Posts Tagged ‘Personal’

Vacated!

A much needed vacation is afoot.  This weekend I’ll be chilling with my gorgeous missus in a cabin for two in a beautiful mountainous village (or as we Israelis call those modern hamlets: “Moshav”) on the western Galilee. Any Christian readers this blog might have will actually recognize the name, since it’s the region in Palestine Jesus of Nazerath originated from (I bet ye for’ners din’ know that Nazerath is still a city in modern day Israel). The missus was kind enough to correct me that it’s actually a place near Kinneret, the Israeli chief fresh water lake and favourite pissing pot.

I’m taking the laptop (too attached to it), but I doubt it there’ll be wi-fi, and even if there will, I’ll be too busy snoozing in the jacuzzi with my blessedly bathing-suited babe of a girlfriend.

Too bad I have two days of hardcore studyin’, trainin’ and workin’ to do before that. I promise to post some pictures (not just beautiful landscapes, but some of the smoochin’ couple, too).

Overheads Underfoot

Yeah, yeah, I keep jabbering on and on about how this is not a personal blog. Well, a lot of the topics I write about eventually have to go through the person writing them, but I don’t like much writing “personal diary entries”. But I’m going to do this time, anyway.

Anyway, I skipped yesterday’s Latin and today’s Botany because of “fatigue overheads”. I was too tired after Sunday’s 13-hour long day, so I skipped yesterday’s Latin so I could have more time to finish up stuff for today, and then I skipped today’s Botany so I could wrap up things for tomorrow. I’m still going to Botany labs because we have a quiz every week (this week’s on fungi, ah, what fun (yeah, yeah) .

In short, I’m kind of freaked out that this might be a slippery slope. Since I’m 4 weeks into the semester, it’s possible that the combination of training, working, studying and trying to lead an almost non-existent social life (while still being Dad’s son) is wearing me down.

Bah. What can I do if coffee doesn’t work on me?

A Sign for Mommy

These days, I don’t write about Mom as I used to back in the pre-Efes days, but this is an extraordinary occasion, and it demands a reference.

Tomorrow is the first day of my training as a certified Israeli Sign Language interpreter.

I often, in my many sojourns into the (mostly) foreign blogosphere, point out that I was “born and raised Jewish”. I add that I’m an Israeli, ethnically Jewish, a person of some Jewish or some Israeli tradition, a modern-day tri-lingual Hebrew.

But the truth of the matter is different, and I can’t blame myself for not stating it bluntly whenever I introduce my “origins”.

The truth is, really, that the true upbringing that I had can only be faithfully be described as “Born and raised Deaf”.

After the Efes, I decided that my infatuation with Biology is not enough. I felt  that it’s vitally important for me to remember not only where I want to be (a cog in the massive cogwheel of science), but also also where I came from (a Deaf person with functioning ears).

This is for you, Mom. I will always love you.

Post Cemetry

Today I found myself contemplating what happens to posts once they die. The most circulated blog I can think of is probably Pharyngula. PZ Myers’ words are being viewed and re-viewed about a million times every month, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets to more than that on particularly spicy seasons. But even Pharyngula has archives, and I’m betting the ancient posts (especially those on Pharyngula.org, the older blog) never get accessed again.

Blogs aren’t like books, codices of carefully constructed words, designed, should people “read Kafka” or “read Conan Doyle” to be immortalized as character witnesses for the authors who created them.

But with blogs, words are ephemeral. PZ Myers and other notable bloggers might have written amazing and popular posts in the past, and those posts are forever forgotten. It’s possible that some literary jewels were created almost on a daily basis, and they’re all gone forever. In a way, this makes blogging a middle-ground between literature and journalism. Sure, responsible bloggers proof-read and carefully pick their post’s main topics and issues, and very serious bloggers even write multiple drafts – but no post ever conceived beats the literary manuscript. The worded piece of art that its creator proudly refers to it as “my book”.

All of this made me come to the realization that even when I write a post that actually gets read (the only example I can give is the post I wrote about the Yom Kippur riots), I know that it doesn’t matter much. People click on a link, skim through your carefully crafted words, and forget all about you, or blog, and your post the next day.

So what makes the distinction between “a person who blogs” and a “blogger”? Unlike bookwriters, it’s not any particular post or even a particular category of posts, but simply the style and history of the blog. Most Pharyngula readers aren’t science afficionados, and even though I love reading PZ’s posts on science, most of the time PZ writes about activist freethought and liberal politics (or about their antagonists).

This is, of course, not a problem in the least, but still, Pharyngula is without a doubt more of an “Atheist blog” than a “Science blog”, and that’s hardly a shame. Seeing the world of science through a self-avowed atheist with the charming and captivating worldview of PZ Myers is quite rewarding on its own. However, reading a science textbook is rewarding in a totally different fashion.

This also brought me to the realization that this blog will probably never succeed in its current setting. It’s not necessarily because I’m a bad writer (I’d say “smack average” would describe me well) or because I write about boring topics (hardly, I’ve touched some interesting issues, entirely not of my own merit, while this blog’s been alive) – I think it’s because this blog doesn’t offer the possibility of a posse like other blogs do (religion related blogs are a good example to cite). I do not offer “a home for like-minded atheists” like Pharyngula does. I do not offer a breeding ground for passionate biologists or even rather interested young peers.
Obsessed With Reality, like me, is destined to always swivel and veer to whichever my convoluted mind is up to and that, since I’m no celebrity, politician, or large-breasted female human, is of no interest to almost anyone (except other reality-obsessives, which I scarcely meet or know of).

This fact, although disheartening, is never going to be a death warrant for the blog. Writing things down endows me with some sort of releasing sensation. To be obnoxiously poetic, I could say that putting my meandering thoughts and ideas in writing “sets them free”, in a way – and that is something I’ll always love and require and fortunately, this doesn’t need a large readership to achieve.

The suicide attempt and 18 months of infedility

Growing with two debilitated parents, I’ve developed an enormous empathy, verging on admiration, of weakness. This is only natural when the people you first learn to depend on are people you, in a very real sense, can’t. Mom and Dad’s deafness has led me through life constantly reaffirming what I know, terrified of the next step, terrified of having no guidance, of having to guide the ones who are supposed to guide me.

This predicament had its upsides, too. Having an enormous dependency on fluency, literacy and maximal utilization of my mental faculties has led me to obsessively cultivate skills that every average person can if he’s pressed against the wall. It is a fact that I stubbornly reiterate to anyone who not only bothers to reach out to me, but to also exhibit admiration to my unusual skills – that I am not gifted in any way, I am not more intelligent, probably am less intelligent, and am not talented more than anyone else. It’s usually the other way around.

So I grew up with thick skin, I forced myself to learn, to train, to adapt to a reality in which I not only had to fight and fight on my own to make it in a hostile environment, I also had to look up for mom and dad. At some point in my life, being my parents’ son became more than just a burden, it became somewhat of a pathological neccessity.

When mom finally died, it came as something that was so mind-boggling and unacceptable after all those years of spitting blood to preserve her infirm, ever deteriorating body. When I finally went and looked at that corpse, something in me truly and potentially irreversably snapped:

I lived with mom and dad and managed to overcome more and more responsibilities, as they grew older and in mom’s case, sicker and sicker. But I never wavered, I persevered.

But when I was faced with mom’s corpse, my mind did a routine action: it tried to make it right.

And when I realized that this was a dead body and not something I could in any way change, that relentless, bullet-headed, infinite hope simply gave in. My entire moral backbone just snapped at once. When mom went, so did my ability to be of any use to anyone. I became, for more than 18 months, something that I never was:

I cared for nothing, I cared for no one. I was interested in two things: dying, and that day when I lost half of everything I had.

So I started detaching myself from friends, stopped caring for my commitments, I stopped feeling empathy, ceased honoring relationships. I betrayed and doublecrossed and squeezed everyone’s ability to adhere to me on the basis of the man I was until I was left with almost nothing, and then:

I turned to hurt, in ways unimaginable, the person I cared about the most.

At that point, I quit college, closed myself in my room and realized that the tiring quest of liquidating everything I had is almost complete. At that point, I took an overdose of pills, ran away into a place no one could find me in and waited.

Lying on the sand gave me some time to think. I knew that if the overdose won’t kill me, I’ll simply have to find more intricate ways of ensuring my death. By that time, I was truly willing to die. I lost all my friends, the person I loved the most hated me, and my dad truly gave up, he couldn’t see his son dying anymore, especially not after looking up to me all those years, using me as ears and protection.

After a few hours I came back home, the pills didn’t kill, although they made me feel horrible for a few weeks. It was a failed attempt, but a damn good one. In the following weeks, while my family rushed me to a psych ward (where I was diagnosed with PTSD), I spent time researching a clean, clear-cut means of killing myself, and this was undergoing serious planning until something rather strange happened that suddenly, somehow, jerked my entire twisted mentality back to where it was the day before mom died. I called it “the Efes”, or “zero” in Hebrew. Because it was an event that was so powerful that it felt as though something that was born on April 1st, 2007, when Mom died, was completely destroyed.

After I started having panic attacks about a few days after the funeral, I started recieving prescribed anxiolytics. One of the drugs I recieved was an anti-psychotic called “Resperidal”. Resperidal had the quality of pacifying the body so violently that taking it sometimes led me into self-induced, 20-hour long comas. It also had the rather nasty side-effect of producing a rather horrible panic attack as soon as I woke up. The scariest part about Resperidal is that when I actually woke up and panicked, it wasn’t because of Mom or being afraid to lose my girlfriend or Dad or anything. It was pure, unadulterated fear. It’s as though somehow the drug managed to put every single nerve in my body on a stretch and cause me to feel terrified because of something I cannot identify. It was a chemical ghost, terrifying, invisible, incapacitating.

Then one evening, about a week or so before I planned to perform a much more elaborate suicide, I had a severe, mind shattering panic attack. It was so intense and so powerful that I had lost all capacity of judgment and simply took every anxiolytic I had. I simply didn’t care – I just wanted it to stop. So, what actually happened is that I took about eightfold the standard dose of Resperidal, which shut me down like a steel hammer.

When I woke up, I woke up in Hell. I woke up delusional and horrified. That burning sensation of fear that follows taking one dose of Resperidal was powered up until the sensation of dread became so intense, that I began hallucinating. I’ve never experienced true delusions before, since I never took drugs or had any mental illnesses. I saw darkness in a lit room. It was as though everything I’ve seen was somehow dying and fading away. For the first time in more than a year, I couldn’t even panic, I simply started sobbing hysterically as soon as I understood that I’m awake.

Since my dad’s deaf, he couldn’t hear anything coming out of my room,  so basically, during that time, I was crying hysterically for, I’m not sure, about 6 hours straight, much of that time my dad being in the other room. I remember a dark light becoming darker, so I assume that morning and noon came and became evening and night. At one point or another I began feeling sure that Einat’s dead. I started calling her name and signing it over and over. At some point my dad came to my room and saw what was happening. I know this because he’d told me that I signed him insane things. I also remember being sure that he was standing next to me in the hospital.

At one point, even though it was dark, dad noticed I was signing Einat’s name over and over again, so he told me to talk to her or meet with her. I don’t know if dad eventually brought her up to her computer or she just happened to be around, but after all those hours of hysterical, manic sobbing and delusions, Einat got online. When she appeared, I wrote to her that I can’t live without her now that she’s dead. She was, obviously, baffled by this and turned on her webcam to rather bluntly show me that she isn’t, in fact, dead.

And then something very strange happened. When I saw her beautiful, pristine, perfect face, it all fit together. When I saw her smiling at me, after all I’ve done to her, after all the pain and anguish I felt that day, something snapped backwards.  It was the experience of feeling so horrible, so unimaginably bad, to “boil” emotionally in the same way I did in the hours before mom finally died and this time – with a different “ending”, that’s clicked my incapacitated mind into place. This time, the pain and misery was pure, it wasn’t a result of bottled up horror at the proposition of a vital person’s death – it was completely custom-made terror. This time – instead of losing the person I loved, I got her back.

So when I saw her face and her smile, something undescribable, an eternal noonday demon, a face in the dark that never turned away – simply disappeared. It was like having an arrow stuck inside of me and feeling the agony of the wound without ever dying, and somehow, at that moment, someone just pulled the arrow out of me.

Ever since that day, I ceased, not gradually, but abruptly and completely, to have panic attacks. I stopped feeling terrified, hopeless, weak, pointless. I felt exactly as I did when mom was alive, except that she isn’t and wasn’t. I came back.

Of course, ever since then I’ve been building it all up from scratch, but at least Einat’s by my side. I got back to training, got re-admitted to college, majoring this time not only in Biology, but also in Israeli Sign Language. I started to rebuild.

Epilogue:

Up to this day, I got a steady income, school’s in a month from now, I write, train and am taking care of dad again. It’s lonely “up here”, since I really did ditch all of my friends and there’s no one left besides Einat, amazingly, since I hurt her the most. Even so, I feel the same elevation as I’ve always had being the son of Mom and Dad – that being weak and outnumbered, alone and ignorant – is a lure to fight and an invitation to fight harder and to reap greater rewards.

It is true that there is much to rebuild, even after all I’ve accomplished since the Efes, but after all of this – I know that I will never be broken in that way again. I will never allow something to turn me into a traitor, a criminal, a shadow of a man.

Not everyone gets a second chance.

Shenanigans

This is a post written in English that is going to be followed by a post translating it into Hebrew. I’m making points in this lengthy, yet, I promise, interesting post that I wish both my Hebrew-reading friends to enjoy easily and any English readership I might attract here.

It’s been quite a nasty day for me yesterday. I don’t usually write blog posts like diary entries, even though I do write personal posts, but something that I did yesterday caused me to do a lot of thinking. Really disconcerting, nasty, shocking, sickening things usually do.

I should probably add it to my “about me page”, but for now, I’ll put it here that my “job classification”, if you could call it that, is a “freelancer English/Hebrew/Sign Language interpreter and transcriber”. It’s a very high-paying job for an untrained student and, more importantly, since I freelance, I can supply my services when I want, to whom I want and to what extent I want. So when I’ll be busy with exams, I’ll have the legal privilege to simply work less. It also means that I negotiate my payment before every job and I get a lot of experience with a huge variety of subjects.

I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now, ever since I was 17 and my dad needed me to come and not only translate for him, which was something I got used doing and never actually expected payment for it – but he also asked me to transcribe for him too because his regular transcriber was sick. Transcribing to deaf students is simply to sit next to them in class and try and type whatever the professor says. My dad was having a course in auto mechanics and he had government funding for either a typist/transcriber or a sign language interpreter. In my case, since I’ve been living behind a keyboard ever since I was 5 (when I got my first 286 computer) and by now have achieved sonic typing speed, and because I’ve been interpreting for mom and dad all my life -Dad got both.

So, needless to say, Dad was extremely pleased. Whenever the lecturer said things that he had to memorize or explained really complicated ideas, I wrote them down, word-for-word. Most people, fortunately, don’t talk faster than 80 words a minute, which is about how fast I type in both Hebrew and English. I even managed to write down some comments and questions from the other students and the answers the professor gave. I really gave dad the feeling that he was really IN the class, aware of everything that’s happening. Even today, the knowledge of this makes me cry.

When dad simply wanted to understand a concept, or, after I wrote down what the professor said, to ask a question, I removed my fingers from the laptop social security gave me and I started interpreting to dad in sign language and voicing my dad’s questions to the professor.

In that respect, I think I became and might probably still be the ONLY transcriber who is ALSO a sign-language interpreter. After my dad finished his course (he got like 98 or something! woohoo dad!), I was just about to graduate and I had thoughts of actually getting a job so that I could save up some money. I had about 2 months in which I worked in telemarketing, delivered newspapers and there was one more thing I don’t even remember… Until one day, my dad told me about a deaf student he knows who majors in special education. He said that he thought I was really good at transcribing and being able to sign is a huge bonus for any deaf student. I reluctantly agreed to accompany this girl for one semester and it was just amazing. First of all, I was making about triple minimum wage. That is, I made twice as much money as any of my friends in half the time. All the while, having complete access to academic courses and almost the entire week off. I worked 3 days a week, about 10 hours in total, and they paid me so friggin’ much, I simply couldn’t get why. This “business” took off as more students heard of my “special skills”. By the time I joined the army and had to stop working, of course, I had 2 more long-term jobs: one was with a girl who studied dental hygiene and another who learnt marriage-counselling. Needless to say, I was exposed to information I probably would never have been exposed to.

During the army, I did a lot of jobs “in the black market”, because Israeli soldiers aren’t allowed to have jobs without a special permit, which I wouldn’t be able to get because my family wasn’t poor. So I had the opportunity to go to court with deaf plaintiffs, transcribe official hard-of-hearing conferences and even professional lectures by foreign lecturers in technical subjects such as audiology. I gained so much information that I have no current use for that it’s kinda funny. Of course, a soldier doing this “on his free time” – I got paid in cash and no one was any wiser. I helped a lot of people with my services, so I think anyone with an IRS-oriented morality should just leave me alone, at that.

Anyway, after I discharged from the army, I got an official “card” and”opened up a business”, and I’m only writing that in quotes because it feels ridiculous to write it without them, and, well, got myself a name, a reputation. I started working with private companies, those who REALLY pay big bucks for broke, young, discharged soldiers. And here I am now. Now I mostly do the most difficult type of transcribing, but I do it from home and on my own terms, which is great because it means I can work whenever I want. The most difficult part of transcribing I just mentioned is formal government and judicial material: conferences/meetings/law suits/commities, etc. They’re all of a very similar vein: all exquisitely recorded, all requiring a lot of experience as a transcriber.

Now that I’ve finished droning on how I got into transcribing and interpreting (something, admittedly, that I did less and less when I got into transcribing for private companies for a lot more than what the government pays interpreters), I’ll get to the point of what happened to me yesterday and how hard it shook me.

I got a new “supplier”, or “well”, as I call them, for transcription jobs. A solid, good, credible company with lots of work that was recruiting new transcribers and translators in English and Hebrew. The first job they gave me was yesterday, in which I completed transcribing two hours of audio. Now, there’s a legal agreement that prevents me from saying exactly what happened in that piece of audio, mainly because it was of a closed-doors serious crime law-suit and even if I could, I don’t think I’d have the balls to really tell what happened, just that listening and writing down with my own fingers the course of those two hours was such a horrible, nasty, sickening, bowel-churning experience that it simply screwed up my mood for the rest of the day. I was supposed to go this geek party thing afterwards and simply didn’t. I stayed up alone, drank too much and tried really, really hard not to think about human evil.

But the actual serious crime itself wasn’t the only thing that made me so battered.

Well, yeah, first of all, there was the part that I literally stopped working in some cases where something simply unbelievable was said by someone (things were said that shocked me so much that I simply froze for a few minutes and literally had a physiological response to it, I could actually throw up.), but in the aftermath, and after, somehow, getting used to hearing really horrible descriptions from the witness stand, something else REALLY bothered me. Notwithstanding the fact that horrible, nasty, incomprehensible evil is alive and kicking on this planet, there was also the fact that when people investigate witnesses, be they the victims, defendants, or anyone else, lawyers, being what they are, are capable of twisting words and using verbal gymnastics in a way that would make almost anyone believe almost anything. I found this extremely troubling because on the one hand, I heard a victim depicting what has happened to him/her and then, when cross-examined, the lawyer actually did a REALLY good job at discrediting the witness.

I know it’s his job, but it’s as if the guy had absolutely no sympathy, he was doing his job like there’s nothing else in the world but defending his client. And when I listened to what he said, I was shocked to realize that at some points, I almost believed him. I believed him when he discredited the witness. And then I shook my head and realized that serious criminals get to walk away so many times simply because of people like that lawyer.

Some serious crimes have very little evidence to support them, and in that case, the only thing left to investigate is the witnesses. That said, people who are confused, scared, have been suffering from many years by the same person and can’t recollect and reproduce events in the far past – they all give screwed up descriptions of what happened to them. Possibly, to the extent where they say one thing at the police and another in court, simply because they’re too emotionally wound up to be completely consistent. This is also, sadly, enough to discredit almost ANYONE because in cases of serious crimes that are well-hidden, there’s usually discrepancy even between what the victim says and what other people who confided in the victim say. It’s so… dirty, the whole business.

I finished working yesterday feeling, more than any sympathy that I felt, more than any pride I felt in taking a small part in something this important, I felt sick. I felt sick with the fact that humans can twist words any way they like and with that allow such evil not only to exist, but also to escape judgment. I wouldn’t assume to be both judge and jury, but hearing what cross-examination is like in cases like this, I can be almost certain that sometimes, lawyers help the bad guys walk away and then the bad guys continue doing bad things. It is a failure that humanity suffers from that I find so heart-breaking and mind shattering,

I do not know how to reconcile this with myself, and I know that there’s very little that I can do.

It is quite amazing what evil lurks in the hearts of men. In some, insanity or an unrestrained compulsion drives people to destroy other souls or even to take them. But in other cases, it is greed or indifference that allows for such visceral evil to exist. I can’t make which evil is worse.

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…