Well, not silence exactly. Just muted sound - that heavy, cotton-y feeling that settles over the house once the children have fallen asleep and TV is turned off. It's the sound of night and socked feet on the stairs, carefully easing past the creaky ones.
It's life, only muffled.
It's also what Matthew hears, every day. Turns out my sweet cherub, shrieking, bouncing, singing, never-stops, bike-riding, beloved son can barely hear.
"He's deaf," said the specialist we visited this morning. He showed me the tool he uses to measure the eardrum's mobility. Inserted into an ear, the instrument emits a "beep" and the results are translated onto a graph: in a normal-hearing ear, the mostly straight line spikes when it registers sound.
The graph of Matthew's ear showed a straight line with tiny wiggles. No spike whatsoever.
I am not surprised that Matthew's hearing is low - only that the lack of it is so profound. He's had several ear infections since his premature birth and in recent years, has been felled with a variety of colourfully-named infections, including an awful bout of the H1N1 flu last winter.
But for a slight boy, he's a tough customer and so he may well have suffered through more pain than even I knew about. This is often the case, I've since learned, for children who suffer ear infections and such. They simply absorb the discomfort and carry on - perhaps a bit irritable, or flushed but for all outward appearances, fine.
He will have tubes put in and his tonsils removed - a fair exchange, really, offering him the chance to fully engage in the world around him. I am hopeful that his snoring, which began shortly before Christmas, will disappear allowing him -and me, counting the seconds between his noisy breaths from across the hall - a better night's sleep. I hope too that the overwrought reactions to everyday frustrations will lessen and that he will not be so quick to lash out at his brother or to melt into tears over the smallest thing.
I am confident that the wonders of modern medicine and the surgeon's sleight of hand with a tiny tube will allow him to explore and discover his world with all of his senses. Am thankful that he has learned to turn at my touch and watch my mouth as I speak, but hope that soon he will no longer NEED to do so, in order to understand the words that tumble from my lips: I love you. I'm proud of you. Thank you for being my favourite 5-year old EVER.
I am trying hard not to feel immensely guilty for assuming that his hearing problem was merely one of the selective variety and that he deserved to be hollered at for not listening. Inwardly, I cringe at the number of times that I have wagged a stern finger in his face, expressing - LOUDLY - my displeasure at his lack of focus, of obedience, of hearing.
My brother was born deaf - only multiple surgeries and several sets of tubes allowed him to experience a world that was not entirely silent. The day he came home from the final procedure, a little boy still, he heard - for the first time - the fridge click and groan and ran to it, pressing his ear against its cold surface. The look on his face - such joy, such wonder!
I hope that Matthew will experience this same miracle and that soon - again - he will hear my voice - soft and low, Mama, soft and low - whispering love, from wherever I am and wherever he may go.