Life and Deaf – Choices

Sorry for the long delay. I’ve been recuperating from a long illness. Onward!

We spend the next two weekends breaking the news of Scooter’s profound hearing loss face-to-face with our parents. First St. Augustine, the site of State School for the Deaf and Blind, where daddy Ray was born and his father and stepmother still live. Grandma Trudie used to work at the school and holds it in high regard. My heart sinks as I listen to her description. “Sugar, this is where the experts are. The staff knows what’s best for those sweet handicapped kids. They’re well taken care of, around others just like them and will be protected, not bullied.”

Every word she says makes my heart sink lower. Protected? Boarded? Caged like animals? “Uuhh, I’m sure it’s a good school. Maybe it’s an option.” I’m not ready to give up my firstborn, beautiful son that easily. “I’ve got lots of researching and learning to do first.”

“Oh honey, I meant no harm,” Trudie stammered. “Just givin’ you an option. And I have some experience here.”

“I understand and appreciate your thoughts, but I know the philosophy of the St. Augustine school. They believe in the age old method of American Sign Language. I know it’s given deaf people a way to pull themselves out of the mire of “deaf and dumb” and given them a language of their own, but I want to give Scooter a chance to fit the best that he can into the hearing world by learning to listen and speak.”

I find out about a group in California called the Tracy Clinic, named after Spencer Tracy and his wife who also have a deaf child. They stress treating your child as any other, getting him fitted for the best hearing aids if there’s any residual hearing, and at the same time saturating him with language in a normal household.

The correspondence course is offered free as long as the lessons are followed and a feedback letter returned. Scooter at 2 years old, has a single hearing aid, and is definitely speech delayed. The best and most important advice saturating these lessons is Talk, Talk, Talk; making sure he can see our lips to practice lip reading. We stick bright simple signs on everything in the house for visual stimulation. The key – work with everything you’ve got and give it all you’ve got. And that’s the basis of Ray’s Auditory/Oral Education.

We find a support group of parents in Daytona Beach area dedicated to the oral approach, start making friends and getting positive feedback. Friendship and exchange with these families is probably the most important step up out of the mire of doubt and depression. We finally are getting to know people going through the same thing  giving us hope, support, answering our questions, laughing and crying with us.

Next time: Teaching Scooter (Ray)


Birth of a Child


The nurse holds up my first child, “It’s a boy!” Raymond Lewis Hines, III. What a moniker for such an innocent little tyke, but again I follow the “Father Knows Best” 50’s crowd and my husband’s request, naming son after father after grandfather.  “He’s beautiful. Perfect.” she says. I’ve missed the miracle. I smile stupidly, still out of it. Too many miracle drugs.

Next thing I know I’m in my room, the nurse is shaking me and dropping a bundle into my arms. I’ve opted to breastfeed, and have slept off enough of the drugs to focus. I see a lovely pink bald head, intense blue eyes, the perfectly formed ears. Will they be able to channel sound? All I want to do is rip off the swaddling, and explore him all over, but before I can check every inch of him he begins to whimper. I fumble about while the nurse makes gooing sounds trying to situate the baby’s already sucking mouth somewhere close to my breast. “Don’t worry. This is just a dry run, your milk isn’t in yet,” she says redundantly as she leaves me finally alone with my son.

I gaze at this wonder resting in my arms as the heat from his body seeps into mine both of us remembering that safe inner cavern from which he’s been expelled. I try to forget the past and the future and begin to relax in the moment. He knows nothing but. It works and I lose track of time. I touch, squeeze, explore this little extension of myself, unswaddling him bit by bit. He’s perfect. I can’t explain the communion of our two bodies, souls, whatever that I feel. We are joined. It is the most intense and comforting experience of my 24-year life.

We both are rudely awakened to cries of the nurse, “Thank God. He’s here!”

“What?” I jerk us both awake.

“The baby. We’d lost one in the nursery.”

I didn’t get it. “Huh?’

“You’re the only nursing mother of the dozen babies in here. We forgot he was with you.”


Rubella Jill


Ft Bliss Texas – Part Two

From Wikipedia, “There was a pandemic of rubella between 1962 and 1965, starting in Europe and spreading to the United States. In the years 1964-65, the United States had an estimated 12.5 million rubella cases. This led to 11,000 miscarriages or therapeutic abortions and 20,000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome. Of these, 2,100 died as neonates, 12,000 were deaf, 3,580 were blind and 1,800 were mentally retarded. In New York alone, CRS affected 1% of all births. In 1969 a live attenuated virus vaccine was licensed. In the early 1970s, a triple vaccine containing attenuated measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) viruses was introduced.”

Staring at myself in the mirror, tears running down my spotty face, getting rashier by the second. I call Ray.  “It’s German Measles”.

“Don’t get upset. It could be something else. Let’s get you to the doctor. Then check at school and see if any kids have it.”

I scream, “It’s fucking German Measles!” My mind empties. I can’t focus. My heart slams against the mesh of my lungs, vibrating the rash all over me, burning my skin, my eyes. Sucking my tears dry. I wade through the weekend making calls for help. Nobody can. The principal says “your student Bobby’s sick. His grandfather, who’s a doctor, said he’s come down with Rubella.” I moan. Why did he have to be in my class, the only pregnant teacher in the school?

”The base clinic says, “Come in Monday for a Gamma Globulin shot. It’s all we’ve got.”

I reply trembling, “Let’s do it.”

I sit in the waiting room. Looking up, away from myself, I see several obviously pregnant women surrounding me. A scene from a recent “Monkey Virus Infects the World” movie flashes before my eyes. I jump up to the desk. “I can’t stay here.” I whisper. The whole place ‘ll panic. I’ll get stoned. I mouth “German Measles.” They grab and isolate me in an examining room. Typhoid Mary! Another blow. They jam in the needle of gamma globulin. I cry, “What good will it do?” They don’t know. Maybe stop the rampage? Maybe nothing?

I  falter, check into abortions; only legal in two states, New York and Arizona. I can’t do it. I’m too late, too far along, too far away. The doctors try to be reassuring, “all the big stuff is developed by three months, except hearing.”

Living on base, finishing out the school year, preparing to leave Ft. Bliss, all is a blur, a void. My first child, that happy experience we haven’t really planned for, has taken a turn of foreboding.

Ray studying the stock market at Ft. Bliss

It’s 1967. In the next few months our lives change drastically.  The first decision is Ray’s. Taking the lead from my father, a very successful investor, he’s been studying the stock market, during his years of armed service preparing for a short internship on Wall Street and the ensuing SEC exam. A family friend has offered him a job in Daytona Beach, Florida with the prestigious firm, Merrill Lynch, pending his successful completion.

A bout of morning sickness makes me fully aware of my pregnancy in all its glory and distress. Being of strong body and positive nature I keep my apprehensions at bay and concentrate on a healthy beautiful baby. After a short visit home with our families on the Gulf Coast we cross the state to begin our new life and find a sweet house in a family neighborhood half a block from the beach. I find an OB/GYN who tells me not to worry my pretty little head about the German Measles epidemic. Everything will be fine. I want to remain in the sheep-following stage of the 50’s, wanting to believe the “Doctor knows best”, and ask no more questions.


Cars on Daytona Beach

Although student protests are beginning, first over segregation, then over the war in Viet Nam, Texas and Florida lag behind. The schools in Florida are just beginning to integrate. The medical community lags too. At Halifax Hospital where my son is born on Oct. 21, fathers aren’t even allowed on the Obstetrics floor. They have to wait in the lobby downstairs. I’m given a shot of painkiller as soon as the labor is strong and regular. No one asks me if I want it. Natural childbirth is out of fashion with the advent of strong painkillers. My one question about the possible damage to the fetus is answered with, “We’ll do a hearing test along with the other birth assessments.”

Next Time – Child Birth


Life and Deaf – A Memoir of Life with a Deaf Child… and more.

I’ve started a memoir Life and Deaf and thought if I put excerpts on my blog I might be more apt to keep up with it and maybe even finish it before I either lose my mind, my life or my urge to write. Here goes:

Feeling flushed I get up to look in the mirror. Spots. Couldn’t be. Don’t want it to be. I lean closer. My heart pounds in fear. The sight swells around me rushing blood and adrenalin through my body and before my very eyes the spots multiply all over my face and neck like in a horror movie. German Measles. There’s an epidemic raging. This is a mild disease when kids get it – a little rash, a little fever, runs its course in a couple days. But in pregnant women, especially first trimester, it attacks the fetus and destroys the cells of whatever isn’t fully developed by then.

I’m three months pregnant with my first child. I grab at impossible straws. I want to believe I already had them as a child. My mother would know. I call her.


“Hi Jill. How’re you feeling? You over the morning sickness yet?”

“Yes. Much better. I wanted to ask you? Umm. Did I have German Measles as a kid?”

“What? The epidemic! Oh no! Oh yes, I’m sure you had it. Oh my God! Do you have symptoms? I’ll have to find your health records. Don’t worry.

I’ve been hearing about it on the news. Biggest epidemic they’ve ever had. Already affected ten thousand babies in the US.

“I’ve got a rash spreading over my face, throat, and chest. I’m going to the doctor tomorrow, but as soon as you find anything please call me back.”

“Is it going around your school?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“I love you. Try not to get upset. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Ft. Bliss El Paso Texas

Two years married, but still so young, my husband and I are in stage two of our lives together. Phase one ended with our graduation from the University of Florida, me with a degree in English/Biology and Ray in Business, neither of which we’ll follow for awhile. The military has recruited us to Ft Bliss, Texas where Lt. Ray will be a fixed wing pilot. That doesn’t sound too bad when we get here, but now the winds of war are blowing stronger as the first U.S. combat troops have been sent to Viet Nam. They don’t need fixed wing pilots. They need more helicopter pilots, but that’s an easy transition. The helicopters are easy targets as they hover over the killing fields picking up the newly dead.


Martin Luther King Jr. being denied entry to the whites only Monson Motor Lodge restaurant by owner Jimmy Brock. Current site of Hilton Hotel.

Ray’s best friend Mo is one of the first to go. It cuts us to the core.  Pushes me left of center. Makes me remember my first SDS protest that had filled the Gainesville streets; the redneck cops walking the edges of the crowd joyously wielding their billy clubs. Florida hasn’t had protests like this since the civil rights Sitdown in St. Augustine a few years earlier. The cops in gleeful agreement with the leashed dogs, barking and slathering wildly to fulfill their training and ‘kill them niggers!’ And I was there, but horrifyingly on the wrong side with my husband’s racist relatives cheering, egging the armored men on to attack these defenseless stool-sitting black lunch counter patrons who had been denied service only because of their black color. I was mortified, back away. So this is the other side of the ruling gentry that treats their “help” well by giving them the leftovers of their lives.  We’ve left the herding instinct of the 50’s. The 60’s bring a new war of no good purpose with it and the young and newly educated begin to rebel. We’ve been spouting ‘Make peace not war, man! Make love not hate!’ Now we have to do something about it. Protest. Nonviolently. Throwing flowers as we go.

Teetering on the brink of shipping out to Vietnam, a doctor friend of Lt. Ray’s returns with a purple heart, a shrapnelled ass and a belief in the injustice of this war. He gives Ray a medical reprieve from helicopter training. No Viet Nam. We’ve settled into life on the base, Fort Bliss, close to El Paso and surrounded by desert and mountains. Ray takes care of courts martial and the mess hall. I’m just finishing my second year teaching in an elementary school close enough to the Mexican border to have a cafeteria with Mexican food so good you wished the other two days of the week they didn’t serve American.

Tune in next week for the medical results.


I’m It! Ten Random Facts About Myself.

I just got tagged by Sue Ann Bowling to tell 10 random facts about myself, tag 3 other people and link to their sites.

To preface the assignment, I have been trying hard to publicize my newly published book Free To Bloom about the adventures of a single woman learning to live alone in Costa Rica and around the world. While visiting She Writes, a very helpful and interesting site for women writers, I encountered a group called WordPress Bloggers and finally left a comment listing my blog. Lo and behold, I got tagged. I just haven’t got into the habit of PR: surfing sites, dropping comments, linking to others. It’s hard, maybe harder than writing the damn book. Now, according to Sue Ann this is going geometric. Watch out everyone. Here we go.

You’re It:

  • Stepping Into The Water – a socially relevant and inspiring  blog and book by my good friend Marisa, member of my writing group, and author of the book The Sharkman of Cortez.
  • In The Company of Gentle Heroes – my wonderful friend Sue who has written a memoir of her life as a miiltary wife and just started her blog..
  • M C Coolidge Reality On Line – a fellow writer, lively journalist in the Sarasota, FL area and author of the book Sideways in Sarasota, who will join me next Tues. Sept. 20 at Bookstore1Sarasota for a gathering and book signing for local self-published authors.

Ten Random Facts about Jill:

The Hippie Family
  1. Became a Hippie during the 70’s, sold everything to travel and live in a van with husband, kids and dogs with the ulterior motive of finding the best oral school for my deaf son.
  2. Taking full advantage of his disabilities, my son has become a psychic and my internet guru, making it possible for me to understand enough of the intricacies of an online world to publish an ebook.
  3. Thanks to my adventurous daughter whom I have followed all over the world, I now have a home in Costa Rica, the catalyst of my personal transformation.
  4. Need to be close to bodies of water–whether riding the surf, kayaking the rivers or jumping from waterfalls.p91204071-300x225-8535107
  5. Teaching is a part of my life– first with my son, then high school science, English as a 2nd language and continues as a volunteer.
  6. One of my best life experiences was volunteering in Africa and joining a safari.
  7. Champion saving the environment and its people– from bringing water and sanitation to the poor, shopping at thrift stores, cleaning up the beaches.
  8. Love to dance.
  9. Love my kids but realize that grandkids are way more fun. Without the responsibility of their upbringing I become the old lady scientist and bedtime story-teller.
  10. Reading  is a joy and necessity. It brought me to writing and ultimately to publishing my book Free To Bloom.
Malawi Africa

Please pass this exercise on. It really made my think about my life past, present and future.