My Dad died one year ago today.
I miss him immensely.
I know suffering is part of the human experience- especially suffering because we miss the ones that have passed. It’s something all humanity copes with.
I need to remember to grieve productively.
Memories of him come easily to me, usually everyday, the good, bad, and mundane.
A lot of guilt and remembrance of his illness is so very hard, Anita Diamand wrote in an article called Vigil
“.. Words fail so many strong feelings, which is why, I suppose, no one ever tried to tell me what it’s like to see your daddy draped with plastic tubing, fighting for breath…” But I need to remember to remember better.
I can laugh instead because when I play his favorite song can hear him singing loudly out of tune as vividly as if he were her next to me. He spent so much time with me that I knew him- in whatever sense a person can know another- and I can still have conversations with him in my head, predicting his responses and mannerisms. I can not only see but feel his adoring smile reserved only for his “baby girl.” I know he instilled the value of reading into me, and even though he’s not here with a physical body, I am blessed because these memories are life, and spirit. I know his spirit follows and protects me to this day, and forever will.
Yesterday, I read this passage of a letter Helen Keller wrote to her sister about her mother’s death. Perhaps my dear sister will find comfort in her words, as I have.
“I am sure, sister, she is much closer to us now than ever, and her dear spirit will give us comfort as time passes. So let us try to brace up by thinking how very happy she must be, freed from weariness and the anguish of unsatisfied longing. Let us remember how she’ desired good every day’ and prayed to find again the loved ones she had lost,and now her wishes are fulfilled. We can make her even happier by feeling her joy as our own, and you know how our griefs and delights were reduplicated in her heart while she lived with us.”
My Dad died one year ago today.
I’ve been starting to learn Sign Language for work. My first official class starts on Wednesday. I’m a little disappointed because the class I’m starting on Wednesday is not going to teach me ASL but English Sign. A lot of confusion has ensued from me stemming off on my own, including more than one trek to the grand old Boston Public Library.
First off, if you are thinking of checking a book out of the library about sign langauge, or really, any language, do not get a book that is older than you! I repeat, if the book is from the 70′s leave it on the shelf, it’s most likely no longer relevant. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way. Many of the words I spent time memorizing, it turns out, are just simply out of use. The language has changed, evolved if you will, into something else. Yet I’m sure you, dear reader, are much wiser than I. I trust you wouldn’t make the same mistake.
Also, don’t go to the BPL for books on sign, they’re all really old, checked out, or worse so worn they’re ripped to shreds. There is a limited selection.
Which brings my to my second point, in my ongoing list of misguided attempts to learn this new language, make sure you’ve go the right language! Yup. I set out to learn ASL and got out a book that was decidedly not ASL, without realizing it.
As I now understand, and please correct me if I’m wrong, in the U.S. there are two basic groups that sign is split into. ASL and English Based Sign (Britain has it’s own sign language different from English Based Sign. Not what I’m talking about here today). English sign is also called Sign Supported Speech. ASL is used by most d/Deaf folks in the U.S. That or a kind of pidgin language that combines Signed English and ASL.
In Sign Supported Speech there is the
Rochester Method, which is mostly fingerspelling.
SEE1 and SEE2.
Signing Exact English (SEE1) “In this system, the world ‘butterfly’ is made up of three signs of movements (1but-2er-3fly).”
Signing Exact English (SEE2) “‘English Should be signed in a manner that is consistent as possible with how it is spoken/written’ (Gustason, et. al., 198). This means that idioms such as ‘dry up,’ ‘cut it out,’ or ‘stop horsing around’ would be signed as those exact words……In SEE2 the word consumer contains the rot consume (ex: I am a consumer of interpreter services), thus it is signed I AM AN EATER of INTERPRETER SERVICES. This, of course, presents a very inappropriate conceptual message.”
Signed English, “…like SEE2, all prepositions conjunctions , prefixes, suffixes, and verb forms, are signed in an English, rather than ASL, form. Therefore, the sign TO EAT would be used to convey the idea of consuming too much food, while the sign TO USE would convey the idea of being a consumer (a user) of particular services.”
and CASE, “…meaning has primary importance and signs are selected based on the meaning of the ideas being conveyed….In the CASE signing system, a different sign would be used for the world “make” in each of the following sentences. I will make dinner. Go make your bed. Did you make that coat rack?”
They are all different and you can find more about them here or straight to my source from So You Want to be an Interpreter by Janice H. Humphrey and Bob J. Alcorn, second edition.
Moral of the story, I ended up getting a book out of the library teaching me SEE2. This is not ASL. Whoops. Make sure you have the right language!
The next thing I’ve been finding really helpful and fascinating is learning about deaf culture. I’m currently reading A Deaf Adult Speaks Out. Yet, again though, this book is not exactly up to date, also conceived in the 70′s along with that SEE2 book. I’d love it if you gave me suggestions of modern books to read on deaf culture in the U.S. or abroad.
I’ve also been going to ASL meet-ups on Sundays. The people I’ve met so far are very patient, kind, welcoming, gentle, and funny. A great environment for me to learn it. I’m very thankful.
It’s casual, over drinks, with about 10 or more people. I don’t know what is happening most of the time if I’m not asking someone to sign slow, no…slower…in a side conversation. Even so, I’m already learning so much. It’s not that easy to find people who will sign. It’s not like there is a country I can go to to practice. It’s not like Spanish, I can’t just go to Chile or Peru to practice. There isn’t a completely non-hearing country. Maybe small communities, the Vineyard, or maybe Gallaudet, but it’s different. Different because these d/Deaf cultures, sub-cultures, form within larger cultures of spoken languages. As a hearing individual that knows close to nothing about deaf culture in general, I aim to tread lightly within a subculture that I know little about not wanting to recapitulate oppressions, impose on safe spaces, and assert an unwelcome presence reminiscent of colonialism. I need to be aware that my learning this language, or attempts to anyway, means not just learning vocabulary, syntax, and grammar. Learning this langauge must come with come with cultural awareness d/Deaf cultural norms. I must attempt to think through what it means to be d/Deaf in a hearing world, not that I’ll every truly know, or ever come close to knowing. What I’m trying to say is, these ASL meet-ups couldn’t be more invaluable. I’m learning not just the language, but norms, culture, a different way of life. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a such a welcoming group so far. Who hopefully will continue to correct my (many, many) mistakes.
I have much more to say, but I’ll end here, and hope for recommendations on books, and general feedback!
I’ve finished three books during my vacation time so far. I will provide you with excerpts from the three books. The most recent book I finished was A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen:
“Most Deaf organizations and workers did not reject the categorization of people with disabilities as ‘unemployable,’ but insisted that deaf people were not disabled people. Since the organization of the first institutions for and of deaf people in the United States, they had emphasized their separateness as linguistic community, their normality, and their full citizenship potential. Already marginalized they sought to distinguish themselves from those they considered the truly disabled. Some feared that hearing individuals within a larger disability community would seek to dominate if they made cross-disability alliances. Some deaf leaders, as historian Susan Burch has written, ‘thought they could reject the stigma of disability’ by ‘rejecting overtures from disabled activists.’ Deaf leaders thus rejected alliances with disabled activists such as the League of the Physically Handicapped who challenged the employment discrimination within New Deal employment programs.
For deaf African Americans, if they were familiar with this argument it must have seemed like privileged folly Like white deaf Americans, deaf African Americans used the relationships and institutional resources of schools to foster community. The NFSD, the NAD, and souther state associations remained white by policy. Many western and northern schools for deaf people were integrated, but souther schools resoundingly were not. Most had substandard facilities due to substandard state of local funding. Trained white teachers rarely went to black schools; black teachers generally had little training in deaf education because of segregation in deaf schools. Because of this the students and staff at many African American deaf schools created their own unique sign language dialects, different form the standard American Sign Language and sometimes even from that of neighboring state schools for African American deaf students. Such linguistic developments were of necessity, but contributed to and continued racial segregation.”
I finished the very, very, short book American sign Language: fact and fancy by Harry Markowicz. He writes:
“MYTH: ASL IS UNGRAMMATICAL….A grammar describes how a language works, how it is put together. The opinion that ASL is ungrammatical, or that it lacks a grammar, usually results from a sign-for-word translation of ASL into English. It is based on the assumption that ASL must be structured exactly like English. This assumption is false since ASL is an independent language. It has its own vocabulary, its own grammar, and both are unrelated to English.
There are, however, some speakers of English who assume that ASL must follow the rules of their language in order to be grammatical. To support their claim, sign-for-word translations are used to show that ASL lacks a grammar or that it is ‘broken English.’ Based on these translations, ‘deficiencies’ are pointed out. As an example, consider the sign sentence: TOUCH FINISH SAN FRANCISCO YOU? (An appropriate English translation is, ‘Have you been to San Francisco?’)”
I also read My Home Away from Home Life at Perkins School for the Blind by Robert T. Branco. I decided to read this because as an employee of Perkins, I thought it would be cool to read what a student wrote about his experiences who actually went there. I was excited by the idea that Mr. Branco would provide me with insight into how I can do my job better. It would also be a really cool way to get to know about the institution. So I read it and learned a lot. Excerpt:
“Those who wish to judge Perkisn are free to call it whatever they want. But can you imagine what would have happened if Perkins hadn’t been a so-called shelter, given all the thefts drugs, drinking, and sex that went on anyway among the students who were supposedly sheltered? Ralph would say that I was sheltered because I didn’t learn about most of life’s hard knocks or how to be street smart. He feels I don’t always handle people the right way, and therefore it relates to shelterism. Ralph did drugs, had sex with hundreds of women, spent a nigh tin jail, and was a bar-hopper. He can say I’m sheltered all he wants, but I would much rather be how I am than who he was, even though he’s turned his life around. I think the perception is that Perkins sheltered us because were were all blind students living in a blind community, making our environments a shelter.”
Let me know if you end up checking any of them out!
I have the month of August off from work. The students have summer vacation. Let me know if you want to do something. I will be taking a train to Ann Arbor from the 14th to the 19th though.
I’m re-reading The Red Tent for the third time. Maybe fourth, I’m not sure. I would usually tell people my favorite book is Sleeping With Cats a memoir by Marge Peircy. She was the first feminist I ever encountered. We have deep similarities about us. It is true that I have never met her, but even so, I will always feel connected to this woman who lost her love at age 14 to a heroin overdose. Who grew up in Detroit, moved to Ann Arbor, but somehow ended up in Massachusetts. Who loves Cats and her passion for writing so much that she was able to say to no to children. Even so, I think I need to acknowledge how much I love the book The Red Tent. Perhaps you should check it out, or both of them out, I guess.
I just joined twitter. Let me know if you use it so I can follow you!