Video Transcript: Growing up with Deaf grandparents

BARBARA: I want to tell you about my grandparents who are both deaf, and they were born in the early 1900s. They're both passed away now. When... My grandfather was born deaf and my grandmother became deaf. We don't know how or why, at a young age. Her family used to shut her away and hide her when people came to visit because in those days it was considered an embarrassment to have a family member that was any kind of a handicap or challenge, disability or challenge. And there was a minister who would do the rounds, they lived on a farm, and he would go visiting. And he came to their house and while he was there visiting, he heard scratching, and so he asked, "What is that scratching?" And they said, oh, it's nothing, it's nothing, just ignore it. But this minister, and God bless him, would not ignore it, and he said, "Show me." And they opened the door and there was my grandmother, and she was eight years old, and she'd had no training and no schooling. So, the minister said to them, "Oh, you must send your child "to the deaf school in Milton, Ontario." And so, they did, thank goodness.

So, Grandma loved school. They learned everything they needed to know in life. And while she was at school, she met my grandpa, and, of course, they fell in love, and got married, and then they, when they finished school. And then they stayed on the farm, a dairy farm, and did that for their lives, and retired, and had a great retirement for many, many years. So, that's their story.

Now when I came along, I, as a child, I didn't grow up with sign language every day, because it was my grandparents. But we did see them frequently, so I picked up a lot of signs that, at that time, were meaningful to me. Like, my first sign I think I learned was, cookie, and then my second sign would have been, cake. So, you know, think of it as a child. And then it was a farm, and I loved animals. So I learned the, you know, the sign, cow, and, of course, and pig, and so on. So, I learned those signs.

And there came a weekend when my brother and sister, and my mom and dad were going to go away for the weekend, and for some reason I was being left behind. And so they had Grandma and Grandpa babysit me. And so I remember them dropping me off, and it was kind of scary, you know, it's the first time I'd had a sleepover at Grandma's house. And I was on my own, which is very unusual, 'cause we always had the family around. But I wasn't worried, because I knew how to read and write. So, I must have been maybe eight years old, somewhere around there. And I knew the few signs that I knew, and, of course, deaf people are exceptionally good at communicating with hearing people, and so it wasn't really a concern.

And I remember standing in the dining room, and I was watching Grandma and Grandpa, and they were having a conversation about something, I don't know what. And as I stood there, I had the most incredible pressure from a building fart. Oh my gosh, it was, you know, that pressure where I had to fart. And, of course, it's impolite to fart, and this was gonna be loud, I knew it. It's impolite to fart in front of other people. So, I'm holding this fart, and then I have the dawning realization, they're deaf! They won't hear this fart! This, for me, eight years old, was incredible. So I'm like, (imitates farting) and I let this giant fart go. And they didn't turn and look at me, they did not hear it. And I thought, that is the coolest thing ever! And then I was just starting to think about other mischievous things I could do around deaf people and get away with it. When, all of a sudden, Grandma's nose started to twitch and she started pointing to her nose, and making signs, and pointing at Grandpa. And Grandpa's like, no, no, no, no. And he started pointing to his nose, and making signs and pointing at her. And I knew exactly what was going on. She was saying to him, you farted, I can smell it. And he said to her, no I didn't, you farted, and I can smell it. And then all of a sudden, their heads turn and they both look right at me, and I'm like. And Grandma points to her nose, and I can tell she's saying to me, did you fart? And I'm like, no... It was so funny. They were very graceful, they both nodded, like, we know you're lying, but they didn't make a big deal about it. So, that was funny. I got caught.

And then later on, years later, I was taking sign language courses so I could communicate with them more fluently. And that's when I learned the Deaf joke, which is, "Why do farts smell?" And the answer is, "So that deaf people can enjoy them too." So that is my true story, and I hope you enjoyed it and found it amusing just like I did.

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