As a young teacher, Parker is introduced to a deaf child who immediately captures her heart; they communicate with each other beyond a standard language system and forge a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
Parker first met 10-year-old Carlos Louis Salazar at the Utah School for the Deaf in 1964. Deaf since infancy, Salazar charmed the 24-year-old high school teacher with his mischievousness and unique brand of communicating. In addition to signing, he learned at school the complexities of speech and how tongue, teeth and breath affect sounds. He manipulated these tools, virtually re-creating language, to suit his individuality as he connected with others. What some heard as broken speech, incorrect grammar or poor communication skills, Parker perceived as creativity bordering on brilliance. They developed a mother-son relationship grounded in unconditional love that saw them through Salazar’s reckless adolescence, illness and premature death. His brief life forever changed Parker’s notion of language as a limited construct. With her rich, poetic prose that skillfully articulates nuanced emotions and thoughts, Parker does full justice to her friend’s memory. Her book transcends the ubiquitous “me” and “I” of memoir and hovers on the brink of being a compassionate cautionary tale: love as well as you can, look beyond the surface, appreciate your gifts and others’, listen and learn. Though the first chapter opens with Salazar’s death, the author doesn’t dwell on the loss. Instead, she focuses on Salazar’s singular character, his triumphs and missteps and his effect on others. Like a parent, she sometimes overpraises achievements that others might consider ordinary, yet she never excuses his forays into drugs and crime. What broadens Parker’s story from exclusively intimate to universally relatable are her numerous examples of the many ways to communicate: the doctor who limited interactions with Salazar to cold, scientific jargon; the bristly nurse who ruffled her patient’s hair to express affection. Neither resolving nor overly theorizing her experiences, Parker allows readers to glean what they will from her heartfelt story.
A loving tribute to friendship that proves how one person can influence the life of another.