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Family Connections

It was late afternoon, and I was home swaying in my hammock, waiting for Taro Muraishi, this column’s editor. It was well past our meeting time, so I started e-mailing him, then remembered he can’t get e-mail on his cell phone. My deafness kept me from calling, so I stared at the display and began to worry. After about an hour, he finally showed up, laughing.
“I couldn’t find your house, couldn’t call you and began to sweat,” he wrote as his pen danced across the notebook; his now-cold hamburger lying in wait.

troll spirit of silence

In the days before cell phones, I used a fax to contact family and friends in real time and get updated weather reports. There were times I had to take a ferry to the mainland to get back to work. When the ferries were cancelled due to high-seas, I’d slip past the long line of people waiting to use the pay phone and ask to borrow the ferry office’s fax to contact work and family. Nowadays the mobile phone has become an irreplaceable tool for deaf people.

My friend Miho and I put our mobile phones in the front bags of our road bikes as we set out on a tour of the Izu Peninsula during one of the last heat waves of summer. My father, who is also deaf, had just saddled up his mountain bike, tucked his mobile phone into his vest pocket and began a trek through the woodland trails of western Japan. We stayed connected through e-mail exchanges such as, “Just entered Mie. The tent’s hot and I can’t sleep,” and “Now in Kagawa. Sunny and beautiful.”

Miho and I visited Ise Shrine, gorged ourselves on Akafuku rice cakes and pedaled through the hilly Kumano Trail, all the while keeping in touch with my dad. As we passed the southernmost point of Honshu, we neared Shikoku.

“We’re at the port in Wakayama, about to board the ferry for Tokushima,” I texted my father.

“Heading to Tokushima tonight.” Came the immediate reply. The port lay drenched in the deep red hue of the setting sun when we arrived. It was empty, save for the silhouette of one man. We excitedly leapt from the gangway with our pack-filled bikes in tow to greet my dad.

Hard to imagine how we ever met up back in the day,” he said. “These e-mails fly so freely back and forth.”

We talked as my dad showed us some high ground he found for us to pitch our tents. After setting up camp, we took out some cold beers, filled our glasses and toasted each other. The conversation floated from tales of our trip to things best not brought up at home. The night was filled with signing and smiles.

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