Overcoming Deafness by Listening to God - Part 4

Posted by Gayle Raif on

As we left Texas and drove toward Washington, I felt free. It seemed that God was giving me a second chance at life that was 180 degrees from my previous 49 years. The drive through Virginia was Christmas card beautiful.  Sparkling snow covered the mountains and pine trees, smoke curled out of chimneys of two-story houses.


When we pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex in Maryland, I went to find someone who could back in the truck.  The family who lived just below our apartment became our first friends.  Sherry earned her master in psychology from UNT, and her parents lived where I now live.  Their son was only a year older than Mark.


I had found the apartment on my previous visit to the area.  The manager told me she was waiving the usual fees of a deposit plus the last month’s rent.  It was a roomy three bedroom, two baths and a large deck that overlooked the school where Mark would attend.  We were within walking distance of a shopping center, and the freeway into Washington was only a block away.  Did I say before that God was smoothing our path?  This was the first time 11-year-old Mark had lived in a house.


Registering at Gallaudet was an interesting experience.  I couldn’t communicate in sign language, but I did learn the sign for “transfer” (I was a transfer student) so as I kept signing the word, various people would take me to the right line and station. I was enrolled for 15 hours with a major in English.  As the semester progressed, I was glad I was in the spring semester because I had the summer to recover.  It had been many years since I’d had to study.  And being a single mom in an entirely new environment was a big adjustment.


God was not out of the supply business.  Because I didn’t have a car, my oldest son rented one for me for two weeks.  Then my mother bought me one and my third son drove it to me from Texas.  TRC, Texas’ VR program, paid for my tuition and fees.   I had to rent off-campus because there was no housing for students with children.  TRC requested that all room and board money, as well as grant money be released to me, which I put into a savings account for our rent and  emergencies.  We lived on my monthly income from SSDI, which meant I didn’t have to work.


The first semester I requested an oral interpreter for my classes.  He sat in front of me and repeated what the teacher was signing.  My speaking vocabulary was so much larger, that I would give up in frustration trying to sign when I wanted to participate in class.  When I began to speak (most of the professors were hearing), the other students would look at me angrily and sign the word for “sign.” It was very intimidating for me.


I had not learned to sign earlier because I had grown up with the term “deaf and dumb,” so for me to sign in public was as if I were telling the whole world I was dumb.  I couldn’t do that.


When I took the entrance exams, I aced the English and failed the math (which I knew I would), so I was placed in the remedial math class.   I asked the chair of the math department for an exemption.  I had made A in high school algebra,  I had never used it in 33 years, and wasn’t planning to use it in the future.  He told me to get my HS transcript and if I had made an A, he would exempt me.  I did and he did.


Being an older student was a plus.  I had many life experiences that I brought to my learning environment.  Many of the students began to respect the wisdom I brought to the discussions.  And I found a sympathetic friend in my professors.


Mark and I would do fun things on weekends, inviting his friend to go with us.  A great thing about the East Coast is that places of historical interest are so close together.  In two hours we could be three states away.  History was becoming alive for us.


Alas, all would not be well in paradise, but God was still on the job.


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