Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Story series - my father's dance with a stick

As you have noticed, how I see and observe things as a young deaf boy is radically different. Sometimes with a humorous slant. Fortunately, this is not in the vein of tragedy.

My family and I were living in Texas and I was about 5 years old. We lived at a house where the chain-fence backyard faced the vast wilderness. At least it looked like that to my 5 year-old mind. I may not be entirely wrong about that.

One warm morning, I opened the curtains to look out into the backyard. I was surprised to see my cat sitting behind the sliding door, waiting calmly to come in. What struck me the most was he was holding this weird-looking stick in his mouth and that stick was moving around a bit. I could see the stick had a pattern and I thought it was odd.

I started to open the door to let my cat in so I could examine the stick better and that's when my mom came into the view. She freaked out...FREAKED OUT...and ran in to stop me from opening the door some more and she slammed the door shut before the cat could bring his stick in.

After gesturing firmly to me about not opening the door, my mom called my dad. I could not understand what was going on, but I knew better than to disobey my mother and open the door. I sat on the floor and watched the stick move in several directions while still in my cat's mouth.

After an eternity, my mom made me come into the kitchen and she served me a sandwich. Then my dad came home. He stood at the door and stared at the cat. He went into the garage and I followed him. He put on thick gardener's gloves and took his Air Force work shirt off. He went out into the front yard and circled around to the backyard.

He paused at the gate to make sure the cat wasn't coming to him and he gestured to me to stay. STAY! I nodded at him. He went in. He approached the cat slowly. Moved to the side. I watched him bend down and quickly grab one end of the stick to pull it away from the cat.

Then...he started dancing with the stick. He hopped back. Sideways. Darted in. Jumped back. Threw the stick up in the air. Let the stick land. Darted in. I was fascinated by his dance with the stick.

Then my dad jumped up and threw a rock down on the stick. Suddenly, there was red paint everywhere on the patio. I didn't see any can of paint. Where did the red paint come from? I was confused by that. My dad carefully picked up one half of the "broken stick" and flung it over the far end of the backyard fence. He went back and got the other half and flung it over to join the other.

Took me few years before I realized what the stick was and why my dad danced with it. Do you know what it was? :)

It was a snake. I think it was about 4 feet long, may have been 3...I was young and you know how kids are. My mom has no recollection of what pattern the snake had, let alone know what kind of snake it was, and my dad has been dead for over 10 years now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Story series - art imitates life...sorta

Saw a very comical Big Bang Theory episode related to Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, and Raj waiting at a theater to see a re-release of a movie. That episode reminded me of the time I went to see Star Wars at the base theater back in 1978.

What I meant by "the base theater", it was at an Air Force base. I lived in and around Air Force bases all of my childhood and I was an Air Force brat, thanks to my dad.

When the news got out that Star Wars was being shown at that base theater months after it no longer ran in the theaters, my friend and I immediately made plans to see it. After some delay (we were young and unable to drive so we had to wait for his dad to take us), we arrived at the theater only to see a MASSIVE line at the theater. Stretched around to behind the theater.


We got in the line and waited. His dad left. Hey, this was 1978 and we were on the base. We were secure at that time.

Took us about 20 minutes just to get to the ticket window...and as we stepped up to purchase the tickets... you guessed it...

The employee put up a sign that indicated the show was sold out. We WERE the cutoff line. If only...hid dad had gotten going a bit sooner...if only...he had driven faster...if only we had asked him earlier...if only if only if onlyifonlyif...


Yes, it really happened. Just as we were ready to buy tickets. I'd tell people about this story and then to see art imitating life...sorta. ;)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Story series - that was it?

Bear in mind that this was in the early 80's when this occurred. The practices described below in the story was commonplace at the time. Relax and enjoy the story.

I had graduated a year earlier from a school for the deaf whose philosophy emphasized oral communication over sign language (meaning we learned how to speak and read lips) and I was mainstreamed; struggling to understand the brave new world in 7th grade where everyone was hearing and I was the only deaf student there.

Out of the blue, one of my "friends" had suddenly turned against me by spitting at me while at recess. What I meant by the quote marks on the word friends was I thought anyone who spoke to me and interacted with me was by definition, a friend. How naive I was.

Just like that, his spit landed on my shoulder near my neck. I was shocked by the insult and the shock quickly turned into fury. I spat back at him, making sure to hit his face and I nailed him a centimeter from his nose. That pissed him off enough to spit back.

I retaliated. He responded. This escalated to a spitting war on a global scale. A teacher ran in to break up the spitting war and I never forgot her reaction of disgust when she saw what had transpired.

She marched us to the principal's offce. The principal had only three chairs so we weren't far apart at all. The teacher then left us to face the principal. I had met him months earlier and he seemed cordial but supportive to me. He had understood that the school was having its first ever deaf pupil and he was setting the benchmark for all other students and faculty to follow.

The principal got up from behind his desk and came around and leaned back on his desk. He made a mistake of asking the boy first what had happened. The boy got very animated and tried everything under the sun to blame it all on me. I just sat there and waited for the principal to speak to me. I had learned that was a very important thing to do - wait and don't speak until spoken to.

The principal abruptly cut him off and then he looked at me and said, "So what happened?" I calmly explained how I thought he was my friend until today when he just spat at me for no reason at all. I had not done anything wrong to him and I did not know why he started this. The principal nodded as if all this made sense to him.

The boy, probably sensed that I had won the principal over, got loud and tried to speak over me and everyone else. The principal stood up and went to the cabinet as the boy loudly denied everything. He opened the cabinet and pulled out something large, round, and flat that I couldn't make out. He dropped it on his desk for sound effect and I could feel the vibration of that metallic thud from the large round flat object landing on the desk.

The boy shut up immediately. The principal questioned him again and the boy tried again, in a somewhat calmer tone to blame everything on me. The principal sighed and looked at me. He said, "what do you have to say?" I told him that I did spit on him only because he spat on me first and I was able to show the gobs of saliva on my clothes. That convinced the principal.

He went to the intercom and paged for a certain teacher to come in. After a minute, the teacher (albeit a different one) came in. The principal said to me, "Come over here." I got up and walked over to him. I was able to see what the object was. A paddle with holes drilled all over the area. "Why did he do that?" as I wondered while walking over to him.

"Bend over and grab your _____" and I thought he said "knees" so I did as instructed. He tapped me on my shoulder to get my attention and I looked at him. He pointed to my ankles and said, "No, grab your ankles." I did as told. He stepped away and after a moment, I felt a thud on my butt. I realized that he had just paddled me...but...what I thought was "That was it?" It didn't hurt at all. My dad had spanked me before and his hand hit HARDER than that paddle. Okay.

The principal tapped me and I looked at him. He said, "Go sit down." Okay. I sat down. The principal motioned for the boy to get over there. The boy didn't have to be told to grab his ankles - he did it right away. I got to watch how the principal used the paddle. Arm went up...high...pause to lock in the impact zone...left foot moved forward, swish, thwack! The boy jumped out of his grasp position and yelped and looked back at the principal...and he suddenly went back into the position.

I actually burst out in laughter and both the principal and the teacher looked at me sternly. I apologized while giggling, but it was just too damn funny to see a boy react so poorly to the exact same thing that didn't affect me at all...and not only that, but to see him JUMP BACK into the ankle grasp if he would be punished again for breaking the grip.

The principal told us to not do it again. I nodded and shrugged. The boy was completely intimidated and barely nodded. It was my only time ever in my life that corporal punishment was administered to me by someone who wasn't my parent.

The boy tried to do a smear campaign on me afterward, but I made sure to tell everyone what had happened in the office...including my "That was it?" moment and how he reacted to the paddle. He became a non-factor in my life and had faded away into obscurity by the time we went on to 8th grade.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Who needs sound to know what's going on around you...?

Emmy (of her fabulously philosophical "Right Turn Without Signaling" blog) left a comment on my post about stopping my mother dead in her tracks - "As my daughter's teacher always reminds parents who are baffled by the fact she's deaf but missing nothing, there are a lot of things that happen where you don't need sound to know it is happening. This is a great example of this."

Emmy, as I said in my response to your comment, you are absolutely right. However, the depth and the scope of how we miss nothing hasn't been explained...until now.

While I was standing around after getting my tattoos, the artist was trying to find something and I knew exactly what she was looking for. I got a piece of paper that was taped to the chair and handed it to her. She was surprised because that was exactly what she was looking for and she didn't say a word to anyone.

How did I know? First of all, she turned the chair around. The paper came into my view and it was a drawing of a tattoo that my wife wanted on her body. Then the artist rearranged her tools and accessories. After watching her be satisfied with her arrangement, I saw how her head came up and her eyes rested on the spot where the paper had suddenly "disappeared". She started looking around for it.

Easy as putting two and two together. There are other moments that have astounded even my wife who has witnessed my observation powers. Such as?, you ask (as I knew you would LOL).

Recently, my family and I went to our older daughter's school for "Trunk r Treat" where people would give out candy from their vehicles. After making our round, we went inside the cafeteria. I noticed some art, all using the same artwork. Ahh, coloring contest! My wife explained to me that each row represented each grade and each held the finalists. She pointed one out to me - it was our daughter's.

Of course, my heart swelled with pride and I thought she did a very good job compared to the rest in her grade. I tried my best to be objective and I looked over very carefully each art in her grade. 8 total out of over 70 students. 4 were marginally good or worse. I thought hers was either best or second best. I looked over all other finalists' art.

Then we all sat down to mingle with everyone else. Not long after, I saw a woman pull a single artwork off each row and then stand in front of the crowd. I realized that the woman had picked winners...and my daughter's artwork was still on the row. I was disappointed by that. My wife waved at me to get my attention and told me they're ready to announce the winners.

I told my wife "That woman already has picked winners and our daughter didn't win. Shh, don't tell her." My wife looked at me like I had no idea what I was talking about. The woman started announcing the winners by each grade. My wife asked me how I could possibly know that. Just as I finished explaining my observations, the woman announced the winner for my daughter's grade and my daughter did the "Oh man I didn't win!" face.

At least she was a good sport about that. I was proud of her for that and I told her so after we left.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Story series - Blood blister'd hand

Editor's note - I thought I had this scheduled to publish. My apologies to those who were expecting my regular post.

I was rather a wild child growing up. That's how people saw me. Why was I wild? I just didn't understand the societal expectations placed on me and the norms I was supposed to follow. Nobody had ever taught me...I figured almost all of that on my own. Bear that in mind when I tell this story of the blood blister'd hand.

Sometime in the day somewhere far away from the house, I had this undefined feeling deep down in my belly that I was in trouble. Didn't know what or why. Just knew. I never liked coming home and get spanked for what, to my underdeveloped mind, was no reason at all. Never liked having my parents administer corporal punishment to me and then say to me, "You know what you did!" No explanation. How was I supposed to know what I did when I didn't understand the expectations and the norms?

I decided that I would protect my butt from the inevitable sting of a parent's hand, but how? My young mind deduced that the rocks, when I'd fall on them, hurt A, the rocks would hurt the hand that "fell" on them. Perfect. I gathered up a whole bunch of small rocks and stuffed them into my back pockets. Then I got up and went home.

Sure enough, my mother came to the door upon hearing my entrance into the house. She grabbed my arm before I could say anything and spun me around so she could swing her hand down to spank me. Thud. Not "thwack!" I felt the rocks push into me and that hurt a little. Surprised the rocks hurt me...but I was more surprised by my mother's reaction to my "butt protection".

She howled in pain and held her wrist as she tried to shake the pain off. Perfect, my idea worked. She ran into the kitchen to soak her injured hand in cold water to help relieve the pain.

She never spanked me again. That was my entire recollection of this episode. When I told her about how I remembered this moment while discussing the demerits of corporal punishment few years ago, she told me something else had happened that day. The rocks were pointy enough and she had hit the rocks hard enough that she developed blood blisters on her hand. She confessed that she was too scared to spank me since then.

My idea worked too perfectly. I felt bad about that, but we all are able to laugh about it now.