I have been learning ASL for quite some time. For those of you who don’t know, ASL is American Sign Language. And when I say for quite some time, I began learning in 3rd grade, but it was slow progression. I’m not flute by any means, but I can sign a story or two. I went to the feeder school for the special needs kids. If there were any special needs kids in the surrounding district within a certain radius, they went to my elementary school, and then my middle school, and my high school. My first best friends were Yessica and Natalie. They were both Deaf, and Natalie also had a cognitively disability. They began teaching me sign language when I was just 8 or 9 years old, and soon we could have simple conversations. A neighbor down the street from me interpreted for my best friends, and she took on trying to teach me some things as well. In between recess, Yessica and Natalie and I would exchange notes decorated with stars and hears and pictures expressing our best friend status and love to one another. I still have the notes. I remember one time in third grade we had show and tell. I brought in my parakeet and has my teacher get the Deaf students across the hall so I could sign to them about my bird.
Almost 10 years later, I still remember all of that. I don’t know where Natalie went, but I know that Yessica is married now with a kid. When I was a junior in high school, Yessica and I reconnected through FaceBook and she invited me to her birthday party. We still keep in touch from time to time.
On Monday, I went to my first Silent Dinner. It is pretty much the way it sounds. You go there, and there is no speaking. Only signing. I haven’t practiced my ASL in a long time, so I was fairly rusty. There were Deaf people there, advanced signers, and beginner signers. I think it is safe to say I am two steps above beginner. Everyone was really friendly there, but there was one person I met who made my whole night. His name is Cameron, and he is Deaf. I understood most of what he was signing, and he is absolutely hilarious. ASL is a very beautiful and visual language. When you watch a story being told, they act it out, facial expressions and all, and his were funny. Very dramatic. He told me he loves acting, just not in front of people. We chatted for the longest time and all sorts of things: how his grandpa’s driving scares him, how I have a lot of tattoos, about his other grandpa’s death, about my sister. And then he told me the story of how he became Deaf.
When he was 11 years old, Cameron had a really high fever. As a result, his hearing started to rapidly deteriorate. His mother and him began learning sign language immediately, and within the year of the diagnosis, he became completely deaf. He already knew some sign because his best friend was born deaf. And around the time Cameron lost his, his best friend regained his hearing. Cameron told me his best friend’s mother was devastated when she found out her son was deaf and prayed to God every night to give his hearing back. And then Cameron said, “Sometimes I think God took my hearing away to answer her prayers.” My heart broke for him. He told me his favorite band was the Beatles and how him and his mother would dance to their songs. He loved to talk as a child. In fact, his mother called him motor mouths he was growing up. And I felt so sorry for Cameron.
I went home, feeling so at loss. If I were to lose my hearing, my life would be over. Music is everything to me. Songs are my passion. I sing to express myself. And to lose all that? To lose my identity? I don’t know if I could handle it. Cameron is such a strong person, and such an inspiring individual. He reminds me to take the time to listen and appreciate. Even as this annoying cricket screeches and echoes in the hallway, I am comforted by the sound, because it is sound.
I feel like Cameron and I will become very good friends in the coming months, which is good. We will both learn to appreciate what we have. I have hearing, and he has a beautiful language to call his.