As some of you know my nearly five year old grandson has been visiting. When he left, the apartment became strangely quiet–peaceful, but lonelier. My hearing loss made communication more difficult and painful in many situations involving him. High pitched sounds are hard for me to decode as is fast talk; children have high pitched voices and often speak at warp speed. But we managed.
At one point when shopping, he pointed out an empty parking space to his father, but my son said, “No, that’s for handicapped people.”
I was sitting next to Max, and he asked me “What does handicap mean.”
I replied, “Handicap people’s bodies are sick or broken and can’t do the things most people do.”
Max then asked, “Are you handicapped?”
“Yes,” I said, “My hearing is a handicap.”
Silence and then, “Why can’t you park in those places?”
Very smart little boy.
“Those spots are for people who can’t walk far or well and I don’t have that kind of a handicap.”
Thus ended the conversation. Something else drew his attention.
My hearing loss means I have to ask people to repeat or speak more slowly or look at me when talking. Sometimes, even the audiologist has to be reminded to do those things. Strangers are usually polite and willing, but if I have to ask again or even more than once, the look of annoyance begins it flickering. Then I am likely to just smile as if I understand which often works for them, but leaves me feeling half crazy…another invisible handicap. This is one of the ways I managed my conversations with Max…he seemed to feel listened to and loved which was my goal, but I felt the sadness of my handicap more strongly.
I would have liked to have been able to say to Max before his mind went elsewhere: “Almost everyone has one handicap or another, people who need glasses have a handicap; people with learning difficulties have handicaps; people whose brains have been changed by trauma have a handicap. Children are handicapped in a world made up of grownups.
I also wanted to say, moreover, some handicaps are invisible. People with learning disabilities or trauma reactions or diabetes or heart problems all have invisible handicaps.
As I was looking through my files for a blog post this morning, I came upon this link.
It usually contains stories of strength from people with various challenges or handicaps as some call them. Not sure what you will find if you go there, but it is an interesting place to visit now and again.
Stay strong, I am working at it.