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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Juanita

One of my earliest memories involves my grandfather Pretty's (Pop's) kitchen and Juanita.  Juanita was deaf, having lost her hearing as a young child due to measles.  Since she became deaf before she had developed language, she didn't speak either as was common among hearing impaired people in those days. Juanita was my grandfather's housekeeper.

We lived with Pop for the first few years of my life.  I quickly learned how to communicate with Juanita. If I went into the kitchen, I stamped on the floor to get her attention.  I knew the signs for some things, milk, drink, eat and other words important to a two year old.  I remember stamping on the floor, looking up at her, moving my hands and mouthing the words.

Over the years I learned to communicate with Juanita in a unique way, not the traditional American Sign Language. What we did worked however and we could talk about anything.  I knew her friends in the deaf community and some members of her family as well.

Juanita became like a daughter to my grandfather. Eventually she worked at the School for the Deaf in St. John's and took care of many of the household chores at home. My grandfather became the chief cook.  He was a good cook because of his time on the railway, away from home, cooking for himself.  

When I was older and not spending my summers in Maddox Cove, I traveled with Juanita and Pop to Ontario, and various places "around the bay."  Juanita had a car and she drove.   My grandfather gestured where the exits were.  When they argued, it was interesting to see who would have the last 'word.'

Juanita was warm and loving towards me.  We had fun together and genuinely enjoyed each other's company.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to tell Juanita about her impact in my life and how much I appreciated knowing/loving her.  She started as a housekeeper but Juanita became family to me.

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