why they stare

It's getting easier, but it still often makes me want to cry. Anytime we go into public with Lucas, we get lots of stares. I've come to my own personal conclusion about these stares. People look and stare for various reasons. First, because they're curious. I'll admit that I'm guilty of this sometimes too. Second, because they don't know what the heck it is that they see on his head, and they want to know. Most people have never heard of a cochlear implant, let alone seen one. They're trying to figure out what it is, what it does, and why it's there. I understand that this is not unique to Lucas or hearing loss, but to anyone who looks a little different.

The hard part is when kids ask questions and their parents just shush them. The adults don't have an answer, because they themselves just don't know. For instance, if you see a person in a wheelchair, you can explain that he can't walk. If you see a person with glasses, you can explain that she can't see. And although people probably assume that a CI has something to do with hearing, they just don't know. Here are a couple of encounters we've had...

1. One time, Oma and I were out to breakfast with Lucas, and the server came up to him and asked him whether he was making contact with outer space with that "thing". If I hadn't been so utterly shocked, I might have been able to devise a great comeback.

2. When we visited Dutch Wonderland over Thanksgiving break, Lucas was playing with some other kids in an area with big blocks that were supposed to resemble ice cubes. One little boy kept coming up to Lucas and asking "what's wrong with your ear?" Lucas just looked at him, because he was too young to answer. The way that question was worded was just heartbreaking. It wasn't just a curiosity about what it was, but the fact that he identified it as there being something "wrong".

3. On Christmas Eve, one of the kids here, who was 4, walked up to Lucas and carefully examined his ear. Then he pulled the coil off and put it back on, to figure out how it worked. Lucas didn't seem bothered. He kept asking "what's that on your ear?" in a polite and curious way. Then he ran off to his mom and told her it was cool and that he wanted one. If he only really knew what that would entail, he might not find it to be so cool anymore. But this encounter was so sweet and innocent!

4. At Sesame Street Live last week, the little girl in front of us kept pointing and asking her grandmother what it was, and why it was blinking. (The blinking was especially obvious in the dark.) She just shushed her, to be "polite", and they turned around again.

I realize that these are examples of times when I should have spoken up, but I just couldn't figure out the right thing to say until 5 minutes too late. If I intentionally meet a person for the first time, I can easily talk about it. I can write to my heart's content on this blog. I can talk to a family member, a friend or an acquaintance about it for hours. But during casual encounters, I just kind of freeze and smile.

I look forward to when Lucas can answer for himself, just like Gage and Brook do oh sooooo well. For now, I will just smile back. I hope someday to find that voice.