One more day until deaf awareness month is over! Whilst reflecting on the campaign with my brother, he made me question what made the transition from hearing to deaf, and then back to hearing again, easier. Family and the friends I surrounded myself with played a big role, but there was one specific friend that played the biggest role. I have mentioned him before in the very first post I wrote, but I didn’t place enough emphasis on the importance of friendship.
Curtley Wildschut and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. We are the same age, he being 10 months older. We had a childhood friendship no different than any other. We were wild and reckless boys, and we did what wild and reckless boys do. We played with cars and all other toys we could get our hands on, we loved playing rugby; we were just wild. We were both raised in strict Christian homes, so we loved church, and singing along to Kirk Franklin songs was our thing. We envisaged a normal childhood, but it all changed when I lost my hearing overnight.
As life would have it, one of us had to mature suddenly, and the other was to be confused. I was the latter. Bear in mind, we both just 6 years old at the time. I would have expected him to be just as confused as I was but to me it seemed like he knew exactly what was going on. The concerned expression I saw on my friends and family I never saw on his face. He went with me everywhere my parents took me. It became as if what I lost, he tried to make up for. He knew I never needed hearing to understand him, so he took it upon himself to be my “spokesperson”. He would be pre-packed for my annual check-up trips to Cape Town. One time he could not go with and he was so heart broken. Till this day he still reminds me how he couldn’t believe my parents couldn’t let him go with.
Some aspects of our childhood friendship changed, while some remained the same. The love for cars, toys, rugby and reckless was still there. You would think he would become more cautious because I had hearing equipment but no, he made sure we could still create childhood memories as if I never lost my hearing. But it’s how he changed that amazed me most …
He stood up for me. He carried his hope, and mine. The self-belief and ambition that crept out of me he took in. He wasn’t your ordinary friend. When you feel down and emotional you would expect sympathy and a comforting hand, but not him! He gave me the kind of sympathy I didn’t want, but needed. He gave me tough love. When I felt sorry for myself he would say “ruk jou reg!” (pull yourself together). The deafness brought a communication gap with it. His idea of overcoming it: we invent our own sign language. We became fluent in it, and to speak to me you would have to go through him because he was the only one at that time who I could “hear”. One day he had to spell the word “aeroplane”. He misspelt it, and I corrected him with such confidence. That day he told me that I will be so special. I believed him. He was so selfless, he would point out the things I can do better than him without needing to hear. He couldn’t do anything to bring my hearing back, but he brought forth in me this belief that passion and potential is not birthed from the ear. All my achievements since then up until this day was never met with the normal excitement, but with a straight face and a “I told you”. My mind can’t fathom how a 6 year old was able to take that responsibility upon himself and show that maturity. How do I repay such a friend???
Friendships enhance the quality, pleasures and health of our lives. They can have the type of impact that can mould and change your life. Life can teach us a lot of things, but none is a better teacher than a friend. Hold them close, because as the saying goes “it is better to walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light’.
Curtley, brother, there’s no amount of words that can express my appreciation.