I cannot recall the dream in detail, but I remember the theme: Had I been born blind or deaf, would I have a surgery that would allow me to see or hear?
My immediate response to that question is that I would have the surgery, without hesitation or reservation. But I understand why some people would give the question more thought before answering.
I know, for example, that many people in the deaf community oppose cochlear implants, which allow the deaf to hear. An article I read for this column put it this way: “The overwhelming response to (cochlear implants) from the deaf community has not been eager acceptance but rather hostile rejection. In fact, in the 1980s and ’90s, members of the deaf community held protests against the use of cochlear implants, especially in young children.”
I think I understand: For many in the deaf community, what they are – deaf – helps define who they are. As for opposition to cochlear implants in children, I think I get that too: The decision to hear or remain deaf is one for an adult to make, not a child, not even a child’s parents.
While my hearing and vision are diminishing as I get older, I have always had and enjoyed both, so I can’t pretend to know the emotional turmoil that would accompany the chance to see or hear for the first time. But I have stuttered my whole life, and it’s true that what I am – a stutterer – has helped define who I am.
Stuttering is many things – embarrassing comes quickly to mind – but what it mostly is is frustrating. Unless you have a speech impairment, you can’t know the utter frustration a stutterer feels when he cannot say a word that, almost literally, is on the tip of his tongue. It’s frustration born of profound helplessness.
So to answer the roundabout question from my dream, if a surgery could correct my stuttering, I would have it, without hesitation or reservation. I am almost 54 years old, and believe me when I say the frustration doesn’t diminish with age.
And knowing what I know about stuttering, I would have been OK with my parents signing off on a surgery that would have corrected my speech impairment.
Just as I would be OK with parents of a deaf child or infant saying yes to cochlear implants. I’ve seen the video of the very young child who hears for the first time after surgery. With all due respect to those who think otherwise, I can’t imagine saying no to that.