My friend Robert is deaf, and I have a stutter.
And Robert lip reads.
Robert speaks normally but if there is any background noise, then My hearing is very poor.
We have been close friends for 25 years and during that time neither of us have ever had a clue what the hell the other person has been talking about.
Having a discussion with Robert is like being with Maxwell Smart and the Chief in the “Cone of Silence”.
“What did you say?”
“I didn’t hear what you said!”
[Robert sometimes says] “What, are you DEAF or something!”
We share a love of Australian Rules Football and Cricket (he was very keen at playing both of these sports). We often go to games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, watching in packed stadiums with 70,000 screaming Richmond tiger fans and enjoying a beer or two in the crowded bars. Then we might grab a bite to eat in a very crowded restaurant in Swan Street that has wooden floors. The only sentences that make sense to either or us for the whole day/night are the ones typed as text messages before the game when we are working out what time to meet.
I always forget that Robert is deaf because he has never behaved like he is deaf. He grew up in a hearing person’s world, adapting by learning to lip read rather than learning sign language, and getting on with life, growing up on a farm, becoming an accountant, working with the Australian Tax office for over 25 years, and endlessly socialising with other people.
I know that Rob will read this, and although he may not know much about Get Smart, I dream of Genie, or Gilligan’s Island, as he grew up reading the newspapers instead of watching sitcoms, he hasn’t missed out on much else. Robert was also the recipient of a Cochlear implant some years ago, which has helped Robert to hear some things now. I don’t how much he can hear, but it’s much harder to sneak up on him now.
Robert is a social extrovert, a party person, sports mad, a practical joker, and he has always been strongly connected to rural farming communities. Robert knows more people than anyone else I have ever met. He cannot walk down the street without running into someone he knows. He is great fun to be with, is fiercely loyal, and I value our friendship greatly, as everyone else does.
I just wish that we knew what the hell it is that we’re both talking about.