In the fall of 1987 I landed in Malden, MA. I thought I was going to spend a few months there, then wander back to Ohio. Storyteller Judith Black was on WERS’s coffeehouse telling ‘Banned in the Western Suburbs’. I had stumbled on to storytelling. That night the story bug bit me. Hard. I knew I just had to become a storyteller too.
I studied storytelling, read stories and practiced by telling as I washed the dishes. I decided I needed a second shift job (I had been painting houses during the day) so I could hopefully share stories in elementary schools in the morning.
I heard about The North Shore ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens) that needed group home counselors on second shift. I applied. They told me I can start in three weeks at a home in Middleton, MA. I told them I needed to earn money now. Was there any place that needed a temporary worker?
Turns out there was a day program that always needed help. I was to work at Heritage Industries H-4 program in Peabody, MA, for three weeks then start start in Middleton. The H-4 building had two separate programs in it. I was working in the upstairs with hearing clients. Unknown to me downstairs was a whole Deaf program. The clients shared a single lunch room. The staff took turns watching that nobody would swipe somebody else’s sandwich. Very easy duty.
One day it was my turn for lunch duty. I looked across the lunch room. There was a beautiful woman standing there. I asked my friend, ‘Who is that?” He said, “Oh, she’s Deaf.” I said, “So what? She can still kiss!” I wrote her a note on a paper plate. I couldn’t sign. She blew me off. Just another hearing guy with no understanding of Deaf Culture or Sign language. Bye bye.
But I was not easily detoured. Everyday I tried my best to make her smile. Sometimes she even did. The day before I my three weeks at H-4 ended, she agreed to go on a bicycle ride around Plum Island with me. There must have been just the right amount of sun and sand and signing and pheromones and flirting because we started dating.
I started learning ASL. Six months later she asked me to marry her. I was smart enough to say yes. In our early years money was tight. Our apartment above Casa De Moda in Beverly was all of $500 a month. And half the time I didn’t have my half. So my bride covered me till the money would come in. She had more faith in me than I had in myself. She likes to say, “Tony saw me as a person first and Deaf second.” I like to say, “I am a storyteller today because KR Glickman supported me back then- and now”. How lucky can one guy get? Pretty lucky if you ask me. (J’aime Sirgany, now you know. She had asked me to tell how KR and I met.)