Loving Hands This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 5, 2012
Mothers are usually very significant in childhood memories. My earliest recollections are quite unique. In my mind I see pictures of her hands moving gracefully in front of her, forming letters, words, and sentences I would yet understand. My mother is deaf.

As a child, I doubted and questioned that she could not hear and often, for my own proof, would stand behind her and scream. Not once did she flinch or whirl around to scold me. After finally realizing just how different my mother was, I began to notice certain things that other mothers could do, but mine could not. My mother could not hear the radio or television or answer the phone without the help of her hearing aid. These everyday activities are often taken for granted. At a young age I was exposed to the adult world because I provided the ears my mother used to communicate with the world. I always encountered difficulty while trying to assume responsibility. How seriously does one take a six-year-old on the telephone calling for her “mommy” and arranging such things as doctors appointments? And so, I endured a constant struggle to be taken seriously.

As I grew older, I discovered ways to use the situation to my advantage. How easy it was at thirteen to walk out of a room after an argument with my mother and speak horrible things to which she wouldn’t respond. Unfortunately, but honestly, such a habit is not easy to break, although I carry much more guilt about such actions now.

More than once I have felt guilt, but the hardest emotion to suppress is shame. Simple elementary school friendships do not require an explanation that your mother is handicapped, a word I still hesitate to use in describing her. But, for many people, it is sadly a word they cannot see past. I have found that true friends are those who accept not only you, but your family as well, and they are also the ones who do not even notice the effort they are making to speak slowly and to look at my mom when they talk, since she possesses an extraordinary talent to lip read, and they hardly notice when asked to repeat things for a second time. I myself do not always possess these favorable attributes because I still become frustrated when I cannot communicate as easily as I would like.

At age five, I learned basic sign language and very often, to reinforce a point I am trying to make, I speak and sign at the same time. I still hesitate to sign in public. In a restaurant or store, many will stare at someone who is signing. It has taken a great deal of self-confidence to overcome the stares, and I now feel a sense of pride being able to communicate in a special way. I have learned that many people are ignorant of the fact that a person can be handicapped yet carry on a life that is hardly different from their own.

I have overcome many obstacles to accept the mother with whom I have been blessed, and I honestly would not trade her for another, although at age seventeen, there are times I think I would like to. She is truly special in her own way, and I am thankful for all the memories she has given me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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