Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to do something I had never done before, something I never imagined would be possible.
I had a one-on-one telephone conversation with my mother - my profoundly deaf mother.
It all started when my cell phone rang Saturday evening, and I heard my dad on the other end.
I didn't think too much of it at first, despite the fact that he was calling from a number I didn't recognize. My dad is also deaf, but due to a cochlear implant, he's able to hear much better than my mom, and can conduct very basic telephone conversations with me, as long as I speak up.
Then my mom started talking. I didn't know how to respond. I thought, perhaps, she wanted to tell me something herself, without needing to talk to me directly. If she needed me to tell her something, she would have called the video relay service she's used for the last few years ... right?
As I was babbling to my mother in confused fashion on the phone, the strangest thing happened. She started answering the very thing I was saying to her.
I thought someone was playing a joke on me. I thought my brother was holding the phone, and interpreting everything I was saying, and giving her the phone to respond to me. After all, my mother has one percent hearing in one ear, and zero percent in the other.
Finally, my mom explained that everything I was saying, was appearing on her computer screen in real time, and that she was, indeed, holding the phone and responding to me without anyone's help.
At that point, I heard an excitement in her voice I had never heard before. Slowly, I began to lower my voice, realizing I didn't need to speak loudly for her to understand what I was saying. I then sat down in the bedroom of my apartment, and talked with her as I would with anyone else.
As the conversation continued, all kinds of new possibilities came into my mind, regarding what my parents would be able to do as a result of this new development. Aside from having significance for the entire deaf community, this relay service will bring my own family conveniences that, until now, were only a dream.
The conversations wouldn't have to be as long, because there would be no need for my parents and me to go through an interpreter. We wouldn't feel the need to tiptoe around certain subjects, since there would be no third party on the phone.
My mom will now be able to talk to her grandchildren on the phone.
On the one hand, I thought about all the things many families take for granted, that deaf people are only now beginning to take advantage of. On the other, I was reveling in the fact that my parents will no longer be relegated to the outside, looking in.
When I went to my parents' house Sunday afternoon, my parents were still calling various hearing people, to show off their new discovery. They were also calling their deaf friends, to tell them about their latest find.
At that moment, two things came to my mind. First, I thought about how bizarre it was to see my mother talking on the telephone. Second, I thought about how many times, during my teenage years, she pointed out how much time I was spending on the phone.
Now, I guess it's my mom's turn, and I couldn't be happier for her.
Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.