Saturday, February 4, 2012

On Being Reminded

It has been my experience, in my almost nine years of especially needy child rearing, that in general, folks aren't going to ask about Owen.

Which is fine.

But.  It has also been my experience, that if one is going to pepper me with questions, and do so without the pity, it is usually a man.

A few weeks ago we're at the indoor pool, waiting for Owen and Bea's lesson to start.  I'm sitting in the row of chairs against the wall.  Mommies and Mommies and Mommies.  And the lone Daddy.

Owen is shirtless and not wearing his hearing aids.  The scars alone would make a parent wonder.  He doesn't have just one, or even a few.  The kid looks like he's been through a war.  'Cause he totally has.

I don't expect the Daddy to say anything after I finish signing to Owen and send him on his way.

But he does. He wants to know if Owen had a heart defect; a fair question given the huge deep scar carved into his neck and down his sternum.

I simply tell him no, and that his medical history is complicated.

And he wants to know more.  His eyes bright and smiling with curiosity, flicking from me as I dish the details, to Owen who is now flailing around in the water like a drunken seal.

He listens, not in the humoring a bragging special needs mom kind of way.  But in a real understanding seeking kind of way.  He asks the right questions in the right places. His face never gives up sympathy.  Not even a little.  He just doesn't stop smiling.

His son gets out of the pool and is bugging him to get going, though he clearly wants to hear more about Owen.  He gives in to his son's pestering, and gets up to leave;

"I don't know if this is the right thing to say?  But.  Congratulations."

It is so the right thing to say.  As if he'd known how far away I'd been feeling.  Far away from being lucky and blessed and amazed that I get to be Owen's Mommy.

I wasn't feeling lucky or blessed this morning.  Owen and Bea constantly at each others' throats, and way far up my ass.

Every step in our morning routine requires negotiation and argument.  I wrangle the kids into their suits, Owen hands me his hearing aids, and they bolt out of the bathroom leaving me to schlep their clothes, jackets, towels, and shoes out to the pool.

A family of four is swimming around while the Grandpa sits on the side watching.  I'm signing to Owen, interpreting Bea's words, and reminding him to pay attention to the teacher and not just take off into the deep end.  I intervene a few times during their lesson to make sure he's on task.  All the while, I feel Gramps' eyes on me.

Then he's shuffling over to me.


"Excuse me?"

This old man, eightyish at least, was raised by Deaf parents.  Signing parents even. 

"They're vocal chords were fine, but a hundred years ago, there was nobody to teach them to talk."

A hundred years ago. 

I reminded him of his Mother; a Mommy signing to her boy as his had signed to him.

Life was difficult for his parents, there was no community in which to belong. Communication based on lip reading was frustrating. Services were scarce. They depended on their children to help them navigate the Hearing world. 

But a hundred years later?

He proceeds to gush about how happy it made him to see a young happy Deaf child, how he wished his parents could have known the life that Owen will have.

More congratulations as he's leaving, apparently I am a pleasure to talk to.

"I hope he knows how truly lucky he is. And you too."

He doesn't yet.

And I sure do appreciate the reminders.


  1. Must be something in the water at that pool :) That old man's parents - just wow.

  2. congratulations :) I'm so glad that others can see what a treat you and your kids are!

  3. Goosebumps. Wow. What a wonderful day.

    Sometimes I need a reminder that I have the very right kids for me...thanks for being that for me today.

  4. Wow. Sometimes the universe, in the guise of other people, gives you what you really need. (Then again on other days it gives you a swift kick in the pants. Glad it wasn't one of those!)

    I have to say, this: "Owen and Bea constantly at each others' throats, and way far up my ass." YES. 1,000% yes. My life, too.

  5. Yep, Congratulations.


  6. Love. Congratulations indeed. See what happens when you write? We all win.

  7. I have been lurking over here for a long time but I just HAD to comment on this post.. It literally (and I do mean that literally) made my heart feel like it swelled up with happiness. Congratulations!

  8. Sometimes it takes a stranger to shake the shit out of us.

  9. Ilove these reminders that shift my perspective.

    I feel so alone sometimes, with my aspie boy...but then I think, at least now, you don't have to hide in shame anymore.

    Like a hundred years ago.

    i love your stuff, Tulp.

    So much.

  10. I love this post. Love your conversations with the men at the pool - the grandfather story is amazing. I love that you enjoyed the conversations so much that you shared them with us. And, may I say for the one zillionth time, how much I love the way you write.
    It's always a pleasure visiting your world. Thanks.

  11. My own encounters with the outside world and my 9 yr old son(who has Down Sydrome and signs also)are spot on.Somedays I hate, hate, hate the playground and those pity mommmies. Ever try discplining around those kind of moms. Ugh!!!!When I see a lone Dad who is genuinely interested and appreciating my son for his abilities it is heaven! (Some moms even "get it" too). Love the congratulations reponse and am passing it on for all those "inquiring minds" on my FB

  12. I love feeling that I'm about to read about a truly unfortunate incident, where you just about eat somebody's head off, to find a truly warm story beneath.

    It sounds like it was a truly great day at the pool.

  13. I like it when you think someone is going to give you a pity frown and it turns into something that melts your heart. Right when you need it.

    You're a good mom. And one day the kids will see it.

  14. I know you're an ass hole and all, but damn if you aren't just a really amazing person. I just can't but help be tickled at your existence.

    Not only do you have this life, you share it with us all, beautifully.

    Loved this post. Obviously.

  15. How nice that in this world full of jerks and assholes, sometimes the angels find you at just the right moment.

  16. Talk about your healing waters. So glad these men were there at the right time; maybe your paths will cross again? Got to love a curious, empathetic person who can think and feel but not go all sappy on you.

  17. I'm going to add a "well done!" to the other kind words of those men. :)

  18. Thanks for writing this post.

    For real.

  19. Congratulations- You are a Warrior Mom.

    Things have changed in the last 100 years- we are so lucky.

  20. *sniffle*

    Two angels at one pool? So fabulous.

  21. You really are FUCKING AWESOME. In case you haven't heard that today. And don't you forget it either. And so is Owen and Bea and Al. But you have accomplished feats with those kids that have far surpassed what's in the Mommy Handbook of Crap O Life. You. Awesome.

  22. awesome post. it is amazing to run into people in life that just GET IT. :)


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