Read: ‘Falling on Deaf Ears’ – a short story written by sign language interpreter Maxine Sinclair

Posted on August 1, 2016

A sign language interpreter has written a short story featuring deafness, which can be read today on our site.

unnamedMaxine Sinclair, who has been an interpreter for 26 years and is married to a Deaf man, told us:

‘I have always enjoyed languages and have been a sign language interpreter for 26 years.  As much as I have a love of signs, I also have a love of words and have written on and off for most of my life.  Earlier this year I completed my first novel, “Dixbury Does Talent” (awaiting publication) and since then have focussed on writing pieces of flash fiction.
This particular piece was inspired by, although not based on, my Deaf husband, Malcolm.  It’s a story that is all too familiar for many Deaf people who find themselves on the edge of family life.’
Here is her story, ‘Falling on Deaf Ears,’ which echoes the experiences of many Deaf people with their family, particularly during big family events:

Falling on Deaf Ears

“Dad has passed away.”  I managed to read my sister’s shimmery pink lips.  She has a habit of speaking slowly and precisely to me – she thinks it’s the right way to talk to a deaf person.  Ten days after that I was standing in the front row of the draughty church looking at the space where a sign language interpreter ought to be.  Sadly for me, this particular interpreter was stuck in traffic.

Disregarding my communication needs (‘no disrespect, we just need to keep to time,’ my brother told me) the service commenced.  I wasn’t particularly cross or upset – or surprised – it’s happened all my life.  I’m consistently on the outside, always getting half a story, never really part of family decisions or conversations.

Lip-reading the vicar was hit and miss, so when the congregation broke into laughter I just assumed it was a funny story about my dad and laughed along.  In truth I didn’t have a clue.  With minutes to go before the funeral finished, a ruffled interpreter, signing his apologies to me, appeared.

My father’s funeral summed up my life; no one ever intends to exclude me – it’s just the way it is.

The following week we met for a family meal to read the will.  My dad had left the house to my mum, but everything else he’d surprisingly bequeathed to The British Sign Language Society.  My mother happily respected his decision, whereas my sister and brothers were disappointed and downright angry.   They said many things; mainly bitterly complaining about their lack of inheritance, violation of their rights and the complete injustice of the situation.

At least, from where I was sitting, I think that’s what they said.

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