ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the prompt calls, inspired by discussion with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and posted here in trade for a matching poem that she wrote about these characters, "Brothers, Fathers, and Uncles."  It fills the "songs from childhood" square in my 6-1-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest, and the "loss of hearing" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics. This is a collaborative effort, as Bethan was created by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer (she's the driver of the zoom ambulance in "Keeping Warm") and then I filled in some of the other family members and background.

"Take Up the Load"

If two brothers are walking
to the market, and one
cannot carry his basket farther,
the other shall take up the load.

This is what family means
to Dawit, who grew up carrying
his younger brother Gedeyon
to the market or their school
or wherever else they were going
when he got too tired to walk.

Their family moved to America,
where the jobs were good,
but they never forgot Ethiopia.

Dawit had no interest in women,
but he was happy for his brother
when the beautiful Jalene
fell in love with Gedeyon.

A year after their marriage,
God blessed them with a daughter
whom they named Bethan.
From the moment he saw her,
Dawit loved her with all his heart.

Bethan already had her mother's
wavy black hair and cinnamon skin,
so different from the woolly curls
and dusty chocolate of Dawit and Gedeyon,
but she had their heart-shaped face
and Dawit's easy laugh and
Gedeyon's broad strong hands.

As Bethan grew, it became clear
that she had inherited something else
from their side of the family.

"She has the cheetah's speed,"
Dawit said, "like our grandfather."

"So she does," Gedeyon said,
watching his daughter
run around their small yard.
"Bethan, come in! It's time to eat."

Bethan ignored the call
until Gedeyon had to pick her up.
"So disobedient," he scolded,
hoisting her onto his hip.

She never disobeyed Dawit,
though, and he began to wonder
if something might be wrong.

When Bethan began school,
they found out that her hearing
was poor and getting worse:
Mondini Syndrome,
the doctors called it.

Her parents took the news badly,
and Dawit did what he could
to console Bethan, spending
more and more time with her.

"At least it can be fixed,"
Jalene said, showing off
the colorful pamphlet
on cochlear implants.

"That will be good for Bethan,"
Dawit said, but it wasn't.
The surgery failed, which
left Bethan even more upset and
her parents increasingly withdrawn.

Unable to hear even
the songs of childhood,
Bethan threw temper tantrums
and put the house in an uproar.

"She needs to learn sign language,"
Dawit said to his brother.
"There is a Montessori school
in Clearwater for deaf children,
a place called Blossom."

"Clearwater is a long way from Pensacola,"
said Gedeyon. "I am a farmer, Dawit.
I cannot simply pack up my orange trees
and move across the state!"

"I am a cook," Dawit said.
"I can find work anywhere.
If you give Bethan to me,
I will take her to Blossom."

Of course it was not so simple as that,
because there was paperwork to fill out,
and the state frowned on single parents --
especially single fathers -- and no,
Dawit did not want to find a wife
just so ignorant people would
let him raise his little girl in peace.

He persevered, and eventually
succeeded in moving to Clearwater
with Bethan so she could go to school.

She loved Blossom, diving into
a classroom where she could
touch things and play with them
and investigate what fascinated her,
easily making friends with Deaf children.

Bethan learned sign language,
and Dawit learned it with her.
It was hard, especially when she
forgot and signed at super-speed,
but they got the hang of it in time,
and the temper tantrums dwindled.

Her favorite song was
"The More We Get Together,"
and when she finally learned
how to sing it by heart,
Dawit celebrated by
buying her a new doll,
Makeda the Queen of Sheba.

Hard as it was, Dawit was glad
he had decided to take up the load.

* * *


Dawit Rada -- He has chocolate skin, dark woolly hair, and black eyes. He took over raising his niece Bethan after her parents reacted badly to her progressive hearing loss in childhood. Unlike them, Dawit enjoys Deaf culture and made a point of learning sign language to communicate with Bethan.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Cook, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Persistent, Good (+2) Sign Language
Motivation: Take up the load.

See Bethan as a child and as an adult.

* * *

Parenting a deaf child poses extra challenges, but there are many resources to help. Parents typically go through stages of reaction when they discover that their child has hearing loss. There are tips for raising deaf children, including this downloadable booklet.

When writing disabled characters, I often like to pick a particular handicap, because that makes it easier to get the details right and it also gives people with that handicap a chance to see someone like them in print. Since [personal profile] dialecticdreamer specified the arc of Bethan's development, I looked up the causes of progressive hearing loss and settled on Mondini syndrome as a good fit.

Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf is real. Montessori is a type of school that lets children direct their own learning process, which is especially beneficial to students with a disability. Classrooms are designed with lots of resources to inspire exploration and teach children how to do things for themselves.

American Sign Language is a popular mode of communication for people with hearing loss. Enjoy some sign language songs.

This is the Queen of Sheba doll. Black children need black dolls, and there are many to choose from. Bethan has a Queen doll to teach her that she can be powerful and in control.

[personal profile] dialecticdreamer also tipped me to this video post showing an example of how people can adapt to hearing loss in the family.  You have to learn how to think outside the box.


Date: 2014-07-07 10:56 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
While I've already shared with Ysabetwordsmith how much I /loved/ this poem, I also wanted to say that she picked some /amazing/ details to develop the family, working backwards from my initial character sketch to create the framework that helped shape Bethan's personality and beliefs. That kind of reverse-engineering in writing is a skill I wish more people would highlight because it is not only makes a stronger character, but it's such an intuitive, artistic /method/ of writing.

What's wonderful from my viewpoint? I taught both boys the ASL alphabet along with the English as preschoolers, and had the manual alphabet on our living room wall alongside the English. We used a great many Montessori techniques, and we incorporated /enormous/ amount of full-sensory learning. When I volunteered in the oldest's kindergarten classroom, I was using supportive signing along with their phonics activities and making sandpaper names for each child to trace, giving each child a very personal keepsake of the Montessori sandpaper letters, to name just a few activities.

She knew about /none/ of this when writing Bethan's history, yet /created the very environment/ which I would've chosen to support and develop a strong young woman whose life /changed,/ in fact changed more because her parents were overwhelmed than because of her Deafness.

I'm absolutely dancing in joy!

Re: Amazing!

Date: 2014-07-08 01:07 am (UTC)
thnidu: Lucy bright and bold. Lucida Bright font, boldface: backslash, small-o, slash: YAY!! (yay)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

(I don't remember if you know this, [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, but I wrote my dissertation on ASL.)

Re: Amazing!

Date: 2014-07-08 01:12 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I had /no clue/!

Grin. I've kept about 300-400? signs --I haven't counted lately-- and I /LOVE/it.

I tended to use Signed English in format when the youngest was smaller, to reinforce both concepts and syntax, but now it's very, very relaxed. Teaching that kid to fingerspell saved both our sanities!

Re: Amazing!

Date: 2014-07-08 03:29 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Locally, I couldn't get in to the community college sign language classes for /eight years/ running.
*Not for love nor money, even before budget cuts! Sounds like there's a huge market for specialized student aides in schools, interpreters for Deaf children in mainstream classes, et cetera?

Nope. I have no idea where /any/ of those hundred-plus students each semester were planning to find work, and it did NOT count as a foreign language unless the student was provably Deaf. (Not hard of hearing, actually deaf!) Talk about bizarre.

Re: Amazing!

Date: 2014-07-08 05:46 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
The situation out here was horrifyingly exclusionary, amounting to "you're entitled to those services from X because Y in your life is Deaf or Hard of Hearing, so go there," from one side and the X service says, "Y is entitled to services but YOU are not, even when YOU are the primary caregiver for Y, because Y was born Hearing and had at least two years of 80% hearing."

The audiologists had stories from firsthand experience trying to get kids /into/ programs they should've been automatically enrolled in under ADA and No Child Left Behind laws. Both audiologists, two different neighboring cities.

To this day I don't know why the Deaf community picnic (a twice-yearly get together I found out about via a friendly librarian) disbanded. I found out about what turned out to be the last one ever held... two weeks after the fact.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-08 01:30 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
See Bethan as a child and as an adult.

She is beautiful!

Where do you get your "model" pictures?

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-07-08 02:29 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-07 11:15 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Wonder if dialecticdreamer wants to share the poem-in-trade?

Sometimes exploring backstory is as much fun if not more than writing more on the main thread... Dave Weber's YA series about Honor Harrington's great-to-the-nth grandmother, the one who discovered treecats, comes to mind... :)


Date: 2014-07-07 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Wonder if dialecticdreamer wants to share the poem-in-trade? <<

It's meant to be the Monday post, just keep an eye out for it. I'll link when it goes up.

>> Sometimes exploring backstory is as much fun if not more than writing more on the main thread...<<

Agreed! The cool thing about crowdfunding is that the main thread can be wherever folks most want to go. Polychrome Heroics started out as Damask's story but it's such a neat setting that a lot of other storylines have sprung up, including the background of Whammy Lass founding SPOON.

>> Dave Weber's YA series about Honor Harrington's great-to-the-nth grandmother, the one who discovered treecats, comes to mind... :) <<

Stephanie is a favorite of mine.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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