The other night I was talking with my daughter, Ladybug, and she laughed at something I said. I forget what, I say lots of silly things and once in a while I get a genuine laugh instead of the groan that follows a Dad Joke (which, by the way, I’ve developed an appreciation for, because although I’m capable of telling clever jokes, lame Dad Jokes have the benefit of annoying your kids).
“I love your laugh,” I said.
“But Daddy, you can’t hear my laugh.”
“I don’t need to. I experience everyone’s laugh through my eyes. I see their laughs, and they’re all unique to me. Yours is an awesome one, it doesn’t actually matter what it sounds like.”
She smiled at this, satisfied, but I could see that surprise. It’s a reminder that, after many years, one can still learn something new about someone you care about.
I don’t know if most deaf people feel the way I do about seeing laughs, so I won’t pretend that this is universal, but this is what laughter is to me. A true laugh, one that is sparked by something good, is a joy to behold and contagious. You see the crinkling of eyes, the wide smiles, the intake of breath, the quick coloration of flushed skin, and it’s a moment worth seeing.
I study the laughs of people. I collect the memories of them.
And yes, I notice my own. I have a few that I do, and I know my laugh, when it is deep and heartfelt, is loud and funny for others to hear. I have been told by hearing people that they knew I was coming down the hallway, because they heard my laughter before they saw me.
So, anyway, the point of this little post is simple: people experience the world in different ways. When you think of things that you hear, if you do hear, you can’t assume that the absence of those sounds means an absence of any experience. A laugh is just one example of something that can be experienced in more ways than one, and most of them good.