Thanksgiving is approaching and thoughts of gathering around the dining room table brings to mind one of my favorite articles, *Table Scraps, written by a late-deafened adult, Jerry Barnhart. He compares the late-deafened family member hoping for a few scraps of conversation at the dining room table to the family dog hoping for a few scraps of food. When I read this article a colorful picture comes to mind.
I like to think of my feelings as crayons to choose from to color my life. There have been times I have sat at
the dining room table and I have colored myself red with anger that family members are not communicating to me. There are other times that I color myself black with feelings of despair and withdraw from those around me. And then there are the times I color myself in shades of blue with feelings of peace and tranquility that those I love the most surround me.
When I became deaf I did not want to be responsible for my feelings. Deafness was responsible.. I blamed or attributed to others how I felt. I used language implying others made me angry, sad, or happy. I never took ownership of my feelings or the power I have to choose how I will feel or how I will relate to others or deafness. I realize now that no one or thing can make me feel a certain way without my giving to him/her/it that permission.
Some of us grieve the loss of music. I grieve the loss of small talk. The talk that fills the air at a dining room table. That’s probably why I color myself with so many feelings as family gathers together on this special day. I am not sure what colors I will use this year and how much more I still grieve inside. I do know that I will take ownership of my feelings. No person at that table will have the power to make me feel a certain way. I will make the choice myself from a wide range of colorful feelings.
(A reprint of an article I wrote 20 years ago, when I was the founding President of ALDA-Suncoast of Florida, a support group for people who have become deaf. The article appeared in the newsletter, ALDA-Sun. At the time, I was going back to school to change professions from being a foreign language teacher to becoming a mental health counselor.)
*Table Scraps appears in chapter 6, page 57 in ALDABest 1987 – 1996..