Last night I watched the movie CODA for the third time. The familial conflicts and the hurt and distrustful feelings expressed throughout cut close to the bone. Really close. Every time I watch a movie or a show like CODA I can relate and I find myself longing to step inside their world to expand my own Deaf family’s world. This time when I watched CODA I tried to focus more closely on the brother’s character, the actual words, and the sibling relationship.
CODA is getting a lot of attention. As it should. The actual lived experience of Deaf persons and our families seems exotic and scary to most people. We are quite naturally misplaced into a “standard Deaf” cultural box. Believe me I know. I have lived experience now raising a Deaf person. I have a Deaf heart now. The truth is that the question I dread is the one I am asked most frequently. “How do you sign _____?” I actually have a trauma response to this question. Please 7sf1s make it stop for the love of OZShalom.
The truth is that I’ve been saddled with the responsibility of being a resource for all things deaf related for almost two decades now. Much like Ruby who is the CODA character in the film, this is because I am a MODA in real life and it is quite apparently a commandment. I must do this job…or else. I suspect this label MODA that I’ve given myself will piss some people off. It’s unavoidable, so let’s see how that acronym flies out in the world. MODA = Mother of a Deaf (young) Adult. Please understand that I am trying really hard (as I have been for several years) ONLY to relate my own experience and perspective, especially when it comes to the capital D topic. I am only human. So here’s my take.
When I became a mother to a Deaf baby I was automatically thrust into a no win situation. Damned if I do ____. Damned if I don’t ____. It’s been a horror show, quite frankly. FUCK THIS. 🖕🏼✌🏼⚕️The politics in my circle are ridiculous. I feel confident that I made solid decisions based on our family’s circumstances and the professional support and information I had at the time. The ONLY decision I now regret is the cochlear implantation at such a young age. It wasn’t necessary and I sincerely wish I would have been counseled to take more time to consider the cochlear implantation when my baby was not even three years old. I needed much more counseling and personal experience before making that decision and I do regret that I didn’t have enough those things BUT looking back the professional recommendations and a pervasive AUDIST world that overvalues hearing heavily weighed against me and my baby on that one decision. I can say now that at the time it really seemed like a no brainer. Now I know different. I can also say that my child who is now a Deaf adult has assured me and even thanked me for giving them all of the opportunities I could, including the cochlear implants (which I’ve had to fight medicaid like a mother for recently). All of that said, I wish now is that I would have waited on the implant. Waited until there was more information about my child’s development. I wish I would have trusted my own instinct to just stay the course and keep learning and using ASL and Cued Speech and written words. These things I still use and preach. I’ve been told I am evangelical about linguistic freedom. That feels true. Because I know that hearing is not necessary. It’s the world’s view that is the problem. That’s how I see things anyway.
Last night after watching CODA again I was recalling my baby twins. One born Deaf. One not. Both were learning ASL before we even knew we were in the big D world. My twins were being raised almost singlehandedly by me. I was their first and full time teacher. When we weren’t making our usual rounds to storytime at the library or bookstore, swimming, playing at the playground and gardens, reading and singing, doing puzzles and traveling around with friends and family, we were watching Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, and SIGNING TIME videos. Truth. I have frequently credited SIGNING TIME videos created by another MODA (who is now a friend to me in our small MODA world) with not only teaching us some ASL, but with also teaching my twins to read. By the time we got the Deaf identity the twins were both already fingerspelling and using and making up their own signs with each other. Neither twin was speaking. And then when I began cueing fluently the whole world opened up wider because now they could both understand what their own mother was saying. At the same exact time. Naturally. One with and one without access to the sound of my voice. Cueing came easily to me (thank god) and I still think it’s brilliant. It’s also ingrained in our family culture. It is the way in which we communicate. Truth be told, I am the mother of two native Cuers. One Deaf. One not deaf at all. Many of the people we know who are deaf are Cuers. It’s our community. https://stuckinmybra.com/2021/07/12/its-called-cued-speech/
I’m in Houston, Texas today sitting down outside the central library at a public reflecting pool resting and gathering my thoughts. My twins are now nearly twenty years old and are separated and both far away from home right now. The truth is I am grieving their rough childhood and our damaged family life. The truth is I am disappointed in the world. The truth is I am disappointed in myself because I couldn’t keep them safe from life and that is my primary job. To keep my children safe. I wish I would have known how hostile it would really be when I found out my baby was deaf.
Much gratitude to a sweet and spiritual man named Larry who sensed my pain and stopped to pray for me right as I was photographing this tree. I loved that. A perfect stranger stopping to focus his prayers on me. Now I off to daycation by myself before I head back home to my youngest and my husband who I love dearly. I have a beautiful fractured little family.
My one last thought is that I hope that my kids love and care about and will be able to support each other to grow and stay connected in love. That’s what I saw on that screen. CODA portrayed a rough life for a good little protective and isolated Deaf family. And I hope that film will change the world for the better. Tangibly. Not fleetingly. We certainly need it.
In Peace 1m3s ✌🏼⚕️Revolution.
Lisa a.W. Rudofsky