Deaf But Not Down


I could hear that familiar off-tone yodel from behind. Sure enough, my friend Terry, doing his Saturday morning shopping. Parked his bike out front. Had his habitual fire-up coffee at the Tim Horton's.

We had developed quite a rapport over the months. First as he questioned me on products in the grocery store. I had felt awkward. He was deaf. I could not sign, but he pressed on with a sort of charade effort and with note writing on a piece of scrap paper. It really wasn't that hard.

He was trying to show me how lean our store was on diabetic friendly products. Over the following weeks Terry would often seek me out to display his bargain finds in the store. A whole chicken. Pork tenderloin. Big jars of Maxwell House. Tiny tins of mandarin oranges - his favourite treat.

I was impressed at how intuitive the man was. I just had to try ever so casually with the hand gestures and lip-reading, and he had it. I began to realize how liberating it was for him to have someone to "talk" to. And he was well read. Newspapers. Hearing impaired text on the television.

Soon he was telling me about his odd jobs. He helps a number of landlords and landladies. Cleaning apartments, yard work, snow shoveling, reflooring, painting, changing locks, light carpentry.

Then, three months ago he came in with a leg brace. Apparently a car had driven his bike off the road and he had fallen. No more bicycling this winter. Cool off on the odd jobs. A niece and her husband driving him to shop. Sort of a "lordly" holiday in a way, and he was clearly enjoying the fellowship with family.

The niece watched our "conversations" with interest. Shaking both of my hands meant "friend". Turning over the hand, "yesterday". The ring on my finger meant "wife". Rockaby arm movement meant "child". Numbered fingers and facial expressions meant many things. When stumped, out came the pen and paper.

Now there seems very little to it, and our friendship grows.

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