A Voice Unheard: My Mother and I

Dear Michael and Caroline,

My mother never heard me cry as a baby. Every time I cried, as I must have, over being hungry or scared or constipated or whatever, my complaints literally fell on deaf ears.

Rather, my cries were seen. Our apartment was rigged with a sound system expressly to capture my crying. Those cries were translated into flashes of light. So my cries at least became public knowledge.

But still, my mother never heard it. So even though she saw those lights flashing, she had no idea how my cries sounded, whether loud or soft, wailing or whimpering, pianissimo or staccato.

And so this central connection between any mother and child – the ability to interpret this most primal of signals, that of a baby crying – was missing between me and my mother.
Of course no one is to blame here, and I’m faulting no one. My mother was, is, deaf, profoundly deaf, hearing neither me nor my sister nor her husband nor even her own mother and father.

That’s just how she turned out, unfortunately.

And even though I’ve wondered long and hard how being deaf affected her, I’ve probably spent even more time wondering how her deafness has influenced me.

I have a few theories.

P.S. – See Part 2 tomorrow.


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