From the Sky - Part X

I also hoped against hope that perhaps Uncle Gio would free himself from his house and sing for me at my wedding. He declined politely to the invitation and wrote a fat check. Nonetheless, I had a seat saved for him at the head table. My aunts didn't fight me on that, perhaps because they knew he wouldn't be there. "Put Gio next to Dad," I said as we sat in Rae's kitchen one evening working on the seating chart. "Of course," Sal said, and that was that. The seat remained empty, a hole in the family lineup and a hole in my heart. When the band played Something, our "first dance" song, I put my arms around Joe's neck and he pulled me close. We danced together at last as husband and wife, and the room whirled gently around us. Cameras flashed and people were clapping. And for a moment I imagined Gio at the microphone, singing Ti Amo. The moment passed and any fleeting sense of sadness evaporated when I looked into Joe's eyes. Do you know what's odd? Since going deaf, whenever I think of my first dance at our wedding I can hear Gio singing:

"…Ti amo, un soldo
…Ti amo, in aria
…Ti Amo se veine testa…"

It's a quirk of the brain, I suppose, that I remember best a song I never heard my uncle sing. Gio sang me many songs when I was a child, but never that one. I would give almost anything to hear him sing again, but he is gone forever and so is the hearing world I once belonged to, banished by the mastoid infection that followed on the heels of my mumps. "She really hit the bad-luck jackpot," the doctor told Joe. A course of antibiotics saved me from surgery, but I would never hear again. I can't even get cochlear implants; the mastoiditis finished the job the mumps started. I've taught children with cochlear implants, and I have seen first-hand the miracle they've received.

There will be no such miracle for me. I've accepted it. I'm trying to move on. But I remain trapped between cultures: that of the deaf and that of the hearing world I used to belong to. I've one foot in each yet belong to neither. At times I feel entirely cut off from the Universe, as if I'm living in a bubble. Everyone I love is on the outside. I'm trapped inside all alone. I'm trying, I am …but it's so hard sometimes. So very, very hard. But I have my memories, and when I close my eyes I can summon up Gio's voice singing in Italian to a little girl at his kitchen table. I will take the memory of his singing to my grave, and I am so thankful for that.

But I've done it again! I've gone on about me when you are waiting so patiently to hear the rest. You think I'm teasing you, I'm certain. Now where was I? Yes, of course, the wedding and the cake fiasco. We were at that point in the wedding where the best man gives the toast. Joe's older brother, Liam, had the honors. When he stood, and the room fell silent, Liam began by saying: "This is the story of a great love." Everyone smiled except Zia, who knocked back her wine in one gulp.

"Renata punched my brother in the nose the first time they met. My parents didn't know that until this moment. They thought he took a basketball to the face at practice. She slugged him because she'd just been dumped by some schmuck, and Joe thought for some ungodly reason that was the perfect time to ask her out. Renata gave him a roundhouse right that nearly sent him into the next week. And you know what he told me later that night? 'Liam, I've got to have that girl. She has such passion!' And I told him: 'Just be careful, you haven't seen her left hook yet.' But he was in love. And so was she, though she didn't know it. I was there when Joe asked her out for the second time, on the steps of the very church where they were married today. Joe and Renata: a great, great love story in the making."

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