Monday, June 22, 2009

All in the family...and a friend, too

Story and photo by Bruce Thorson

June 19, 2009, DeWitt, Neb: I walked across the grassy field out beyond the outfield fence of DeWitt's baseball park where our travel trailer is parked. I had one camera slung over my shoulder and a notepad in my pocket.

I was headed a couple hundred yards to the residential neighborhood on the other side of the park, just past the water tower with the name "DeWitt" painted boldly and proudly on its side.

As I turned the corner walking on the sidewalk, I saw a large, white dog sleeping soundly on the driveway. Just at that moment, Roy Scherling, 53, gray and black, curly, frizzy hair and a gray and black beard, emerged from the garage, apparently heading across the street to check the mail.

He had strolled just past the sleeping dog, when the dog woke up, lifted its sleepy head, spied me and took off at full tilt, full bark, full set of canine choppers, and took the shortest distance between two points: me and him, which is the definition of a straight line but not an item that crossed my mind in this time sequence.

I froze, stood my ground and within a few moments the dog and I were getting acquainted in a friendly manner...whew!

I looked Roy straight in the eye and gave him the pitch paragraph about our photo project.

Roy read my lips, literally...You see, Roy is deaf.

His wife, Peggy, 52, deaf. Their oldest son, Jonathan, 25, deaf; second son, Joshua, 23, deaf; their daughter, Johanna, 14, deaf.

Oh yeah, that white, barking dog I was positive was a pit bull, yup, he's deaf, too. With the exception of the deaf dog, I knew about their disability before I met the Scherlings. I found this out through conversations with the locals.

Peggy wrote, "My mom is deaf. She also has two siblings that are deaf but their children and grandchildren are not deaf. I am the only one that was born deaf and then my children. My aunt and uncle don't understand why. My dad became deaf at two years old. Grandma doesn't know what caused his deafness, either by high fever or a strong wind. The roof fell down and hit him in the head; blood came out of his ears. Lots of questions in the past, but it didn't matter to me.

"On Roy's side, he's the only one deaf in his family."

It was strange feeling for me to be in their home, to see the communicating going on between two adults and two teenagers and hearing the silence. But what I saw and what I "heard" looked a lot like a very close and very loving family.

When I finished packing up the strobe light and other accessories that I used to take their portrait, Johanna, Peggy and Carly each gave me a big, big hug. Roy gave me the guy-to-guy-vise-grip handshake...ouch! my knuckles hurt.

As I left the Scherling's residence, there was another animal sleeping in the driveway, a cat. I pointed to the cat and asked Roy, "Is the cat deaf, too?" Roy grinned from ear to ear, laughed, and shook his head to say, "No."

In the photo above, Carly Weyers, 15, from Waverly, Neb., Roy Scherling, 53, Peggy Scherling, 52 and Johanna Scherling, 14. Carly is deaf and is a friend of Johanna. She was visiting from Waverly. The dog is Fuji. The little dog in Roy's lap is named Tuesday. She is the only one in this picture who can hear.

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