Readers of fiction look for characters whose lives will rivet them, carry them places they dare not go. As an author of fiction, I greatly admire those who seek those stories among those around them—stories that need to be told. So today, I gives me great pleasure to introduce one such author, Jaana Hatton, who writes profiles of local people for the on-line website, Anacortes Now. I’ve asked her to tell us where she finds her subjects, and to share one story here.
As to where I find the stories, it is always people who inspire. Those, who take on challenges, bravely and with determination. So much in life is mind over matter, about finding the courage to push on even when the odds are against us. Talking about dreams is one thing, but actually showing how someone in your hometown achieved their dream is a much greater incentive for the rest of us to do likewise. We all get curve balls thrown our way. I like to tell about people who step up to the plate anyhow and hit a home run. I have had many comments from readers who are both delighted and surprised to read about the lives of the people they pass by every day but never really knew before.
Having lived in several countries both in Europe and Asia, I became accustomed to being on the outside, to observing. It serves me well now, when I am finally pursuing my own dream of writing. Watching and listening to life around me is the source of tales true, and lately also, fictional. Here is a true one.
In her mid-thirties now, Sarah is an adult student in a community college. She doesn’t seem different from her other tired, over-committed classmates. Not until you speak with her.
In conversation, her look intensifies and she pays close attention to your face. Sarah’s long, blonde hair hides the hearing aid behind her ear, and you would never know sounds cannot reach her. Her hearing is almost completely gone now. She has become good at reading lips.
“I never thought I would be deaf. I’m going to miss hearing my kids laugh,” Sarah laments, her smile momentarily fading.
She lost her hearing two and a half years ago in the rough hands of her husband. He squeezed her head so hard the tiny bones in her ears crushed, causing permanent damage. The condition is getting progressively worse, and soon even the hearing aid will be useless.
She got little help from the police or social services, but found her determination and got a divorce, moving on with her life. She is now happily married to a different man and a mother of two.
“The Disability Office at the college gave me amazing help. I’m now taking Office Technology courses, which help me to find a career that doesn’t require interaction with the public. With a hearing disability, that could be hard. I’m also learning sign language,” she adds.
Sarah mixes talking and signing in her conversations, and is gradually getting more comfortable with using her hands to communicate.
Initially she didn’t tell anyone at the college she was deaf, not even the teachers.
“I didn’t want anyone to think I was different,” Sarah states. “I never thought I would be deaf, but I was thrown into it. The blinders are off. I want to defend the hard-of-hearing, end the discrimination.”
Sarah had to gather her courage long before domestic abuse took her hearing away. She has a fourteen-year old daughter, Katie, who was born with cerebral palsy and now in her teens is also struggling with bi-polar disorder and asthma.
“We spent Katie’s first three years at Seattle Children’s Hospital. I wanted to prove the doctors wrong about her physical disabilities. When she walked on her own at fifteen months old, it was the proudest moment of my life.” Sarah recalls with a big smile. “Now she can ride a bike and also plays on the volleyball team at school.”
If it isn’t Katie’s frequent asthma attacks that require hospital visits, Sarah goes there to be at hand for her mother’s cancer treatments. At this point there is no certainty which way the disease will go, but Sarah remains positive—as always.
“God, family and school are my priorities,” she says without hesitation.
The statement “I Will Graduate with Honors” is attached to her refrigerator for encouragement. She seems to have no trouble reaching that goal. Straight A’s have been rolling in steadily.
“I’m already a success. I want to be more successful—an advocate for the deaf,” says Sarah of her future goals. “I believe everything happens for a reason.”
For more stories by Jaana Hatton, Google Jaana Hatton + www.anacortesnow.com