Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, there was a young woman from a small farming community in the mid-West. She was healthy and strong. She loved music, “listening” (but mostly TALKING), and books. She went away to college and met a Southern boy. She had so many dreams! She met a “circle of 8” culturally Deaf friends in college and was welcomed into their small sub-culture on this tiny college campus. She learned sign language.

To her sorrow, she couldn’t have children, so she made big plans to go right into graduate school and eventually be in a place where she could help people. She told her husband, “Someday? I want to adopt some Deaf children”. He knew she had a heart for this culture with hearing loss and also knew she longed to be a mother. He supported her dreams.

Don’t you love “Once Upon a Time…” beginnings? My favorite books begin by transporting the reader back in time. “Time” may be a real time period, oozing with history and descriptions of bygone days. The setting may be in a make-believe time and place. Somehow, it still manages to wrap my mind and heart around the characters and story, despite the make-believe.

When I think of my own “once upon a time…”, I have to smile at my naivety and immaturity. NOT that I continue to be gullible and naive at times – even immature!  However, I find that I am forced to hide my “knowing smile” when I hear my 21-year-old daughter “dream aloud”, or my 20-year-old son outline his “life’s blueprint” for me. Life has a way of taking a person down paths that are only visible through the benefit of hindsight. Our story unfolds one day at a time. Decisions are made – some irreversible. We learn to live with consequences – both good and bad ones. We may “roll with the punches” and work hard to be refined like gold. Unplanned detours have a way of changing our direction in life. Our goals may change in order to accommodate our changed lives.


At the current age of 45, I look back upon my own “once upon a time…” story. I am late-deafened and have a balance disorder. I “hear again” with bionics and navigate life with a service dog. I have two children. I’m a teacher. I am still married to my college sweetheart. It has been over ten years since I have been able to visit my hometown in that small farming community. I am “mostly” shunned by the Deaf community as I chose a different life path. I am integrated and immersed in a new community of people with hearing loss and other disabilities that I did not know even existed. I actually love technology and even my books are now in an electronic library. I don’t listen to music – but I do listen. Better than most, in fact…

Chances are I have many chapters left in my story. Regardless of the number of pages, my heart’s desire is that I may make a difference – in even just one life. Occasionally, I hear from disgruntled readers who are exasperated at my viewpoint. “You don’t know what I live. You can’t understand how few opportunities I have now”. I gently remind them that whether they are using JAWS or Dragon software or are dictating to another, they have reached across miles to touch base with me. They have shared their ideas, frustrations, and heartaches. Others respond at times in frustration that they lack the support I have around me and cannot build a foundation for happiness in their own lives. I share with them some things I am unable to share in this venue – the people who have abandoned me and have turned their backs on my family and I. I remind them that every obstacle helps me to peel back layers of who I really am to reveal strengths that are hidden when “everything is perfect”.

No. Our lives are not the same. Where is the fun in that?

Hearing Elmo is actively soliciting other writers to contribute their own stories. In other words… I’m begging. GRIN! I prefer that 50% of the posts sheltered here be from people other than Linda Denise Portis. You can have a different viewpoint! Won’t you consider sharing your own “Once Upon A Time…”? You may not consider yourself a “good writer”. I’m not… and that hasn’t stopped me sharing my own thoughts and stories. I ask because I’m astonished at what kinds of things make a difference to another. We cannot know what others are going through and whether or not their own invisible disability or chronic illness forces them to reach out for help. Some are “pointed” to Hearing Elmo by others. However, most chance upon this “once upon a time…” venue. Won’t you consider sharing your story? It can be serious or fun. You can relay facts or express dreams. If you or someone you love lives with disability, chronic illness, or mitigates personal obstacles/disabilities with a service dog… Hearing Elmo would love to be your sounding board. Are you a trainer or health professional? I hope you will consider writing!

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


4 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time…

  1. Denise,

    Your begging worked! I’m leaving a comment. 🙂

    I have a Once Upon a Time that would take chapters to write. Many people have tole me I should write my life story, but I’m one of those who doesn’t think they can write.

    I love your blog! I’m so glad that we met. Although our disAbilities are different, we found ourselves at Fidos looking for the same thing….more independance. I think that God puts people in our paths so that either they can leave an imprint on our lives or we can leave an imprint on theirs. I don’t think we meet people by accident.

    I live in the “You don’t know what I have lived though and with” mentatlity. But you helped me to remeber that I don’t know what others have lived through or live with. Some of us carry heavier loads and others carry lighter ones, but we all carry a load. Thanks for reminding me of that!

    One day, if I can figure out a way to concisely tell my Once Upon a Time, I will add it. Until then, just this comment about how much this one post touched me.


  2. Once upon a time a man was raised in North Dakota and was able to travel to Europe and hear in his year there Santana, London Symphony, and the Vienna Opera. He learn to sing bass in the college choir.
    Now as he is older at the ripe old age of 58 the music is dulled the dounds are muffled, and He can’t sing because he can’t hear the other parts well. Handdicaps separate you physically from the world hearing handicaps separate you from people.
    It is not bad yet i still can hear but crowds are a challenge and people think I am ignoring them when they speak to my back. I have learned to turn towards others and see their face that helps and I have a dog to hear lost noises on walks.
    But i manage and am happy and have a dog with a irritating high pitched whine.I love her. Protect your hearing

  3. Thanks for sharing your “once upon a time” story Dale! Even with a cochlear implant I don’t hear bass voices real well unless they are solo or with little musical accompaniment. Such a shame for it is one of my favorite parts of a choir! Hearing in crowds is indeed a challenge… at times enough to make my head ache because of the effort! Thanks for checking in!

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