You’re Not Listening

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The note she wrote the next morning exclaimed, I’m Madis-unbreakable!

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Her new bike was faster than the old one. She wanted a road-bike—a racing bike—and found one at a bicycle repair shop. It was used but in good condition, and when we rode through the park, I rode a bus-length behind.

“This is speedy,” she said.

“Do you like it?” “It needs a basket,” she said.

“Yes, it does.”

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I signed to her even though she was wearing her hearing aids, but I paused as we talked and told her: “I don’t know how to sign it.”

“What’s the word?”


“It’s this.”

She had a vast sign vocabulary, and her signing was fluid.

“I like the way that you sign,” I said. “You’re good at it.”

“But it’s difficult,” she told me. “If three signers were translating a speech someone gave, they might all sign it differently. That’s the challenge of signing: the approximations.”

When I spoke with my co-workers, I sometimes signed what I told them, and when Madison and I were in loud places or when we were too far away for her to hear what I said, I used the signs that she’d taught me, and Madison signed her replies.

“You’re getting better,” she said.

“Do you think so?”

“Pretty soon, dear, we’ll not need to talk.”

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She taped a note to the door. She’d sketched a stick figure signing.

The man signed, Dinner tonight? Meet at six?