Saturday, April 18, 2009

Janis, The Woman I Love To Yell At

She's been my neighbor for over thirty years. She became a widow in January of last year. She's about as deaf as can be and still be able to hear loud sounds with a hearing aid. She's been deaf since early childhood but she told me about how her mother helped her learn to speak the words she can't really hear. She actually speaks very well, but it's not easy teaching her how to pronounce a new word, especialy a foreign word that's spelled differently than you'd expect if you were using the standard rules of English. Mostly she reads lips. She's the reason I no longer have a moustache.

She reads very well and loves to read the newspaper. She can do math and keeps her checkbook balanced. She has the car that her husband used to drive and she has a drivers license but she's afraid to drive. About her only social life is the "deaf club", an informal group of deaf people who gather at Starbucks on Wednesday nights for a couple of hours of heated sign language. All the latest gossip!

Janis is also extremely shy and doesn't like me photographing her. I had to sneak this shot one day when we were at the nearby Publix supermarket. It's one of perhaps ten images I've managed to get of her in over a year of trying. Every week we go grocery shopping together, then go to the Walgreens drugstore, and she usually talks me into stopping at Starbucks for a coffee. Sometimes I take her to see her doctor or dentist. It all gets her out of the house, out amongst people. In our usual haunts people are used to my yelling at her. They realize that it's the only way I can get her attention when she's too far down the aisle to touch her so I have to yell at her. She likes being around a man who cares enough to yell at her, even in public.
Please, please, please don't tell her that her photograph is here, or that I wrote this piece about her. Thanks.

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