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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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The Silents

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Years later, my friends—who didn’t know how had my signing was-—--urged me to become an interpreter for the deaf I enrolled in a night class to improve my signing skills. Although I was an accomplished fingerspeller (using the deaf alphabet to form words), my limited vocabulary did not include many of the signs that now comprise American Sign Language.

I dropped out of the class three weeks later, asking myself why I had bothered. I was not altruistic, hoping to do good things for the deaf, nor was I in it for the money. Besides, signing had become a complex, visual language with many features that were beyond my grasp. I would come home tired, my brain unwilling to absorb new signs. I told myself that my deaf past should stay where it belonged—buried deep with my childhood.

Then, when my youngest son, Larry, and his wife made me a grandmother, I asked how it had felt to have deaf grandparents. He had never wondered about it, he said. It was as natural to him as breathing. But, as he grew older, he realized that my growing up was different from his, and he had wondered about that.

So I decided to write this book for him and the others who have wanted to know more about my growing up. But it is not my story—it is my parents’ story, for they are the ones I would like you to know. They were ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives.

Mama and Papa, wherever you are, I hope this brings laughter to your eyes and a chuckle to your bellies.


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