Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

vendredi 5 janvier 2007

There but for the grace of God go I

Sarah's story really hit home for me. I wept. Her three entries thus far are a very moving account of a deaf woman who grew up alone, never meeting another deaf person, and has experienced a series of epiphanies after reading Gina Oliva's book, Alone in the Mainstream. Her second entry describes her very real pain in heart-rending words. Her third entry is positively upbeat and describes how she and her husband are processing this together and they both sound quite willing and happy to explore this new aspect of their lives.

This is just the latest wave to hit me on so many levels. I've been following Zoée Nuage's accounts of how she grew up mostly isolated from other deaf people, using a form of manually coded English to communicate, and how she is growing more and more interested in learning ASL and in joining the deaf community. Brown Eyed Girl, whomever she may be, is also a "solitaire," as Oliva puts it. She's been rebuffed by deaf people in the past and is wary, but interested in joining the community. Karen, a deaf mom from the Chicago area and Diane Gutierrez also talk from time to time about how growing up mainstreamed and joining the community as an adult have shaped their experiences and perspectives.

Gina Oliva's book set off a spate of interesting reviews and commentaries, not only from Sarah, but from Karen and Brown Eyed Girl in two separate entries as well.

They all have made me reflect on something I've known for a long time, yet never really understood. All of these people are literate, thoughtful, and intelligent. They are clearly able to make connections with others, no matter what their mode of communication. As far as I'm concerned, they are all part of this community. They are all part of us. I'm looking forward to meeting each one of them in person, as tends to happen in this small community of ours. Sarah, if you're reading, may I offer a huge, warm welcome to our community as you make your way through this journey.

What shook me to the core is simply the realization of how lucky I have been. I, too, have a hearing mom whose goals for me included the best possible education and for me to be highly literate. In fact, when she started me at preschool, she told the teacher that she expected me to be on grade level and stuck to her guns when the teacher expressed doubts. She had never met a deaf person nor thought much about what deaf is before she had me. She suspected I might not have normal hearing when I was only six months old. She had me tested at six months, two days old. What's unusual about Mom, though, is that her first thought when she heard the diagnosis was not sadness about not being able to hear music or the birds, but concern about how I would acquire language. She tried speaking with me but making sure I could see her face and lips at all times, but she knew in her gut this was not the way to go. She took sign language classes and, being a teacher and coming from the well-educated family she does, talked to me constantly (like all the parents in my family do), telling me things and explaining things. By the time I was 3, she felt I was progressing normally and just kept doing what good parents do for their children. She continued to encourage and expect speech development, but if that didn't work at any given time, she reverted to signs - something which is still true to this day.

What made Mom really unique is that she instantly understood that I had to be around other deaf people. She made sure I was around other deaf chldren at least part of the time, no matter what, even though I did not go to the state school until junior high. In her words, "To me, it was always about communication. That's the only thing that really made sense to me - that you be around people you could communicate with {easily and without barriers}." That's one thing that made my blood run cold while reading Sarah's story and recent blog reviews of Oliva's book. I've never had the experience of thinking I'm all alone in life and that I'm different from everyone else. I've had similar experiences to theirs while being mainstreamed and feeling alone and like I stuck out like a sore thumb in that setting, but I expected and knew that that did not have to be the way it was all the time.

When this realization hit me, I cried. I wept in gratitude for my wonderful mom, I wept in sadness that Sarah and others have had to feel so alone for so long, and I wept in anger at the fact that this story of aloneness is not going away - in fact, it's getting worse every year. More and more deaf children are literally all alone in the world. In the old days, most deaf children had each other, whether they were in oral programs or in manual programs, but that's less and less true these days. More and more deaf children and people are going to go through a chunk of their lives feeling different, isolated, and alone. That's cruel and unnecessary. It saddens and infuriates me, and leaves me wishing I knew what to do about it.

Truly, there but for the grace of God (and Mom) go I.

I'm grateful that people are able to find us and make their way to us, while retaining the good parts about how they were raised and how they have lived their lives up until their epiphany. DeafBlogLand appears to be helping that along, as evidenced by Zoée, Sarah, and BrownEyedGirl. It is up to all of us, the Teeming Millions, to make sure we keep the welcome mat out, fresh and inviting, for these three and for all the others who have not yet found us or for those who have not blogged publicly yet. In the meantime, BrownEyedGirl, Zoée, and Sarah, welcome! Everyone else who is in a similar position to theirs, welcome! We're here, ready to embrace you and we're willing to accept your process, regardless of what form it takes and the length of time it takes. Welcome to our community!


  • At 21:16, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    HUGS! Deaf people like BrownEyedGirl, Sarah, Karen and countless others including myself need people like you. Many thanks.

    Carrie Gellibrand

  • At 04:44, Blogger Karen said…

    Beautifully written!

  • At 05:25, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    What a beautiful blog. I'm also a solitarie so I can relate to what these three women narrated. I haven't read Oliva's book yet, but know I'll be nodding in agreement when I read the stories in her book.


  • At 10:37, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Wonderful post. Excellent insights as always. I havent yet seen Sarah's postings and will do as soon as I am able. I have read BrownEyed Girl and her entries although uncomfortable for me at times, are profound and stretches my horizon. Thanks for putting your important thoughts together for others to muse upon. I agree completely about DeafBlogLand giving many people opportunities to explore our identities roles and struggles within and outside of our worlds. Ella

  • At 18:16, Blogger Zoée Nuage said…

    Awww I just recently found this entry :) It's a beautiful entry!

    I am currently reading 'Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School' I can relate to it too well, painful at times but reassuring at the same time to know there's many others.

    Thank you for your entry and i'm honored that you linked to me :)

  • At 14:18, Anonymous Sarah said…

    This is a wonderful entry, I don't know how I didn't see it until now! Thank you (:


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