Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why Do Farts Smell?

Today I was remembering an incident that happened to me when I was around 8 or 9 years old. Mom and Dad and my brother and sister were going to be out of town. I forget what the occasion was, but my parents needed someone to babysit me. So, they arranged for my Dad's parents to look after me for a few days.

My grandparents lived on a farm about twenty minutes away so they came into the city to pick me up. We arrived back at their place and went inside.

Now I have to tell you that my grandparents (both now deceased) were deaf. Grandpa was born deaf and as best as we know grandma lost her hearing in an accident falling down the stairs and hitting her head (we are not 100% certain if that's what happened). Grandma's family were embarrassed to have a deaf child in the family and when company came she would be hidden away. It was, unfortunately, fairly often the case back in those days (1913ish) with any family members who were different such as Mongoloid or mentally impaired family members to be locked away when visitors came by so as not to 'embarrass' the family.

Thankfully when grandma was around eight years old, a visiting minister heard her scratching at the door and had the gumption to ask who was behind the door. It changed grandma's life. He convinced her family that she belonged in school and they agreed, sending her to the deaf school in Milton, Ontario. While there she met grandpa. They fell in love and when school was finished they got married. Grandpa then took over the dairy farm and the two of them worked together harmoniously for many, many years.

Being deaf, they spoke with their hands. They could also lip read and speak too. Most deaf people can speak very well, though sometimes their voices are softer sounding. So, being a child left alone with grandma and grandpa I wasn't worried or afraid. If all other means of communicating failed, signs, mime, lip reading, etc., we'd get out the pen and pencil and write notes back and forth.

In fact, I'll never forget when grandma asked me what I wanted for lunch and since I didn't understand she wrote down the word "sandwiches". Now I knew that I knew what that word was, but for the life of me I could not recall what it meant. I kept thinking about sand and witches and no amount of thinking and meditating would help me remember what she was asking me. Not wanting her to think I was totally stupid I nodded yes. I realized a short while later what the word meant when we sat down to eat lunch and she had roast beef sliced up on bread--sandwiches. I remembered then. That word has always been troublesome for me. I think it's because it doesn't make any sense at all, except to maybe witches who hang out on beaches.

Anyway, later that day grandma and grandpa were standing next to me in the dining room and they were having a fast sign language conversation about something. I didn't have to pay attention so I just stood there. But then it happened. The big build-up started. I had to fart. And I kept feeling the pressure and the need to release it, but I couldn't do that because I was a guest and it'd be rude to fart. And besides, from the pressure that was building up I knew that this wasn't going to be a silent thing. No, it was going to be a huge noisy fart.

It was at that moment, while I struggled to hold that great big fart in that I had an epiphany: They're deaf! They won't hear it!!! I'll never forget that amazing dawning realization that I could make this big noise and they wouldn't even hear.

So, I farted. I let that big thing go. And it was very noisy, just like I thought it would be. I stood there then, with a little smile on my face. I was proud that I'd solved my problem and kind of awed about the whole realization.

It wasn't long though until grandma's nose started to twitch. Then her hands moved really fast at grandpa. Now, I didn't know the actual signs she used but I sure could tell what the gist of it was. She was accusing grandpa of farting. He shook his head vehemently, no he did not fart. I waited a few more seconds and then both of them turned to look at me. Then grandma repeated the same signs to me, asking if I farted. No, I shook my head, I didn't fart. Are you sure she asked? Yes, I'm sure I nodded.

They gracefully let me get away with that boldfaced lie. So I learned that day why farts smell. Many years later I would hear the joke that many deaf people tell: Why do farts smell? The answer ... so that deaf people can enjoy them too.

No comments: