Daddy Dearest…

I know, this is an odd title given that my blog is about me, but you will understand why shortly…

In recent weeks, friends have been dealing with the loss of their fathers (and/or mothers), and this has had me thinking about mine… So many things have been coming to me when I think about my father.. Memories as a child, as a teen, and as an adult. Through every memory he was a strong presence, even if he was in the background, reading the paper as he often was. The memories I will talk about now,will be the ones relating to my deafness, and our relationship because of it. We have the typical father daughter relationship. He is who I turn to when I need advice, or help. Not that I didn’t have a good relationship with my stepmom, I did. Both were there for every appointment I needed, for speech, ENT, audiology etc. They did all the things supportive parents are supposed to do to ensure I had what I needed to succeed. Mom did too, and after she and Dad split, she did what she could.

I have a deep respect for my father, because while I was raised in a family of high achievers on both sides, my father, had unwavering faith, that no matter what my life turned out to be, that I could do whatever I wanted to do. At my schools, he persuaded principals and teachers that I could do well in a mainstream class. That in fact, with the Special Education Act, they really had no choice. He told them what I needed, and what they had to do in no uncertain terms. He would brook no nonsense about “not being able to meet my needs” as he so often heard. In fact he said “she will surprise you”. I did just that. I had fantastic teachers that rose to the challenge, and at the end of the first term, at every school I attended, he would hear “you were right, sir”.

As a teen, I remember meeting with my teachers, and principal, at the start of the school year, telling them what I needed, what I could do, what limitations I had due to my deafness, and what he expected. I was sitting beside him, and while he was explaining about needing note takers, lip reading (facing me, trimmed facial hair, background noise and lighting), and how in certain subjects I may struggle because of linguistic comprehension. I remember listening, watching my teachers as they took notes, asked questions, and I even at one point, contradicted Dad on something he said and I hadn’t even been lip reading him. In those days I was much better with speech comprehension.

One of my teachers who turned out to be my home room teacher, math teacher, and psychology teacher; later told me he was impressed with me that day, as I sat there, following everything. In fact that teacher, asked me to present to my classmates in the psychology class during the sound unit, and in subsequent years, and also asked me to explain what deafness was like to my classmates and other students. He would refer to that meeting, and how he trimmed his moustache to ensure I could follow him, and how impressed he was with me through the years I was there. I happily did so, and in various courses referred to my life as a deaf person in some of my assignments.

I remember various conversations with Dad as I struggled to find a career I was interested in. Every conversation he reiterated, “do what makes you happy, what you’re most interested in. Don’t limit yourself because of your hearing. If you want to do finance, do it, if you want to be a hair stylist, also consider running your own salon. You can do whatever you set your mind to do.” The day I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in History, was I am sure, the proudest day of my parents lives. I chose to teach, and went on to achieve my Bachelor of Education, and did manage to supply teach for a few years. Life being as it is, I no longer teach. As disappointed as he was about that, Dad understood why. That part of that has to do with where I live, as it is very competitive here; and that it also had to do with my resulting stress due to the comprehension needs I had, day in day out. It is a stressful career to begin with, and for me, doubly so.

While I am currently unemployed, I have held several jobs in the last ten years that gave me new skills, and experiences. All of which has shown that my deafness is not an impediment. At least, until my place of employment was sold to a new owner, and it became an issue for him, after I received my implant. I digress.. Through all that, and even now, Dad has shown interest in what I do, and encourages me in my job search now.

When I started the process of qualifying for the implant, we had many talks about it. What the requirements were, and why I passed too easily at first. He believed that the implant would help me go farther than I had already, and was disappointed when I kept coming back from testing saying “not this time”. Sadly, it took my speech comprehension declining drastically over six years of testing, before I finally made the criteria. Out of everyone, he stood steadfast through the process, and never wavered from the belief that I should continue to test, for he believed that one day their criteria may change. He was right. The day I came back, and said I qualified, he was smiling, and said, “this will be good for you. What’s next?”

I ended up waiting 18 months, as I subsequently became pregnant, lost my mother, and then had to wait until there was a surgical slot for me. The day before the surgery, Dad sent me an email, and in it, he had written : ” I am proud of you. See you tomorrow. Love, Dad.” They came up to help for two weeks, as my son was 9 months old, and my husband had just started a new job and was unable to take time off. My brother in law came for the day of the surgery to watch my son for us. Dad drove us to the hospital, and as I sat there waiting to be called, he was on my left, and my stepmom was on my right. I was a bundle of nerves, needing my husband, my mother (who never got a chance to see this happen), missing my baby, and ready to back out and bolt, yet he just sat there, solid, confident in my decision, and held my hand. I was terrified of losing the rest of the hearing in that ear, of regretting it, of completely going backward and of it failing. Yet there he was, solid, comforting, confident. I was called, and as I stood up, he stood and wrapped me in his arms. He said, “it will be ok, you will do great. I will see you in the morning. I love you. You’re doing the right thing.” I had not said a word, but he knew. My husband had also said the same before leaving for work, and I believed him too. But right then, at that moment, Dad gave me that strength, with his unwavering faith in me that he had had since the day he figured out I could not hear. The strength I needed to walk through that door as I went to change my life forever, irrevocably, and hoping for the best.

In the days, weeks, months after, he, my stepmom, my sister, would ask, how is it going, you seem to be doing well etc. I’ve been blessed with a tremendous amount of support from everyone. My husband is my coach during the Auditory Verbal therapy, as is my daughter. My friends and family are my cheerleaders. Yet, Dad is the epitome of faith, strength, and as he reads my Facebook posts about my progress, and clicks “like” on them, I get this boost of faith and strength. Daddies have that “something” that every girl needs, no matter what support we have in our lives around us.

Eighteen months later, that unwavering faith in me, in my decision, has been rewarded. Starting the AVT has shown what I can truly hear and what what I need to learn to hear. As I practice, actively listen, actively question what I hear, I am finding that I have come further in the past year than I thought possible. I am beginning to understand my toddler more easily, my children are repeating less, my husband is understanding what to do to facilitate my hearing, and best of all, I can hear everyone more fully, and hear more sounds than I could with my hearing aids. I am once again, becoming the confident woman he raised, beginning to be sure of myself again, and loving this part of my life. I don’t know what I would do without that silent, unwavering, solid faith, that is always there, even if nothing is spoken, or he is not beside me.

Thank you Daddy.

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