Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love

Advertising Download Read Online

 

 

 

Contents

 

 

1 The Sound of Silence

Memorabilia:
A Fox in Brooklyn

 

2 The Child as Father of the Man

Memorabilia:
The Language of Touch

 

3 The Fights

Memorabilia:
Sounds in the Night

 

4 Another Child

Memorabilia:
Trains, Trains, Trains

 

5 Heaven

 

6 Clothes Make the Boy

 

7 A Day in the City

Memorabilia:
Gone Fishing

 

8 The Smell of Reading

 

9 Falling in Love

 

10 Tales Told

Memorabilia:
What’s in a Name

 

11 The Sound of Color

 

12 The Triangle and the Chihuahua

 

13 My Father’s Language

Memorabilia:
The Palmer Method

 

14 Parent-Teacher Night

Memorabilia:
The Spider-Man of Ninth Street

 

15 A Boy in Uniform

Memorabilia:
A Chip Off the Old Block

 

16 Brooklyn Bully

 

17 Polio

Memorabilia:
The End of the Presidency

 

18 A Boy Becomes a Man

 

19 Vaudeville on 86th Street

 

20 Sounds from the Heart

 

21 My Brother’s Keeper

 

22 Dad, Jackie, and Me

 

23 Silent Snow

 

24 Pigskin Dreams

 

25 Exodus

 

26 The Duke of Coney Island

 

27 Death, a Stranger

 

 

 

To the memory of my parents

 

Louis Uhlberg
1902–1975

 

Sarah Uhlberg
1906–2001

 

 

“What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and I have often found in the son the unveiled secret of the father.”

 

—Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Author’s Note

 

My parents were deaf, and spoke with their hands, employing signs rather than spoken words to communicate. Today, their language is known as ASL (American Sign Language). Being faithful to the time period of this story, I refer to their language as “sign” and not “Sign.” Further, I refer to them as being deaf, the physical condition, as opposed to the conventional “Deaf,” used today to indicate the full complexity of Deaf culture.

Finally, as ASL is a visual-gestural language, I have transliterated their conversations from ASL to English. Those conversations, spoken some sixty to seventy years ago—conventionally represented in quotation marks—are not meant to be a word-for-word rendition of what was said, but are, rather, the essence of what was meant.

I have also changed some names in my account.

Gore Vidal observed, in his excellent memoir,
Palimpsest,
“A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life.” He then went on to say, “…even an idling memory is apt to get right what matters most.” This memoir is how I remember my life growing up with my deaf parents, and to the best of my ability I’ve made every effort to get right what matters most. They deserve no less from me, their son.

 

Acknowledgments

 

This book would not have been possible without the help of many people.

To Susan Schulman, my agent and friend who suggested that I write this book, and when I had done so, said, “I always place a book that I love.” And she did.

To Emily Uhry, whose encouragement and advice in the earliest stages helped shape this book.

To Beth Rashbaum, my editor, who saw in my manuscript a possible book, and then with unlimited patience, goodwill, superb advice, and a firm hand, transformed a disjointed manuscript into the book you now hold in your hand. I owe you more than I can say.

And to her assistant, Angela Polidoro, for her blazingly quick responses to my every question.

Special thanks also to Virginia Norey for her heartfelt design of this book.

To Sue Tarsky, dear old friend who, after a long absence, reentered my life in time to suggest that I could have a second (even a third) career as a writer; and then went out and promptly sold my first two children’s books. You changed my life.

To Margaret Quinlin, dear friend, kind soul, dispenser of wisdom in all things literary and beyond, who from the very beginning validated me as a writer.

To Ellen W. Leroe, Eleanor Garner, Milly Lee (“elder sister”), Adrian Fogelin, and, most especially, to Bob and Sandy Weintraub, all writers and staunch friends, to whom I turn for suggestions, advice, and encouragement.

To Sandra Yoon and Pat Lindsay, for their kindness; to Helen Foster Harris for her earliest support; and to Nancy Fritzal, my favorite librarian.

To my fellow CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults), and good friends, Tom Bull, Joyce Linden, and Allyne Bettancourt, for sharing your stories about growing up hearing with deaf parents, and for giving me the encouragement at every step of the way to tell my own story. And to all my CODA brothers and sisters, I respect you and love you all.

To my Brandeis Band of Brothers, almost sixty years and counting, Eddie Manganiello, Charlie Herman, Dick Baldacci, Leo Surette, Jim Stehlin, Bill Orman, Larry Glazer, Tommy Egan, Ron Ranier, Mike Long, Pat Sirkus, Roger Morgan, Dick Bergel, Dave Burman, Ray Deveaux, Rudy Finderson, Mel Nash, and in memory, Hank Thunhorst, Phil Goldstein, Charlie Napoli, Morry Stein, and Jack Kirkwood.

To Joe “Big Red” O’Connor, who listened with sympathy and patience to a problem I had encountered in the writing of this book, and then calmly suggested how I might solve it.

To the best friends a man could ever wish for, Bill McKenna, and in blessed memory, Bob Domozych and Dick Collins, who first met my parents when we were just boys at Brandeis, and who over the years constantly assured me that a book about them would find readers.

Other books

Under Fire by Rita Henuber
El Ultimo Narco: Chapo by Malcolm Beith
Hope Everlastin' Book 4 by Mickee Madden
The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia