Back Home at NAD

The 2010 NAD Convention is long gone, a successful event that wrapped up a few weeks ago. I wasn't planning on writing about it because so many other bloggers have already done so.

But soon after NAD in Philadelphia, there was also a DeafNation Expo going on in Las Vegas. There were comments about it in the We Never Landed In Holland blog ("What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas... NOT") that echoed exactly how I felt at NAD:

We felt so at home. We felt so free.

Bingo!

Although I live a stone's throw away from Philadelphia, other commitments only allowed me to go the NAD Convention for just one day. Along with my wife and one of my kids, we went on Thursday July 8 so we could browse the exhibits, catch up with old friends, and enjoy the College Bowl later that evening.

WARNING: Massive name-dropping about to begin.

A funny thing happens when you arrive at a place that's packed full of people from your past. It takes you a full 45 minutes to make it from the lobby to the exhibit room. All of the greetings, the hugs, the how-ya-beens. The This is Your Life moments where you bump into someone you haven't seen in 15 years and start chatting like old pals who just saw each other yesterday.

Dragan Jaksic, my old roommate during my Gallaudet years, was there. We ranted about Philadelphia sports teams like we always did in our old apartment.

Another trip down memory lane came from Marvin Miller, who got me started as a columnist with his groundbreaking DeafNation newspaper back in the '90s.

Among the others I bumped into were Kelby Brick, Todd Elliott, Steve Florio, Robert Weinstock, Shane Feldman, Greg Hlibok, Neil McDevitt, and--

What's wrong with me? Neil lives right down the street from my house. Great to see him anyway.

There were also some people I've never met in person, but thanks to the blogosphere feel like I've known them forever. At long last I got to meet Amy Cohen Efron, who is as friendly and engaging in person as she is in her vlogs. Later that night I bumped into Tayler Mayer, one of the driving forces behind DeafRead. This man has more technical know-how in his pinky finger than anything I've learned in 40-plus years. It wasn't even two minutes into our conversation when he graciously offered some nice feedback on blogging.

I also finally got to meet Karen Putz, the famous Deaf Mom. We've known each other for years. Just not in person (welcome to the Internet age!). But seriously, it was wonderful to talk with her face to face. Like Tayler, Karen -- who is a fantastic writer -- offered some great ideas and suggestions. Among them was opening a twitter account, something I'd been resisting for a long time (I have this fear that social networking sites are turning the world into The Matrix). She also inspired me to get back on track with a writing project that was going slowly until now.

I'm not done name-dropping. Perhaps the biggest thrill was catching Gerald "Bummy" Bernstein and Jack Gannon... together. If that wasn't a photo op, I don't know what is. It was an honor to meet these icons of the deaf community. Got a nice picture of the three of us and I'm going to frame it somewhere.

See how I'm gushing? This is what the We Never Landed in Holland blog was talking about. Feeling at home. It's where the best is brought out of us.

Anyone who says the deaf community is "isolated" is an idiot because all of us do what we have to do in the hearing world every day. We work with hearing people. We have hearing relatives, friends, neighbors, and so on. Those of us with children are often involved in the hearing worlds of their classmates, teachers, rec leagues, and friends. It goes on and on. So nothing ticks me off more than when a group of deaf people get together and outsiders mumble, tsk, tsk, the deaf are so isolated.

Quite the contrary, we're resilient. We do our best in the hearing environment and we then get that I'm home feeling when we reconnect at NAD and other events. It's for this reason my wife and I brought our deaf son, Darren, along with us to the convention. He's now 11 years old and pulling in good grades as the only deaf student in his school. We also know that he's been "the only one" long enough. The time for change is coming. So we wanted him to see that he also has a place--actually, a community--to call home.

And he ate it up. Darren was in awe at the College Bowl. To see older deaf students showing their stuff had a tremendous impact. He went out of his way to greet the participants. This speaks volumes, because he tends to be more low-key at hearing events. He also asked if he could walk up to the stage afterwards and talk to emcee Paul Rutowski. So here's this kid who usually keeps to himself at school, standing by the stage, chatting it up with the emcee at a national event. You could see the spark in his eyes.

That's what happens when you're at home. See you in Kentucky in 2012!