This week’s entry was written by a person of whom I am immensely proud of and adore: my son Alexander.
Alex and Amie in Algonquin Park
Growing up with a father with a significant hearing loss is an experience that I have lived with for 17 years. As I write this, I am awaiting my father’s summation of morning routines, in which he will put his “ears” on, as I so boldly used to state when I was younger. This of course referring to the hearing aid and cochlear implant that he must put on each day before I can speak with him. Having a deafened father is not something that I see as common where we reside, so when I speak of this upbringing, it can only be based purely on my experiential knowledge and very little external influences.
There are many things that shape my father as the man that he is and the father that he is, and whilst his disability is undoubtedly a significant trait; with the power of today’s technology, it is not a difficult one to deal with. Certain aspects of my upbringing in this regard are difficult to recollect, as I have been accustomed to it being reality. And not reality in some form of bleak, cold, hard sense, but rather that I have never known any different. Growing up with a deafened father forces you to adapt to certain mannerisms that are prevalent in all people with this condition. Whether it means patiently waiting for my father to put on his hearing aid and cochlear implant before engaging in a conversation, or knowing to always get his attention by means of small hand signs or light physical contact, these things have become second nature. My father’s ability to engage in conversation and interact with me on a day to day basis is in no way diminished by his hearing loss, and if anything has increased the intimacy of our most heartfelt conversations. I say this because if his body language does not read as being fully immersed in the topic at hand, then I know from experience, and due to the fact that he would have difficulty expressing an opinion if he had not been fully listening and reading my lips that his response would seem distracted. This allows for a much more human feel to our household, as it removes a large majority of the potential for noisy dinner conversations, shouting across the house and scattered voicemail reminders of family plans.
As a young child, my father’s hearing loss did not provide any genuine troubles. The teasing on the matter from my cohorts would only exist as an extension of an insecurity, and a lack of terms to call me after the basics would be used up. However, as my mother and father instilled the values of confidence and compassion in me at a young age, I had the ability to recognize this as no substantial attack towards my father, but rather a last resort due to a lack of genuine teasing to conjure up. To draw upon a previous point, part of the reason it never bothered me is because I did not, and could not ever know any different. This was my father they were speaking about. Why should I care if they wish to tease, when my father had done so much for me? This was never became a prominent issue.
One joy that I have had the pleasure of sharing with my father is that of music. As he has mentioned in previous entries, playing and listening to music is no easy task for anyone with any form of hearing loss. This has been a struggle for my father since day one, yet he never hesitated to give me his utmost support when I decided to pursue music as a passion. In fact, he joined me on this and our basement (or man’s den as my mother would say) has now been transformed into a small recording studio. The values that music has brought to my life are innumerable and without my father’s utmost support, I may not have gone nearly as far as I have. Music has allowed me to grow intellectually, emotionally and has given me confidence I needed after traveling to play shows to people across Ontario. None of this would have been possible without my father’s support, and the many long nights spent listening to me practice and helping me progress. Also, as mentioned in previous entries, a huge silver lining in the cloud, is our hearing ear dog Amie. Growing up with a dog has changed the very essence of who I am, and my love for animals and living beings has grown to be insatiable. My father and I have matching Amie tattoos, which is something I will carry proudly with me forever. When my father’s laser eye surgery took a turn for the worse, as a child I jokingly stated “This is a good thing Dad! We can get a seeing eye dog now too!”. These are two great things that have come out of my father’s hearing loss, that I feel a father without such a condition may not have been able to offer to the same extent.
All in all, growing up under this has had immense implications on me. It does go against many of the typical father son paradigms that exist in the all too unrelatable parenting advice columns, and it has most definitely been different. It goes without saying that there are ups and downs, as in any family relationship, but the majority of them have not been anything that any other family would not face. It has changed my outlook on people with disabilities, culture, society, technology and opened my eyes to many things that I would not have been aware of before. In many regards, it truly has shaped me into who I am today.