Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn
June 5, 2017
By Liz Thompson
This Week News
In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.
My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.
All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.
Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.
Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.
Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.
I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.
Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.
The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.
But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.
I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.
A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.
At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.
My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.
I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.
One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.
Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.
One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.
My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.
The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.
I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.
Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.
Hugging palm trees is optional.