Last night saw us celebrate the 21st birthday of our very beautiful niece. Off we dutifully trotted to the Alma for a family dinner. My two boys as normal teenagers were less than enthused at the thought of a family affair but after the "not negotiable" spiel from their mother they grudgingly gave in. Of course when they got there, they had a good time!
Since hubby is one of 6 kids, a family dinner is never small - in fact there were 35 people at this dinner. It was one of those frightening things you do when you see those members of the family, relations from the other side, that you haven't seen for years and suddenly their kids are all young adults, with girlfriends and boyfriends in tow no less - man it makes you feel old and more importantly - what the hell happened to all those years????
In amongst all of those 35 people guess how many can use sign language? Yep NONE!
As we sat at dinner enjoying ourselves, I couldn't help but contemplate how different things might have been if we did not have the wonderful opportunity of getting a cochlear implant for A when he lost his hearing to meningitis. He had no useable hearing, he would have been signing. We would have been able to sign, but many of those there wouldn't have - how cut off and isolated would A have been in what should have been a fun time? A time of family, fun and celebration.
I watched on as different relatives and family members moved around the 2 tables sitting down and catching up with people they hadn't seen in awhile. Of course they came to sit with us and engage us in conversation and A could join in, and talk and be part of the conversation and discussion.
Then the waitress came over to take all the orders, and walked up to A and asked him what he wanted to order for dinner. Again, a very easy and natural exchange - yes I know he could have just pointed at the menu if he couldn't speak, but the ease with which he was able to communicate was what struck me.
Regardless of what happens in the future for him, who knows he may or may not choose to learn sign language, but irrespective of that, our giving him a cochlear implant and working with him to develop speech and listening skills, have certainly set him up for a life in which communication with the wider bulk of his community (which is hearing) will be possible.
I'm not sure there is a greater gift that we could give him.