The first time I saw Sydney I thought she was a homeless person.
I was unable to decide if she was male or female. She sat at the kitchen table speaking with my mother as if they were old friends. I did the awkward hello that usually happens when strangers invade your house. She said something back and then pretended as if she knew me. She was shocked at how much I had grown and I was shocked at the fact that she wasn't some homeless person that my mom was giving dinner to.
She had an interesting tone to her voice, one that comes from being unable to hear what you are saying. Her voice faded in and out and it was hard to discern what she was saying. As she spoke with her guttural voice, she also spoke with her hands, mixing gestures with sign language into a unique language of her own.
The moment she stepped out the door, I turned to my mother and inquired about their relationship. Turns out she was a friend of my dad’s, from years ago. They formed a bond over their deafness. A sort of bond like that cannot be faked, because unless someone has gone through it themselves, they have no chance of understanding. I can still remember Sydney’s face as she said how sad she was that he was gone and that she hadn't even known until nearly eight years after the funeral.
As I learned more about her, my feelings and regard for this strange woman shifted from wariness and fear, to warmth and understanding. She was a survivor, a woman made rough by the trials of life, but with a heart that still beats warm under the thick skin she grew.
A lesson well learned, an outward appearance does not always portray the true depth of a person.