Being the youngest son, I was used to a life of hand-me-downs. Before I grew taller than my brothers, I used to get their clothes. I also would get their old used baseball mitts, one left-handed and the other right-handed. I learned to use both. The most anticipated hand-me-downs were electronics. I started with a transistor radio and eventually up to a boombox. It was when my oldest brother decided to get a new stereo system that I finally truly made out.
I wasted little time setting up the system in my room. I couldn’t wait to listen to my favorite bands the way they were intended to be listened to…loud and in stereo. I figured I could crank it because my parents were deaf. For the most part, it was fine, but then my dad came to visit me one evening to tell me to turn it down. Apparently, my bass was turned up a little too far and my parents could feel the music. It took them a week to figure out what the rumbling was.
I turned down the music and toned down the bass some more. My dad put his hand on one of my speakers and after a moment, began to tap his fingers with the drums and the bass. He could still feel the music.
DAD: Who is this?
ME (using my hands to talk): Led Zepplin.
DAD: I like it.
This new-found enjoyment of music for my dad continued for the next few years until I finally grew up and moved out. My dad would come upstairs to see me almost every evening and put his hands on the speakers. He got so good at identifying bands and their styles that he could sometimes guess the band with a song he never felt before. He became an expert in musical style. It was amazing!
That’s how my dad was. Instead of feeling sorry for himself because he couldn’t hear music, he found a different way to enjoy it. Once, he actually stood with his hand on my speaker for the entire album “Dark Side of the Moon.” He really liked Pink Floyd. He also liked Led Zepplin, AC/DC, The Who (Baba O’Reilly was his favorite), Queen (heavy base on some songs), and my occasional forays into R&B, country, classical, and even the Muppets. He specifically asked me to play the Beatles on a few occasions because he wanted to know what all the hype was about in the 60s. My dad really was amazing!
The most amazing thing about my dad’s ability to distinguish sounds that he could only feel was when he used the telephone. Yes, he figured out how to use a telephone before they had teletypes or video phones for the Deaf. He only called from work when he was going to be late so we could tell my mom. This is how it worked.
My dad would go to the rotary wall phone at his job and dial our home number. Then he would hum softly. When we would pick up the phone and hear his humming, we would make a deep “Huh” sound that he could feel on the phone at his end. Then he would verbally tell us what he needed to tell us. My dad was able to speak fairly well and was easy to understand. We would do “Huh” for yes and “Huh Huh” for no. Then we would hang up and tell our mom what he said.
Like I keep saying, my dad was amazing.
Another example of how awesome my dad was is that he could’ve used hearing aids. He had been tested and he had just enough there for a high powered hearing aid to slightly work. He refused because my mom was tested and she was profoundly deaf and no hearing aid would’ve helped her. My dad didn’t want something my mom couldn’t have. In fact, he never even told her that he could wear hearing aids if he wanted. He felt that being deaf could be lonely enough without losing your best friend to the hearing world. He didn’t want my mom to be alone.
I write a lot about my dad. He was the only person I ever looked up to. Everybody else I look eye-to-eye and let them determine how I see them as time goes. My dad’s always been on top because he was such a good man. He was tough when he needed to be, soft if the situation called for it, and always forthright and honest in everything he did.
My dad has always been my inspiration and hero.