We went to see Aunt Carole. Then we went to the playground and the junior museum.
The next morning the kids wore blisters on their hands on the monkey bars and other fancy play equipment and loved doing it. Then on to the Children’s Museum and Zoo featuring wild animals in their natural habitat and ending with a ride on an authentic red caboose.
Life and Deaf – The Second Day
Only a ninety mile run is planned for today; just to Chipley, Florida for our first rendezvous with Terry and Barb at her mother’s house. Our timing is not the best. Barb’s mother, Elaine has just gotten out of the hospital after having surgery and her tight-lipped expression and one word answers show she’s not only still sick and depressed that her daughter’s leaving, but upset that a whole family with two small children has arrived on her doorstep, uninvited by her, to spend the night. Barb gives us her old room. She and Terry sleep in the van. My two kids aren’t happy either. They still aren’t camping.
We awaken in the morning to find another camper parked in the driveway. Terry’s other classmates, Trudy, Herb and Kathy have arrived in the middle of the night. Oh my God, I didn’t realize we were all rendezvousing here. Now Elaine has more to be upset about. She’s crying through all this commotion because, “Barbara honey, you’re leaving for God knows where and I won’t have any way to get in touch with you. How could you do this to me?” Same story we got at my house.
I did research through the mail and going to the library – there was no such thing as internet – to find the best auditory/oral education for our son, mapped out a route and set a timetable for our exploratory trip. As we traveled we would meet up with my brother and Barb, and another couple of friends, Trudy and Herb, at specified locations around the United States. In between we’d visit with many friends made through the years of college and military life. Since there were no cell phones or email we had to rely on the US Mail General Delivery and public phone booths. Although there were several highly regarded oral schools on the Eastern Seaboard we decided to skip the crowded cities of New England and explore new territory in, for us, the wild west.
I’ve found the old loose-leaf notebook where my dream of telling this old hippie story started. I open it to: The First Day–June 26, 1974. What perfect timing. So we begin:
We left in a tropical storm on our shakedown trip from Ormond Beach to Venice, FL to say good-bye to family and friends. Violent winds and rain christened the new Dodge van and our carefully packed hand-built cartop carrier leaked like a sieve. All had to be unstowed. It took all day in Grandma Fifi’s clothes dryer to dry blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, clothes, while we did an epoxy repair job on the carrier. We tried to pack “intelligently” for the big haul cross-country and still have room for living. In a van? My mother spent many hours ringing her hands (and hankies) wondering what she would do with all the leftover gear that wouldn’t fit. She had just gone through the same thing with Terry and Barb the week before and her patience was wearing thin. I don’t blame her. The Green house has always been used as home base because of a welcoming attitude, ample space, and Fif’s delicious home cooking. Of course the real reason was that two out of three of her children and two of her grandchildren were leaving in vans for “God knows where” to live as hippies for “God knows how long”. Though we’d been hashing and re-hashing the plan for over a year, none of the parents thought we’d actually become wanderers.
I, myself, found it hard to believe that we were actually giving up our stable life with two kids, our little 3 bedroom/2 bath ranch in middle class suburbia. But harder still – how did I ever talk my husband into giving up his successful position as a white-collar “investment advisor” – the new-fangled word for a stockbroker?
So why, where, when and how did we get from Florida to Colorado? I began living as an armchair hippie somewhere between the late 60’s and the early 70’s as we followed a more traditional route of our conservative past: bearing two children, buying a ranch style house for $20,000 including a beach access, in a sweet young neighborhood half a block from the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Halifax River on the other in, Ormond Beach. We watered our salt-saturated yard, strolled the babies, hung out on the lawn after work with the neighbors, babysat for each other, slathered the kids with zinc oxide sunscreen, went fishing and crabbing, had a boat and a station wagon.
My brother Terry and his gal Barb would come over to visit and go to the beach from the University of Florida where Ray and I both graduated a few years earlier. And if we could find a babysitter we could head to our alma mater for live concerts: James Brown killing us with his music and falling down drunk off the stage, or the first live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar with ‘actual’ nudity. In fact Terry and Barbara were the first to offer to take care of Scooter for the weekend, giving us time alone together before our next baby Nicole was born. He was at the height of the terrible two’s: independent, willful and not very language proficient. I remember pulling up from our first vacation, the two of them looking totally exhausted, outside on the lawn with Scooter awaiting our arrival.
My mother, formerly a speech therapist and drama coach, felt comfortable taking care of him, which she would do often when we’d get together on weekends. They took to each other immediately and loved spending time together. In his words:
“Grandma Green, the grandmother I was closest to, was one of the most loving and generous people I knew. One of the reasons we had a close bond was because she used to be a speech therapist and would coach me on saying words properly when I couldn’t hear them. She always spoke to me as an adult and would discuss worldly things with me which I loved because it would broaden my inquisitive mind.”
We stayed in our little Ormond Beach Peyton Place for 7 years as the hippie itch attacked me. I read Be Here Now by Ram Dass, smoked my first joint, did macramé, wore vintage clothes without a bra, stopped shaving my legs and yearned to be a flower child. Such a dreamer! How in the hell did I ever talk daddy Ray into leaving his Merrell Lynch life, still wearing the tied neck and shiny shoes of his military past? Maybe part of it was that my brother and all his hippie friends were graduating from college and celebrating with an adventure across the USA, living on the road, and we got caught up in the excitement.
The planning began. We sold our house, bought a van and refurbished it into a rolling home. Ray quit his job and applied for unemployment. We’d have money to live on until we decided what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. Our underlying motive became combing the country to find a superlative oral school for Scooter to give him the background he needed to be successfully mainstreamed into regular hearing classes.
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Back to Life and Deaf.
A memory pops into my mind, so clearly, of Scooter showing his spirit while hoding his teacher, Sunny Bates’ hand in the parking lot of Marineland. He’s stamping his little foot, shaking his head no, next to the old Dodge station wagon we bought from Grandma and Gaga Patterson. He doesn’t want to go home and accept the fact that the excitement and spectacle of watching the dolphins and whales jumping, singing and dancing for us is over.
It all started when my TV cable went out. For a decade I’ve been piggy-backing off a cable that wasn’t supposed to be live. Holding on to the attitude of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book era, I didn’t feel too bad getting a little free cable from a big rich conglomerate. I started cleaning out the space getting ready for a new big legal flat screen variety and there, mixed in with the almost obsolete DVD’s and CD’s, is a copy that says ‘super-eight movies’. I pop it in and begin to watch. OMG, the beginning of our family: Scooter learning to walk. I laugh, I cry as our family life goes scrolling by. I do a quick calculation, 1968 – 1978, from Ormond Beach, FL where the children were born, through our lives as hippies traveling the country in a van, settling in Boulder, CO and our return to Sarasota.
After 1½ hours and a decade roll past, I’m emotionally drained. A smile soothes my face. My memory has been so easily nudged with these genuine images from the past. It’s all on a movie
lost, then found in the clutter of life. I sift through years of gift opening in front of endless Christmas trees, fancily dressed toddlers precariously carrying baskets of brightly decorated eggs, crowds of neighbor kids adorned in peaked hats in front of blazing, then smoking animal-shaped birthday cakes. But in between there’s real life: Scooter’s first steps,first run, first fall, picking himself back up and continuing on; no crying or laughing, just pure inquisitiveness and determination.The kids model silly wild outfits I sew them for Christmas. I sew myself sexy ones to go with my bleached blond hair. We enjoy drunk,crazy fun times with the grandparents at their 25th wedding anniversary. I discipline Scooter and drag him away when he won’t stay of the street.We dancing and party with friends at a neighborhood New Year’s Eve bash where Ray passes out on the couch deeply enough to ignore us taking the drink from his hands as we continually change his hats. We take old Boulder Hippie friends boating to Sarasota’s topless beach (Sarasota was not so staid back then) and return to romp nude in our backyard.
But let me pick up the thread where I left off. Scooter’s new teacher was with us on that Marineland trip. Miss Sunny Bates, the best teacher a child could have, had become a close friend of the family. She loved that boy, his spirited independent ways, quick intelligence and potential to move into the hearing world, and we loved her. After our shaky beginnings with oral education, she took the ball and ran with it, giving him the background he needed to successfully inhabit a hearing world.
Granted the circumstances weren’t perfect-a class of children with mixed disabilities: deaf, emotionally disturbed, cerebal palsied, autistic, aged 2 ½ (or potty trained) through 5. With Sunny at the helm, it worked and I became a volunteer teacher’s aide to pick up the slack, my first job since teaching elementary school in El Paso, Texas. What an eye-opener and education for me, too.
Hope my alterations and changes are not too confusing. Next time a different perspective – a memory from the horse’s mouth – my son.
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.
I’m rummaging through journals for information to supplement and stimulate my memories of beginning a family forty-five years ago. I open a grubby three-ring notebook. Lots of looseleaf stuff falls out. I recognize my mother’s handwriting and squint at the title, I Saw a Miracle faintly penciled in. A coincidence? It’s her take on my Rubella story.
The sharp ring of the telephone broke the quiet evening. The call was from my daughter in El Paso. Her husband was stationed at the Ft. Bliss army base. I knew she’d been crying by her tear-strained voice. ‘Mother, have I ever had German Measles?’
A cold chill ran down my spine. I knew what was coming. Jill was in the 12th week of her first pregnancy. She’d called Easter ecstatic with the good news, after two years of waiting.
That’s her waiting not mine. I wasn’t sure I wanted a baby yet, but had stopped taking birth control.
Jill had consulted several physicians. Some advised wait-and-hope,some abortion.
No physician suggested abortion; that was my idea. In fact no legal abortions were available until 1968, after the big epidemic was running its course.She continues, putting my name in place of hers.
Abortion was a horrible word, not permitted by my daughter’s religion or her personal feelings. She would not consider it. To her it meant taking a life, perhaps a perfect life. She carried her unborn baby very bravely for the next six months, never complaining, but I knew how deeply concerned she was and how hard she must have prayed. We all prayed with her.
What? It’s my mother’s god coming out all over the place. Did I tell her that to pacify her? Or have I taken the godless views I now hold, reversed time and infiltrated them into my past? What is the truth? My memory weaves through it with a thin silver thread, periodically blinding me with its reflection.
Little Ray or Scooter, as his family now called him, grew more beautiful each day – golden red fuzz, eyes as blue as the ocean where he lived, white skin, pink cheeks – an exceptionally beautiful child. However, we were all watching him carefully. I had taught speech therapy before my marriage and I began to suspect that he was not hearing.
We all suspected. From early on we were banging pot lids together behind Scooter’s back. No response. I brought up our concerns to the pediatrician. He placed his watch behind his head on one side or the other and when he turned his head correctly he said, “See. He’s fine.” This was no dumb kid. He could see the hand behind him. Scooter was a year old, but wasn’t babbling or saying those first dada, mama words although he was looking intently at our faces when we spoke. With great trepidation we made an appointment for Scooter at the Shands Speech and Hearing Clinic in Gainesville, Florida.
I made some errors in thinking in my last blog while I was contemplating my feelings of missing my jury summons to the Tyson trial where a black man is quickly convicted in killing white men.
I didn’t have to worry about being kept off the jury because of my views against capital punishment. They were only asking for life in prison.
With the international media blitz given this crime, it only lasted one week? I wouldn’t have missed my vacation after all.
Whether Tyson was guilty or not, he did not have a fair trial. Plea bargaining (bribery to me, whether legal or not) brought in 5 witnesses to testify for the prosecution and they were fully believed by the jury even though they were adept at lying, crime and jail time themselves. What happened to the defense? I read the accounts. There wasn’t one. There are so many unanswered questions like:
What were two tourists doing in Newtown? It wasn’t easy to find their way to Gregg Ct. Were they looking for drugs? Women?
Why were their shirts off? Their pants down?
Wasn’t there possibly an accomplice?
How come there was only one black person on the jury?
Why hadn’t the public defender demanded a more racially fair jury?
Of course I have to compare this trial with the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black man by George Zimmerman, a white/latino man in Sanford, Fl., a little town with a legacy of racism. He hasn’t even been arrested, in spite of nationwide outrage, hoodied protests and accusations of injustice.
The news in Florida has finally taken over the nation’s front pages, for better or worse.