My sister-in-law, Dana Davis, was deaf but she never let her lack of hearing slow her down. When she was a teenager, the local swimming pool said she couldn’t be a lifeguard. My wife, Patti, who was two years older than her sister, and Dana demanded an audience with the pool’s board of directors and convinced its members to give Dana a shot.
She got the job and did great at it.
I used to marvel whenever we had a large family gathering. Lots of people would be talking at the same time but Dana kept up with all of these different conversation even though only her husband, Donnie, and Patti knew how to sign. Dana read lips.
Dana and Donnie had one child, Matthew. He was born with Absent Radius Syndrome and foreshortened arms. When the radius bone is missing the thumb does not form and the wrist is not supported, therefore Matt’s hands were curved My son, Tony, who was little when Matt was born, said that God must have known what He was doing when He picked a family for Matt because Dana would know what it was like to be different. She didn’t lower her expectations when it came to Matt.
I was thinking about Dana because her birthday was August 14th. She would have been 54 years old. She died six years ago after battling lung cancer for many months. I was also thinking of her because of a family video. It was taken many years ago, in happier times, when Matt was still a child. He’s an adult now. The video shows Matt singing a song called I’m Proud to be an American, with lyrics written by Lee Geenwood.
One reason I like that video is because it reminds me that our country is a nation where people who are different are guaranteed the same rights as everyone else. That’s what the Americans With Disabilities Act and a slew of other anti-discrimination laws are about. We are not perfect in this regard. Recent hate crimes prove that.
But I’m proud that we as a nation set such goals. It shouldn’t matter if you are deaf, if you are born looking different from other people, if you practice a different religion, have a different skin color, a different sexual orientation or if you have a mental illness.
Watching Matt singing reminds me of that.
Happy Birthday Dana. You are missed, but your spirit lives on.