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April 13, 2005

Loud as a whisper

From: Weymouth News, MA - Apr 13, 2005

By Robert Slager/ In this Corner
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The world has been reduced to a faint din for Kyle Trask, the final majestic notes of a great symphony bleeding into the whisper of a lullaby, drifting forever into silence.

But his eyes have seen so much. He wasn't meant to come into this world as soon as he did, and in the beeping nest of a neonatal intensive care unit, he held on to each breath like a magnet to the steel within his mother's heart.

The cord that connected them surrounded the tiny baby's neck when Kyle came to meet the world, depriving him of oxygen for several minutes.

But Kyle Trask would not surrender. He will never surrender.

His battle for life left him nearly completely deaf. He also battles the challenge of Asperger's syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.

In a quiet conference room at the Pembroke Public Library, Kyle held a plaque from the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf that he earned last year as a junior at the American School of the Deaf in West Hartford, Conn.

He held the plaque the way his mother once held him, with strong arms and a tender gaze Kyle traced the words with his finger.

Kyle Trask. - All-American wrestler.

If pride could be condensed into beams of light, the lasers in Carol Trask's eyes would have sliced right through the table. When speaking of her son, the lingering sadness of her sister's recent death evaporates. There is a temporary reprieve from her unwarranted guilt over not being able to give her sister one of her kidneys.

Carol only has one.

When she sees her son, she doesn't think of her own mother, who is battling kidney failure herself. When Carol sees her son, the world doesn't spin quite as quickly.

"He's my hero," Carol said. "Children are supposed to learn things from their parents, but I have learned so much from him. You just can't give up. You have to keep moving forward. He lives from his heart."

When Pembroke High opened its doors last fall, Kyle came back home to live a dream he's had for a long, long time, a dream that would not be silenced. He wanted to go to school with the kids he knew growing up. He wanted to pin his "handicapped" label flat on its back. So he joined the varsity wrestling team this past winter.

"Everyone was very supportive," he said in a very clear fashion. "I knew I could do it. It was a lot of fun."

His success on the mat cannot be measured by his record. He tipped the scales at 103 pounds, and that weight class was occupied by All-State teammate Carl Gumpwright. Forced to move up to 119, Kyle faced a considerable size disadvantage against his opponents.

"He's just an absolutely amazing kid," said Pembroke wrestling coach Dave Vining. "He did everything that we asked. Wrestling is a tough sport for anybody, but Kyle couldn't hear the coaches yell instructions, and he's still very competitive. I had no problem at all letting him join the team. He's an inspiration for everyone."

If the journey is truly more important than the destination, then Kyle has left a roadmap for every kid who doubts what can be overcome. Outwardly he seems like every other 17-year-old teenager. He constantly chats with friends over his AOL Instant Messenger. He likes camping and hiking and going to the beach. He's interested in car design and plans to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in either biology or entomology.

He loves music, too. He can only hear certain frequencies, as if the song were a voice unable to sing more than a few words. But soon even that will be gone.

"There doesn't appear to be anything that can be done to stop it," Carol said. "The frequencies he can hear are slipping away."

Kyle knows the silence is coming. For him, it's just another challenge to face, another obstacle to sidestep.

"I can still hear in my head," he said.

Carol smiled once again. Kyle is her only child, and like any mother, Carol wanted to keep him under her loving wing, but she found the courage to let him fly.

"I was worried how he was going to be accepted coming back to Pembroke," she said. "My gosh, it's like going to a foreign country where you don't understand the language. As I was worried when he first wanted to wrestle, but he's always been so tough. How can you stop somebody like that?"

Kyle grew up without a father yet still became a man. When he learned his paternal grandmother had died a few months ago, he decided to contact the father he never knew.

"Kyle sent him an e-mail," Carol said. "Kyle wanted his father to know him, so he wrote page after page after page, telling everything he could about himself."

His father, who lives in Texas, wanted his son back in his life.

"How many 17-year-old kids would have the courage and maturity to take that kind of chance?" Carol asked. "He just amazes me sometimes."

Gray clouds hung low above the Pembroke library, visible through a thin glass window. A storm was coming.

Kyle gathered his things from this comfortable place, where words from books echo deep in his thoughts.

He held his plaque close as he said goodbye.

The notes are fading now, but a new symphony has just begun.

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