work was something that Keren and I did somewhat alternately (with, I must admit, a bias towards Keren, older and more experienced).

When I was about 15 years old, Keren joined the IDF. I’m not exactly sure of the exact time when this actually happened, but at this point, it basically meant that at a time where “CODA-work” was plentiful, I was all-alone with two deaf parents. At this time, I decided it would be impossible to be their advocate without exquisite fluency in sign-language, and so, in about 3 months, I turned from an illiterate, mostly “lipping” CODA to a full-fledged ISL interpreter for both my mother and father, who, now older and more prone to medical care, daily required my help.

To explain what this period was like, I wish to introduce a term that I’m not sure exists in ASL (or in any other sign language that readers of this post might be using). In ISL, there is a word for “dad”, and a word for “mom”. The word for “parents” is, actually, a compound of these two words. Of this came the word between Keren and me, who, instead of calling them “the parents” (that’s the “Hebrew way of saying it”) –”momdad” (aba-ima in Hebrew).

So, as a lone CODA with a fresh (and ever sharpening) sign language, I became the mediator between my dad and the salesperson. I became the words in the mouth of the man on the phone, and my hands became the conduit for my mother’s part in the conversation.

I received, then, what I viewed and still view as the most noble of professions:

I became an interpreter.

To father, this was mainly dealing with the hurly-burly of his daily life. He dragged me down to all sorts of places.

To mother, to the very (painful) end, I became the man between her and the doctor. I signed words like “feces” and “menstrual blood” (at times in which I wasn’t exactly sure what these things were, but still knew how to sign). I took her to a myriad of clinics and hospitals to be examined and treated by a myriad of doctors, and have prescribed a myriad of medicine.

My mother, blessed forever be her indulgent name, was an ill woman. She became ill sometime during my early teens, I’m not sure which came first, the liver cirrhosis or the diabetes, but these two sufficed to create another (huge) responsibility for Keren and I: caretakers. We monitored her sugar-blood levels, and quite often accompanied her for the most meager of undertakings, and not, as it were, for “interpretation jobs”

TO BE CONTINUED…

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טוב, מר אינקוגניטו עבר לוורדפרס. כן, אני יודע, זה לא בדיוק המהפכה הגדולה. קניתי אפילו דומיין ואני בתהליכים של להעביר את כל הבלוג לדומיין (שעלה כסף, וכסף טוב!) משלי.

אני הולך לכתוב כאן גם באנגלית וגם בעברית ספציפית משום שמדובר בבלוג חו”לי ולא ספציפית משום שאין לי מספיק חברים\חברים שאוהבים בלוגים\חברים שמתעניינים בקריאה שלי כדי לקרוא את הפוסטים שלי כאן, וחוץ מזה, הסיבה היחידה שאני “עובר לבלוג עצמאי” היא סנטימנטלית: אני אוהב להיות עצמאי בתור פרילנסר מבחינת העבודה שלי, ותמיד אהבתי לכתוב, ואני לא יכול לכתוב בשום צינור “פופולרי” וstreamlined כמו בעבר.

עכשיו אני הולך לכתוב כאן פשוט את כל העולה על רוחי. אני לא הולך לתת קטגוריות לבלוג. זה פשוט הבלוג שלי, ובבלוג שלי, אני אכתוב כל מחשבה שחולפת על רוחי.

To whoever may be reading this. This is my first post here in WP. I believe I have quite a lot to learn. Firstly, I want to emphasize that I have no qualms regarding readership in this blog. For all I care, this blog can be entirely deserted and, AFAIC, be a personal diary, de facto.

This blog would mainly contain text regarding my ever-so-turbulent psyche. Thoughts and ruminations regarding, well, the world and beyond, and that’s it.

This means that if anyone had any expectations that this blog would be full of shiny pictures and music videos, then I guess ya’ll gotta move on to the next blog.

Now that I’m done with my little pre-exposition, allow me to introduce myself. (I’ll be writing the rest of the post in English now, but I’ll try fiddling with the Hebrew posts after I interrogate some of my Israeli friends as to whether or not they can read these posts and cross-check that with anyone from abroad reading this)

Name’s Shai. That’s as far as I go. That’s my real name and although I’ve yanked lots of pen-names out of my ass, I think the true essence in whatever state of mind I had while thinking of any pen-name is now long gone. I’ve been writing behind a keyboard ever since I was quite young. Consider that with the fact that I ain’t too old right now as it is (As of the writing of this post, I’ve turned 23 just yesterday)

I’m not a clean-handed man. I’ve seen some pretty nasty shit and at one point of my life, pretty much went crazy and for a period of about a year, done crazy shit on a daily basis, alienating my friends, loved ones, and eventually, the person I cared about the most – my girlfriend… This is one part of my past that I wish I could bury, but the least it does is moor me back to reality if my brain starts fizzing with anxiety and agony once more. I’ll write more detailed posts about what could possibly lead a (more or less) normal dude into becoming a monster for one year and then jolting back into reality.

In the first post, I really want to give a little glimpse as to who I am. This is why this post is going to be, probably, but not assuredly, longer than the others.

I’m 23 years old. I’ve been born and raised in Israel all my life. For the most part of the last 10 years, I’ve been an avid Karateka, that is, a dude wearing a white robe and doing “Haiiiii-ya!” at randoms pedestrians. Oh, and push-ups. Lots of push-ups. Since I haven’t done much of that in, say, a year or so, now I’m just a slightly plump rather heavy-set fellow with a very strong recollection of beating people to a pulp in a friendly sort of manner (in this junction, I just wish to say that I’m not naturally a violent person. But sometimes, people just push you to become that way. I’ve always tried to refrain from it, at least until I had no other choice)

I’m a science freak. I spend at least 3 times a day clicking my way through science and science-related blogs. I’m an avid “evolution-defender”. If there’s anyone out there who’s been to the evolution-creation debate, he’d know what that means. But to be frank, the more science I learnt through university classes (I’m a first-year biology undergrad with miles of books read)  the more I figured out that the political attack against the theory of evolution is a lot more boring than the actual, well-proven science of evolution (and of course, biology)

Although this comes rather late in the post, it’s probably the attribute that defined my personality the most, and that is: I was born to two deaf parents. The official language in my house is ISL – Israeli Sign Language. Sign Language, the deaf culture, and being a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – are with no doubt key factors in the development of my psyche. I’m rather sure that posts regarding CODA-ness and deaf-ness will be a-plenty.

Other than that, I’m just your average eccentric, slightly-geeky, venom-filled-sense-of-humor-ish kind of guy. It’s hard for me to step out of my brain and try to give it a thorough description, but if anyone should ever be interested enough as to not only read the blog, but investigate who the hell or what the hell I am, I’m sure answers will come promptly just by talking to me for a few minutes.

That’s all for now. I think my next posts would be a redux of what I think about Batman.

Oh, and it’s going to be in Hebrew, at first.