Family drama about love that listens with the heart

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``Silence for us is never silent. We don't hear the rain fall, but we listen with our eyes,'' explains Margaret Ryder's deaf father in a plea for understanding of the hearing impaired. It is a moving moment in Love Is Never Silent (NBC, Monday, Dec. 9, 9-11 p.m.), a Hallmark Hall of Fame holiday special that focuses on the need for the hearing and the deaf to learn to live together. There are many other moving moments in this drama about the childhood and embarrassed adolescence of the hearing daughter of hearing-impaired parents who must decide if she will spend her life acting as their conduit to the outside world or leave them to make a life for herself on her own.

Based upon Joanne Greenberg's novel, ``In This Sign,'' starring Mare Winningham, Phyllis Frelich, Ed Waterstreet, and Sid Caesar, ``Silence'' is a joyful and uplifting program despite its seemingly downbeat subject. It will have you in tears several times as it sensitively probes the inherent problems in such a family group. Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment comes when the deaf father dons a useless hearing aid so he won't appear deaf to his daughter's friends.

This Marion Rees production, directed with straightforward simplicity by Joseph Sargent from a slightly didactic script by Darlene Craviotto, manages to pinpoint the problems of the hearing impaired as it tells a warm story of the emerging maturity of parents and child. One hopes it will also point the way for the maturing of our society's attitude toward the handicapped. As the young husband explains: ``You can learn to like or not like people for who they are, not what they can't do.''

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