When I was a teenager, I read “The Stand” by Stephen King. I loved it. I’ve always loved apocalyptic stories and still do. Recently, I decided to reread the book, but the uncut version which added 200+ pages to the already long book. I loved it all over again but discovered a main reason why. It’s because one of the main characters is a deaf-mute and he is one of the heroes. Instead of dwelling on what this character couldn’t do, Stephen King played on his strengths and showed what he could do.
If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll remember that my parents were deaf. I’ve written about my Father who was a lot like the character in the book. He did everything he could despite his deafness and was an incredibly good man.
In the book, Nick Andros (the deaf man) befriends Tom Cullen (a mildly-retarded man) and they work together to get where they need to go. Nick is able to recognize the strengths of Tom Cullen and never berates him as less than human. If anything, they watch over each other like brothers.
My dad was a lot like this. He never saw the shortcomings in people, only their strengths. He would tell me that just because people were different, didn’t mean they didn’t deserve respect and kindness. He said if you’re going to be prejudiced, you have to start with him because he was different. He carried this attitude to disabilities, race, gender, and income classes. He treated everybody the same until they themselves proved otherwise. He had very little tolerance for immoral people.
Like Nick Andros in the book, my dad was mistreated for most of his young life. The fact that it made him a compassionate man instead of a bitter man amazes me. I used to think my dad had Santa Claus eyes, they were so kind. I remember when I was very young, him and my mom had an argument at the top of the basement stairs. Somehow, my tiny little mom accidentally pushed my dad down the stairs. Honestly, it was truly an accident. He tumbled to the bottom, got up, marched right back up the stairs, and continued to talk with my mom. No anger, no lifting a finger to her, just talk. This moment between them had a great positive impact on my life on how a husband should treat his wife.
I remember a story my dad told me about when he was a teenager. It was hunting season and my dad was carrying his rifle through town (back before mass shootings) to meet with his older brother who owned a bar. He was almost there when he caught something in the corner of his eye as he was walking through an alley. It was a rat that was climbing up the corner of a house. He looked to where the rat might be going and he saw a second-story porch. On the porch was a bassinet. Then he saw a little arm moving from inside the bassinet.
It took him one shot to take down the rat. It took about 5 seconds for the mother to come out screaming that somebody was shooting at her baby. It took just a few minutes for the police to show up and knock my dad facefirst onto the ground. Since it was a small town, a crowd began to gather. After being handcuffed, my dad was allowed to sit up. Of course, my dad’s main form of communication was his hands, whether to sign or write, and he was left trying to explain what happened with his mouth. Of course, all the police heard was a dangerous man’s gibberish.
One of the men in the crowd recognized my dad and ran to the bar where my uncle was. They both ran back to where my dad was and my uncle began to intervene. He didn’t need to see my dad’s hands to understand what he was saying and quickly told the police my dad’s version of what happened. They went over to the house and found the dead rat. My dad was uncuffed, thanked, and then they went hunting.
I can’t help but think that if my dad had been a hearing teenager, things would’ve ended differently. He would’ve been able to explain things immediately without suffering through the humiliation with a crowd watching. The town probably would’ve recognized him for his quick-thinking and possibly saving that baby. He would’ve been reported in the local newspaper as a hero. Instead, he went hunting. He expected nothing else. I’m sure he would do the same thing again even with the foresight of what would happen because my dad was an incredibly good man.