When my dad was born he was declared by the doctors to be deaf and dumb, meaning he would never speak or hear. Fortunately, they discovered a mass that was pressing on his vocal cords and removed it allowing him the ability to speak albeit with a bit of an impediment. So basically, now he could speak, but could hear nothing. Not being able to hear obviously presented a challenge for my dad, but as children often do, he figured out a way around his supposed disability. You see, unbeknownst to his family, my dad at a very young age learned to read lips, specifically the lips of his younger brother Charles. Once Charles figured out that my dad relied on him, he made sure to stick close to him so that he could be his interpreter of sorts. This worked out for my dad and allowed him to have what probably appeared to him, a normal childhood.
My dad’s parents were tobacco farmers, just ordinary people, not wealthy by any means, so I am guessing they believed that my dad would just get by with what he had, his own voice and my Uncle Charles as his ears. Fortunately that was not to be the case. One day while working in the packhouse, grading the tobacco with my grandmother, a salesman dropped by. He had a new revolutionary device, a hearing aid. The wearer placed a piece in his ear and a box of sorts in his shirt pocket. The salesman wanted to try out his contraption on my dad. I don’t know exactly how my grandparents reacted, maybe with doubt, maybe with hope, maybe they didn’t know what to think. At any rate, they agreed to give it a go. Once my dad had the hearing aid in his ear, a whole new world opened up right before his ears. Instantly my dad was able to hear sounds and as one could imagine, he was frightened. My grandparents and uncle began explaining that he was hearing dry tobacco crackling and chickens clucking, probably even the wind blowing, all ordinary sounds that a hearing person takes for granted. Even though my grandparents had little money and this device was new and expensive, they made the sacrifice and purchased the hearing aid for my father, and just like that his life changed forever.
Without the hearing out, my dad overcame his “disability” but with the hearing aid, I believe he became a success. He’s always worked and provided for his family and believe it or not, he’s one of the most social people I know. He never meets a stranger and if he does meet a stranger, he tries to find a connection, a way they may know each other or have something in common. I can’t remember a single trip to Wal-mart or K-mart where my mom and I didn’t find him sitting on the bench at the front of the store chatting away to someone we had never seen before. One would assume that a speech impediment along with very obvious hearing aids would render a person shy or even anti-social. But not my dad, he’s always been one of the most social people I know. I think he would have been great in politics, always smiling and hand shaking and loving being in groups of people. I can’t recall ever once hearing him even complain about wearing hearing aids.
To lots of people, I suppose my dad is just another ordinary man, but when I look at him, I see the extraordinary, someone who takes the lemons that life hands him and doesn’t just simply make lemonade, but makes the best lemonade imaginable.