Thursday, August 24, 2006

Seeds of Doubt

“What’s wrong with you” he bellowed. “I’ve been calling your name for 10 minutes, and you just sit there.” I immediately assumed my dad was exaggerating due to frustration, not that my assumption was a conscious process, it was just what he did and I was used to it. However, I could see from the look on my mother’s face that she was under the same impression that he had been addressing me and I had been ignoring him.

Truth be told, I had never heard him and I could offer no explanation for my behavior. Secretly I supposed they’d have to chalk it up to another child’s grey matter being turned to mush by the boob tube. After all, it was a very common thing that happens and dad had reminded us on an almost daily basis that it would eventually happen to us too. This was just proof in the pudding.

My brain damage wasn’t limited to home either. School was becoming more and more of a nightmare, with sliding grades and my increasing inability to pay attention. It was during this time that my mother and my teachers agreed that something needed to be done. Fortunately, they did not see eye to eye on what that something was.

The school administration was convinced that I needed to be in remedial classes, and they consequently enrolled me in such. I wasn’t there to see it, but I would later learn that my mother went ballistic. She knew that her son was a bright boy and she wasn’t about to let them write me off. Most likely a way to help the faculty make their case, it was decided that I would be tested in a number of ways and the appropriate arrangements were made.

It was one of those corner stone moments in my life.

The first test done was a routine hearing test, but the results were far from routine.

Sitting in a dark, soundproof booth not much bigger than a linen closet, I began wondering what the delay was as I waited for the test to start. There seemed to be rather lengthy and unnecessary pauses between the tones I was hearing, and I was starting to get fidgety. At the same time, I couldn’t understand why the technician kept interrupting the test to re-explain the testing process and remind me to push the button on the device when I heard the tones. Young or not, it didn’t appear to be too complicated to me, but they seemed to think I didn’t get it. I began to suspect their equipment might be broken.

We were on our third go around before they realized that it wasn’t that I didn’t get how the process worked, it was that I wasn’t hearing the tones. Apparently the hearing test was so routine they weren’t accustomed to people failing it.

From there it was quickly learned that I was deaf in one ear and nearly deaf in the other. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the cause of my loss of hearing was plugged ear canals. The prognosis was good as my hearing was easily remedied by the insertion of tubes. The details of the resulting surgeries are lost in a vague fog of anesthesia and dreamlike memories.

Evidently, as I grew up I had simply learned how to read lips. No one had caught on to the fact that I wasn’t hearing them, and being so young it never occurred to me that I had a problem. This was the only way I had ever taken in the world. And it had worked fine for me when I was watching and paying attention. On the other hand, if I was looking elsewhere, (such as reading a book or watching T.V.); it didn’t work out so well.

With my hearing problem discovered and addressed, it was still clear that I was not doing well in school. I wasn’t keeping up, and they were all at a loss. While the school administration was sympathetic to my hearing set back, it was still their opinion I needed to be moved to remedial classes and schoolwork.

In an effort to determine where my learning capabilities were at it was decided that I would be administered an IQ test.

Again, the results were unexpected.

I tested extremely high. Near as they can figure, I was simply bored out of my mind in class, and therefore was unable to focus on what was being taught because I was not being challenged enough in class. I needed to be put at a higher learning level, not a lower one.

More importantly, I had learned something. I wasn’t stupid… I was smart.

I was smart. I WAS SMART!!! How wonderful it is to find out that you are better than you thought you were. Oh, they wouldn’t tell me until years and years later what my true IQ was. They said it wasn’t important, and that I didn’t need to make anybody else feel less smart because of how I tested. Yet I was able to figure out I must be pretty smart if they didn’t want to tell me for fear of it going to my head. And how did I figure that out? Because I was smart!

There was a flip side to this information. It was in direct contradiction to what my dad had been inferring for as long as I can remember.

That could only mean one thing… he was wrong. For the first time in my life I knew him to be wrong about me, and for the first time I doubted his omnipotence. More significantly, I recognized that the person really looking out for me was my mother.

I loved my Mother. I guess every little boy does, but it seemed different for me. I knew my father hated how clingy I was with her, but I didn’t care. As long as she was around I always felt a little safer, like there was a line he wouldn’t cross with her around. I didn’t understand it, but I sure did pick up on it, and I used it to my advantage. As I look back now, I believe these were the first conscious acts of defiance leveled by me toward my dad.

My mother spent a good deal of time with me taking me back and forth to the doctor’s office, and being there when I came out of surgery. It was the first time I remember being different in a good way, and it made me feel special. Anything that caused me to miss school and spend more time with my mom was all right with me.

I ran to her for everything. If I had a question I would ask her. If I had a secret I would share it with her. If I had a hurt I would turn to her. If I felt threatened I hid within her for safety and if I needed love I looked for that love in her.

Why did I not have this kind of relationship with my dad? Why did he seem to be so displeased with me all of the time, when my mother seemed to be fine with me? When I thought I was dumb it was easy to rationalize his disdain for me, but now that I knew I wasn’t I couldn’t seem to figure it out. If anything, things had gotten worse between us since it was determined that I was exceptional instead of challenged.

Something was not right, and neither was he… or was he? The seeds of doubt were planted, and the strife began to grow.


Anonymous said...

Wow!!! awesome writing!! You better write the next chapter QUICK
I am hooked!! Now I better understand lots of things :O) And will NEVER AGAIN tease your "shaking".
Love ya
I guess I have to write a book so people understand why I am weird, huh? :O)

Priscilla said...

Yeah. We're all waiting.

melody said...

Nice job Paul. Engaging, conversational, you reveal enough but not too much (not a small accomplishment)... your words "read" as effectively as they "talk."

While i will always tease you for many things it's the glue that holds our relationship together), I continue to hold you in high regard. Perhaps more so now because the poet has turned story-teller and he spins a tale that captivates even I... me... I... me... whatever.

Blog On.