Neither-Nor: A Young Australian’s Experience with Deafness
Paul Gordon Jacobs
I am the reason my mother died. It was March 4, 1975. Ann Jacobs was thirty-three. I was three months old. I killed her.
Mum was admitted into Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital on Christmas Day 1974. Her health fluctuated but worsened progressively in the following weeks. At the worst stage my father brought me to her sickbed to liven her spirits, but it wasn’t enough. The doctors discovered what was wrong when it was too late. Mum died of a massive hemorrhage. She was weakened by a heart condition suffered in childhood, and my birth didn’t help.
Few people got to farewell my mother. Her condition deteriorated rapidly, and when her parents heard the news that she was dying, they raced toward Melbourne from their home in Warrnambool in western Victoria. Half way through the 300-kilometer journey, their car spluttered to a halt in the night on a desolate stretch of road. They had forgotten to refuel in their haste. I don’t know how they got to Melbourne; but when they finally arrived, their daughter was dead.
In my favorite photograph, I am at Mum’s breast looking into her eyes, and she is touching my tiny lips with a finger. I have mannerisms that are not my father’s and have often wondered if they are mine alone. Amputees often report “feeling” their missing limb. Mum’s presence is like that for me. The emotional connection between us has never left me. She is always there, but she’s not.