“Hello, I am Deaf,” said the young woman. Her voice was loud. Her words were enunciated.
Her grandfather translated our conversation in sign language.
We were in the hotel lobby. Eating breakfast. Three strangers in the dining room, nursing plates of lukewarm eggs. Hotel breakfasts—even on good days—taste like reclaimed sewage. But if you set your mind to it, you can swallow anything.
The young woman was mid-20s. She wore a pink dress and high-top basketball shoes. Brunette. Brown eyes. Her personal style is one her granddaddy calls “funky.”
The young woman was reading my lips, eyes focused on my mouth. I tried to talk slow, but she was having problems understanding. So her grandfather began signing.
“I can read lips,” the young woman finally explained. “But not yours. You have a beard, your mouth is hard to see with all that hair.”
I told her that next time we met, I would make sure to give the old Chia Pet a trim.
She was born Deaf. Her biological mother was didn’t want her, so the girl was given away to one of her aunts. But her aunt didn’t want her either. Her aunt was more concerned sustaining a lifelong pain-pill buzz.
So her aunt just left her in the crib all day, until the infant girl almost starved. A neighbor found the baby when they heard her screaming. A baby has to be crying pretty loud for neighbors to hear.
Someone rescued her. Within months, she was adopted by an older couple in their 60s. And this is where Grandaddy takes over telling the story.
“It was my wife,” said the old man. “She was the one who heard about her first. There was no way my wife wasn’t bringing this baby home.”
The young woman blushes when the story is told. She calls the old man “Grandpa,” and her adoptive mother used to be called “Grandma.” Grandma is deceased now.
I asked why she calls her parents by these names instead of calling them Mom and Dad. The girl said these titles raised less questions during everyday social situations.
“She’s always called me grandpa,” said the man. “I mean, look at me. I’m an old geezer.”
He laughs. I laugh. Which makes the young woman laugh, too. The young woman laughs louder than both of us. It’s a beautiful sound.
No sooner had the old couple adopted the baby than Grandma began taking classes at a local community college to learn sign language. She brought the infant carrier into class with her. She fed her daughter during school hours.
“My wife made those professors drill us, it was sign language boot camp, REALLY NEEDED to know how to speak the language, and it took us longer to learn, we’re not as quick as young folks.”
Over the years the old woman worked closely with the young woman’s teachers at school. And even though nobody says it, I get the impression that Grandma was this girl’s everything. When she died, the world went dim.
This week, Granddaddy and the girl are in town looking at wedding dresses. The young woman is getting married in a few months. They’re meeting friends downtown. Everyone is excited. But they wish Grandma was alive to see it.
“She would have been so proud,” says the old man. “When you adopt a child, you always know a wedding day is going to come. It’s always in the back of your mind. I wish she would have lived long enough to see her baby girl get married.”
The young woman and the older man finish breakfast and they show me a photograph of the old woman on their phone.
“That’s Grandma,” says the young woman.
In the photo, she looks frail. White hair. Wrinkles. To most people, she would appear like a run-of-the-mill 80-something. In fact, you and I might even pass such a woman on the street and never even pause to notice. But she was more than that. Much more.
“She never saw herself as anything special,” said the old man with a laugh. “She always thought she was nothing special. My wife was such a quiet, shy woman.”
He laughed. He dabbed an eye. Then he said, “I’ll bet she was shocked when she saw all the angels waiting in line just to get her autograph.”
Someday, if everything works out the way I hope, I’ll get her autograph too.
Lyn Briwn - November 18, 2022 3:53 am
Sob. Good cry.
JACKIE LEON DARNELL - November 18, 2022 3:56 am
I’ll try again, it never works, bu I understand all this. I am totally deaf now, but have implants.
I emjpy your posts.
Sherrt & jack
MAM - November 18, 2022 3:56 am
Lucky me. I got to read and comment on two Sean columns today, because I was very, very late getting to email. Sweet story, and yes, Grandma WILL be proud as she watches her little girl walk down the aisle. Grandma just won’t be where everyone can see her, but she’ll see all of them and be smiling!
JACKIE LEON DARNELL - November 18, 2022 3:57 am
Wow that worked for the firs time in months!!!
Susan Sheppard - November 18, 2022 4:04 am
Well, I am crying after this one. Sooo very touching.
David - November 18, 2022 4:20 am
Pubert - November 18, 2022 4:22 am
Sean. Not sure how many of these stories are true, how many are made up, and how many other people send to you. But one thing about them, they really hit home. As crazy as the world is now, it’s really nice to hear something good and right. Thanks.
Lindy Lou - November 18, 2022 5:21 am
Robert Betzel - November 18, 2022 5:26 am
Truly beautiful story. Thanks for telling it. It made my day! We need more Grandmas in this world!
davidpbfeder - November 18, 2022 6:25 am
Very sweet story. But as an older dad (60 when I had my son) I wish they would have thrown prejudices out the window and have the girl call them “mom” and “dad.”
Dolores - November 18, 2022 10:54 am
Grandma sounds like a Proverbs 31 woman. What the Lord desires of us is quite opposite of what the world is telling us. Grandpa’s words are the highest praise a wife can hear.
Maybe Steve Wariner is right, maybe they’ll be rain on her wedding day.
“’cause there’s holes in the floor of Heaven,
“And her tears are pouring down.
“That’s how you know she’s watching,
“Wishing she could be here now.
“An’ sometimes if you’re lonely,
“Just remember she can see.
“There’s holes in the floor of Heaven
“And she’s watching over you and me.”
Melissa Brown - November 18, 2022 11:31 am
WOW, you tears to my eyes early this morning. Adoptive parents are special people. They give a life to many children of all ages !!!
Roxanne Taylor - November 18, 2022 11:42 am
My oldest son Tommy was born deaf. I adopted him when he was 3 years old. He was abused by his birth parents and was placed in foster care when he was 1 1/2. I was his advocate the entire 15 years he lived with me, fighting for his education and mental health benefits. There were very difficult times through the years. He moved out when he was 18. Sadly we were estranged for many years until he recently passed away in August. I loved my son, but even though he had a good heart, his mental health and addiction issues affected his entire life and relationships. May he rest in peace.
Elizabeth Mann - November 18, 2022 5:34 pm
Roxanne, how fortunate your Tommy was to have you. I am so sorry for the sorrow you have had to experience, but I know you made Tommy’s life immensely better. We can’t always control outcomes, but giving tremendous love changes lives. Love, Betty
Terry - November 18, 2022 12:09 pm
Hey Sean! What’s the deal? Your last few stories have me bawling. Yeah, but keep it up! A happy cry is so good for my soul.
Anne Arthur - November 18, 2022 12:12 pm
I am a proud grandma to my adopted grandson. It’s such a joy to see him thrive. If only more couples would see how beautiful adoption is! Thanks for telling this story. And yes, I can understand very well why they had the little girl call her parents “grandpa, grandma”. When the age difference is huge, people will keep asking “how come” and she has to reveal her story endlessly. No one wants to be reminded every day that adoption brought them together when their true feeling is that of belonging to a loving family, no matter how it came about. People are too curious and nosy. In the end, it is love that keeps them together, not the name they call each other.
Debbie - November 18, 2022 1:07 pm
I always enjoy your stories and your gift for wording makes you feel “there” in the moment. Today… the wording “ reclaim garbage” describing the hotel breakfast…not so much. I love hotel breakfast! I guess working in a lunchroom for over 20 years, knowing the early hour one gets up to get that mass breakfast prepared for many many people. Wish people in nutrition could get a little more respect and the food they are required to work with.
Lisa Fox - November 18, 2022 2:00 pm
Especially wonderful, Sean. You sure give my rusty heartstrings a workout.
Stacey Wallace - November 18, 2022 2:18 pm
Sean, thanks, as always, for making my husband Mike’s and my day. I want to meet that sweet grandma in Heaven one day. Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.
Richard Owen - November 18, 2022 2:28 pm
Thanks, Sean. I needed this today.
mccutchen52 - November 18, 2022 2:29 pm
Every morning I don’t have to use my eye drops. All I have to do is read your stories. I know I said it before but today I might get to skip the evening drops.
Patricia Gibson - November 18, 2022 2:48 pm
Another angel from God
Brenda Lynch - November 18, 2022 2:56 pm
I heard the saying once that we may not be surprised who gets to heaven, but we might be surprised who doesn’t get there. My Mama didn’t adopt me, but she was this same type of woman. Such a strong stalwart woman, who didn’t even know that. She once told me that at church they were studying their spiritual gifts and she “guessed, her only one was faithfulness”, because she didn’t teach or sing or do other leadership roles. Later, The more I thought about that I became so aware of how much the faithful people mean to this world. She wasn’t only faithful to her church, she was faithful to my Dad, to my brother and I, her friends, her other family and her job. How we need those faithful and loving people in this world. I’m hoping that my Mama and this young woman’s Grandma are comparing notes in heaven today. I do believe they would get along famously and would be great friends. Your stories always touch my heart and bring me back to the sweetest times and places in my own life. Thank you for that.
Dee Thompson - November 18, 2022 3:05 pm
Wow, crying here. I wanted to get married and have kids the regular way but I just never found the right guy. When I was in my early 40’s I adopted two older children, a 13 year old girl with learning and emotional issues, and a 10 year old boy missing his right hand. They are now grown, but I love them more than my life. My daughter is married. My son is a cook in a restaurant. I am very proud of them. Adoptive parents go through a lot but we love our kids fiercely, especially if the world says they are handicapped. I see my kids as simply differently-abled, not disabled.
Gigi - November 18, 2022 3:06 pm
Thank the Lord for people who will take on the responsibility to love and raise children that aren’t their own. My best friend growing up and her brother were adopted. Sweet story !
Sandra Jones - November 18, 2022 3:07 pm
Totally beautiful. God bless this family.
Cathy Moss - November 18, 2022 3:33 pm
Just a beautiful story. This wonderful woman and her husband rescued a child when so many others did not hear her crying.. God is so good. Thanks for this gift today. I will add it to my list of gratitudes today❤️🙏🏻
John Henderson - November 18, 2022 3:59 pm
I do appreciate your and what you do/are doing; your column brings good news and light to a world which sometimes seems so dark and devoid of good.
Keep it up.
Patricia Ann Gamboa - November 18, 2022 4:21 pm
My god. Crying. Second day I’ve ready your blog. Second day I’ve cried at the end. Do I dare try tomorrow?
Kenneth Nelson - November 18, 2022 4:33 pm
Critics be damned. Sean, your work is outstanding!
Laurel Johnson - November 18, 2022 5:11 pm
Wow, what a blessing! Thank You for this special sharing.
AlaRedClayGirl - November 18, 2022 5:44 pm
Another beautiful story.
Yevonnie - November 18, 2022 7:12 pm
This is my first time reading a post on your blog. The apropos story blessed me for several reasons, which I won’t detail in these comments. I’m just grateful I read it today and am encouraged. Thank you. Grace & peace to you.
Susie, as well - November 18, 2022 7:14 pm
Some hotel breakfasts may be better than others but reclaimed sewage is a bit harsh. Maybe you’ve never eaten the breakfast at the Clarion in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, always a fine breakfast.
Kevin - November 19, 2022 12:40 am
We are adopting our grandson. He is now four and a half, we’ve had him since 6 weeks old and weren’t sure he’d live cause he was so emaciated when the case worker brought him to us. This was our sons and a 18 year old girl. He was born healthy and in six weeks they turned him into a pre-me. I am now 68, he’s 4.5 I hope to live long enough to see him graduate high school.
No he is not impaired in any way, just a ward of the state we had to take in. Our son is floating around somewhere, last know couch, New Orleans, the mother…. Who knows other than she’s now given up four to the state, now 22.
Thank you for your stories.
Kaky McLendon - November 20, 2022 2:50 pm
I just found your blog, and right off the bat, you made me cry. Thank you for this beautiful essay.
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