Qu’est-ce que

Q is for Qu’est-ce que.

Listening at Laity Lodge (photo by Kristen Peterson)

Listening at Laity Lodge (photo by Kristen Peterson)

Dr. Ralph Woods stopped me one day at Laity Lodge.

“I’ve noticed you,” he said.

Noticed me? I thought. Me?

Short of wearing camo, I do my best to blend in with my surroundings.

He continued. “You’re very attentive to your deaf friend. It’s nice the way you help her.”

Oh, goodness. I wanted to tell him that I am the one on the receiving end in that relationship. I wanted to tell him that she helps me in so many ways, ways I could never repay.

But I just said, “Thank you,” and allowed him to believe that I was being nice.

What he had seen was me sitting in the front row with a friend. I tried taking notes so that she could read and understand a little of what was going on, but my notes were terrible and messy. I can’t imagine that she got much from them.

However, scattered through my notes are some odd statements, because there would be times when someone said something funny and the crowd would erupt in laughter.

She would look at me, at times like that, her face a question, and rub her thumb against her fingers, like she wanted the substance. I would try to distill the laughter to the one or two lines from which it originated.

Odd lines in my notes from outbreaks of laughter during sessions:

“He said he would be brief.” — words from a long-winded speaker.

“+2 sword of elf-killing?” — I wasn’t sure I heard that one correctly, but I think it’s close.

“Match the Rabbit Roomer with his neuroses” — a comment from the Rabbit Room panel.

In my mind, whenever she looked at me with the question, I heard “Qu’est-ce que?” — short for qu’est-ce que c’est, literally French for, what is it that it is.

“What?” she wanted to know. “What’s being said? What funny thing happened? What am I missing?”

How hard it must be to be deaf in a crowd of hearing people! We take it for granted — that we can hear the one-liners from the crowd without having seen the one who said it.

We can hear the bell calling us to dinner.

We can hear the music and the laughter.

We can hear the rise and fall of a voice as a story is being told.

And the wind in the trees.

And the water of the Frio River.

On our last night at Laity Lodge, I was heading to the concert with a friend and stopped at my deaf friend’s room to see if she was ready to go.

I opened her door, didn’t see her in there, and called her name in case she was around the corner.

Of course, she didn’t answer, because she couldn’t hear me.

My companion laughed and laughed. “I can’t believe you just did that,” she said.

I can’t believe I did either.

It’s just that when I think of her, I don’t think of a disability. I think of a beautiful person with whom I love spending time.

I hope that’s okay.

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4 thoughts on “Qu’est-ce que

  1. My sister-in-law is mostly deaf. She can hear enough with a hearing aid and one one one, and she’s good at lip reading, but once she’s in a crowd, she’s lost.

  2. Your gracious humility, your gentleness of spirit, ministers to me, dear Sally. From across these many miles, I am challenged and encouraged by your story. Thank you.

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