Conversations with My Deaf Mother

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Sometimes I tried to persuade myself that she was not really deaf. She was a mischievous prankster, and what better way to keep everyone hopping than to pretend she was deaf, the way every child has, at one point or another, pretended to be blind, or played dead? For some reason, she had forgotten to stop playing her prank. To test her, I would slide behind her when she wasn’t looking and yell in her ear. No response. Not a shudder. What amazing control she had. I sometimes ran to her and said that someone was ringing the doorbell. She opened the door; then, realizing I had played a low trick on her, she would laugh it off, because wasn’t it funny how the joy of her life — me — had hatched this practical joke to remind her, like everyone else, that she was deaf. One day, I watched her get dressed up to go out with my father and, as she was fastening a pair of earrings, I told her she was beautiful. Yes, I am beautiful. But it doesn’t change anything. I am still deaf — meaning, And don’t you forget it.

-André Aciman in The New Yorker, on communicating with his deaf mother (subscribers only). Read more from The New Yorker.

Sam Stecklow is a contributor to Longreads' blog, an editorial fellow at The Morning News, a contributor to The Airspace, and has seen every episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun.
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