Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Using Your Hands

Kindness is a language the dumb can speak and the deaf can hear and understand. Christian Nestel Bovee

I was thirteen when I first met Larry at Bible School. We became instant friends. Larry was a tall, dark and handsome young man with curly hair any girl would kill for! Larry was different from any boy I had ever met. Not just in the way he looked, but Larry was totally deaf. He had lost his hearing as a one year old due to a severe case of measles.

The first day I met Larry he gave me one of those cards with the letters of the American Sign Language alphabet on it. I took it home and began to work diligently on learning every letter. Larry could read lips, but I felt like it would mean a lot to him if we could sign to each other.

I can't tell you how excited he was the next day when I could actually sign a few words. It seemed that although he had been deaf from such a young age, no one in his immediate family had taken the time to learn sign language. Larry began to teach me word signs as well as the letters, and soon we were "talking" to each other fairly rapidly. Larry would teach me signs, and I would let him put his hands on the side of my throat to "feel" the sounds. Larry could actually vocalize, but had to be taught to do so. I loved being able to help him learn new words. I will never forget some of the "signs"...milk for instance is signed like your hands milking a cow...too funny and too easy!

I enjoyed being able to talk with Larry, and wanted others to be able to also. One of my readers, Betty Lou, who was a childhood neighbor of mine, reminded me tonight of a childhood memory she had. She remembered night in our tent in the back yard when I was teaching she and my sister, Dale, sign language by signing in shadows on the tent. I had forgotten that night. Betty Lou has a great memory...because she is several years younger than I am!

I started practicing signing the news. Boy, that is one way to speed up your signing skills. I loved to be able to sign the church sermons to Larry when someone was speaking in a way that was difficult for him to lip read.

Larry and I stayed close for several years, and I attended some activities at the Maryland School For The Deaf. We once attended a basketball game at Galludet College for the Deaf. It was interesting to see people communicating across the gymnasium by signing. The game was exciting and we had so much fun.

Larry actually played Little League Baseball with hearing boys of his own age. I wet to a lot of his games. He was great. Most of the boys he played against didn't even realize he couldn't hear. He was such an inspiration to so many. He hated it when people thought of him as "handicapped." Believe me, he wasn't!

Many, many years have passed. Larry and I went our separate ways after high school, but I have heard he was quite successful in his work. I always knew he would be.

I went on to go to become a Registered Nurse. I used my signing ability many times during my career, and always remembered Larry fondly.

Larry was the perfect example of an "overcomer." He never let his inability to hear get in the way of his joy of life. The only time I ever felt sorry for him, was when they would play beautiful music in Church and he couldn't "hear" it. But, amazing young man that he was, he "felt" the rhythm and enjoyed it.

Do you know an "overcomer?" Someone who has had a fruitful and successful life in spite of the difficulties that have been put in their path? I would love to hear from you.

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