I was fortunate not to be cursed to my face for being deaf or hearing-impaired. Still, I know I require more patience than usual from hearing people. I can’t help it, but because of my hearing loss, I am more aware of and dependent on body language. People may say the right words, but their body language will usually reveal true feelings.
Many years ago when I was young, I was confronted by a hearing person. The boy was a known trouble-maker, and he was looking for trouble. He swore at me, but I was unfazed by his speech. I could see from his body language he did not mean well. But, at that time I did not know any swear words and I stood there puzzled. He was not getting the expected reaction from me. When he found out I did not know, he thought it funny. Because of that, his anger was deflected from me, and I escaped to live another day.
Our family lived in Philadelphia in a big, old house. I was in second grade when I got my first hearing aid. It was so big my mother had to sew pockets inside all my t-shirts to hold it. It came with a 3-wire cord that connected the body piece in my pocket with a small earplug in my ear. It whistled a lot, the result of frequent feedback. But I was a proud owner and kids in my class at school all wanted to see it. I felt acceptance as to who I was. It was a time of innocence for schools and children.
I remember being able to walk to school. School in those days were safe places. In those old days there was no need to worry about school violence. Why now? Fences are built around school buildings. Doors are locked, identification is needed. There is armed security and scanners. Our children are rightly scared of going to school. People argue about how to protect the schools and the best way to do so. What’s different about 2018 and the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was in school?
I discovered chess when I was in high school. It was in math class where I saw fellow classmates playing chess during break time. I knew of chess, the game, but did not play. But, because those playing chess were the whiz-kids, I got to thinking if I could play the game I would know if I could even beat them in the game. Chess did not require having good hearing.
I bought a book about how to play chess and read it from cover to cover. I applied myself to study the game and understand the rules. When it began to make sense to me I went back to that math class and when an opportunity presented itself, I asked if I could play. After defeating them all, I felt, for the first time, that I had some worth or capability. This is because school was always a struggle for me, being hearing-impaired, and I did not have good grades. No one would have thought I could beat those math-whiz kids in chess. Continue reading