By Terri DelCampo
Simple conversation is a pleasure for me. I not only get closer to my loved ones, as well as people I run into at the grocery store or strolling around downtown Alpharetta, but as a writer, seemingly unimportant comments or tidbits will often embed themselves into my mind and become an article or story later.
But when someone you love becomes deaf, it can turn that pleasurable conversation into a torturous, grueling marathon of failure to be understood.
It started with my mom, who I call on the phone (she lives 800 miles away from me in Delaware) every Sunday. We chat for hours (no exaggeration, she kills my phone every week and I have to put it on the charger for the last third of the call) and I would say about a third of that time is me repeating myself so she can understand me. I would switch to writing her letters, but that's just not the same. She's eighty-seven and lives alone. She's active and sees friends weekly, but she looks forward to my call each week. She has Meniere's Disease that causes her to have a constant whooshing sound (her description) in her ears – not something a hearing aid will help.
Our frustrating conversations have been going on for the past fifteen years, possibly a little longer. I love hearing my mom's voice, I just wish she could hear mine.
Recently I fell in love and married Mr. Write – not just a cute play on words: I am a horror writer and my husband is Blaze McRob, also a horror writer and publisher. We met on Facebook when he posted a review of my dark fiction magazine. We began messaging on Facebook, and became immediate friends. I began doing some editing work for his small press, and our friendship grew, finally turning into a romance. Fourteen months after the review, we were married. And I adore him.
Bless his heart, he's had bouts with ear cancer, that while currently in remission have that left him almost completely deaf. When he came to Georgia, and we met and spoke for the first time, we were hugging at the bus station and he heard "I love you, let's go home," because I said it right into his sweet damaged ear.
But verbal conversations are not our forte, by a long shot.
Sometimes I get so frustrated, I just stop and say "never mind," and I can't be doing that, because I know it hurts his feelings, which in turn hurts mine. And almost as important, I simply refuse to let a disability mangle our otherwise wonderful communication.
When my mother was visiting one time, I didn't want to keep shouting my end of the conversation, so I fired up my computer and created an MS Word doc with HUGE font. I typed my side of the conversation thinking, Wow! I'm close-captioning myself! Mom answered verbally as usual. It worked well for us. It takes a little longer to type out my 'lines,' but actually not much longer than if I repeat myself multiple times, stopping in frustration to count to ten when I cannot make myself understood.
So that's my little trick. Close caption conversations for my deaf loved ones. And there's always the low tech trick: keep a scratch pad handy to write out a word or two that the deaf person may be getting hung up on.
If there is anyone reading this who has any other suggestions, I'm wide open, feel free to comment away. I'm a writer – communication is my thing and I will find a way.
TD – 1/12/2016