From November 1963 until that point, I was usually the one transforming the spoken words of the newscaster into sign language for my parents. Huntley and Brinkley. Cronkite. Frank McGee. And, yes, a young Peter Jennings. A lot of people don’t realize that Peter Jennings was an anchor for ABC News back in those days. And when he left ABC to become a foreign correspondent a 12-year-old boy in New England was devastated.
Back to 1968. I was walking in the door from school. Mom was watching AW. She was frustrated. Something big was going on in Bay City and Mom couldn’t lip read the dialog. Here I was being introduced to daytime drama and an invaluable education. Audra Lindley (yes, Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company) was in the middle of what was a pivotal scene. In those days Liz Matthews was a force to be reckoned with. And that was the beginning. I was fascinated by these families in Bay City. Do people really live like this? Rachel was pregnant with Steven Frame’s baby. Mom was educated in a different time – in a Roman Catholic boarding school for deaf kids. She believed that any woman who was pregnant out of wedlock was raped. Mom didn’t understand. And this kid had to figure it all out and explain that pregnancy outside of marriage isn’t always rape. Not bad for a boy on the verge of adolescence, huh?
That summer began the transition. I didn’t have the conventional family and as CODAs know, adulthood came all too fast in those days. Soon, it became a similar ritual for me. The stories woven in the AW tapestry were compelling, capturing the imagination. Over the years Mom would open her eyes to the realities of the “hearing world” while her son learned about life in a most unconventional way. Over the years I would go on keeping Mom up to date with her “stories.” She picked up another along the way — Search for Tomorrow (SFT). Mom loved AW, especially when Victoria Wyndham and Charles Keating were on screen. They enunciated their words. Lip reading was easy when they were on camera.
When AW went off air on June 25, 1999 it was a sad day for Mom. It wasn’t about the end of a daytime staple as much as it was about the end of something familiar. You see, what I forgot to tell you is that over the years after 1968, Mom shared her soaps enthusiasm with her own mother and two of her aunts. Communication was always difficult between them. It was a different era then. But the “stories” were their common bond and unleashed a flood of memories. Today Mom is 82 and still watches DOOL and she’s sad because this week she’ll be saying her final goodbye to Alice Horton and, in some small way, to a time in her life when things were simpler.