R.J. clung to the dorm supervisor, shyly peeking around her skirt to look at Mama and Daddy. He made no move to go to them. This was the first time he had seen them in over a month, and he was unsure what to do.
“Mama, didn’t that break your heart?” I asked when she told me the story.
“It did in one way, Bev, but in another way it made me feel good because I figured if he clung to her like that, it meant they were being good to him.”
Mama had a unique way of seeing the big picture. She had wisdom beyond her years. She and Daddy both did. So instead of taking offense and being hurt, they took solace in the fact R.J. was fond of the dorm supervisor.
Their outlook always amazed me especially considering how young they were when they married. She was fifteen and he was eighteen.
I think this common sense approach was how she – and consequently all of us – dealt so well with having Deaf children.
I have already mentioned how she made up home signs to use with R.J. and Katrina. We all did.
We learned other ways to compensate for R.J.’s and Katrina’s deafness. If they were across the room, we learned to stomp on the floor to get their attention. Mama knew they would feel the vibration through the floor and look around.
We also learned to flash the lights to get their attention. Or wave our arms. If they were close enough, a gentle tap on the shoulder for them to look at us was all it took. We knew they had to be looking at us for communication to take place. Calling them, regardless of how loudly, was useless.
As R.J. learned signs, so did Mama and the rest of us. Mama was a whiz at finger-spelling. All of us learned to sign to one degree or another.
R.J. and Katrina were included in everything we did as a family. No difference was made between them and the rest of us kids. They were expected to follow the same rules as we were.
I think this contributed to R.J.’s and Katrina’s self-esteem and overall success.
In later years, when I was in the Interpreter Training Program, I learned that many parents feel guilty when their child is born deaf. I never sensed this in Mama but thought I would ask her just to be sure.
“Mama, did you ever feel guilty because R.J. and Katrina were born deaf?”
“I’d like to know what the dickens I had to feel guilty about,” she quipped. “I didn’t do anything to make them deaf!”
I chuckled to myself. What a truly healthy response. That was one reason why no overcompensating was done with them. They were just normal kids who happened not to be able to hear. And we treated them as such.
Remember, each day is a gift. Sometimes accepting people as they are is the best thing you can do for them.
©2019 Bev Brown – All rights reserved.