Deaf And Blind, Her Father Still Knows How To Speak His Love Through a TeleBraille machine, Melva Washington Toomer talked with her dad, John Carter Washington, for StoryCorps. "If I could help some person," he tells her, "then my living will not be in vain."
NPR logo

Deaf And Blind, Her Father Still Knows How To Speak His Love

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490394572/490591352" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Deaf And Blind, Her Father Still Knows How To Speak His Love

Deaf And Blind, Her Father Still Knows How To Speak His Love

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490394572/490591352" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It is Friday, and it is time for a StoryCorps conversation like no other.

MELVA WASHINGTON TOOMER: My name is Melva Washington Toomer. The storyteller is my father.

JOHN CARTER WASHINGTON: My name is John Carter Washington. Is there any questions?

(SOUNDBITE OF TYPING)

GREENE: That sound right there is a TeleBraille machine. That's how Melva and her father who is blind and deaf communicated during this interview. Melva typed her questions, and they were translated into Braille for her father to read and answer. John's late wife was also blind and deaf, and they raised three kids together.

WASHINGTON: You were my first child. I was so glad you were born. I cannot express the way I feel when I held your sweet little body. I kissed you. I loved you. Oh, Melva, I was so proud when I started taking you out with me. You'd take me by the hand and lead me where you wanted to go.

TOOMER: Do you have any favorite stories about raising us?

WASHINGTON: Do you - raising us? (Laughter) One night, I did catch you trying to sneak out.

TOOMER: We knew our parents couldn't see, and we used to slip out at night. So daddy started sleeping in front of the door.

WASHINGTON: (Laughter) One story is I was getting ready to give Warren a bath, but as I picked him up to put him in the tub, he said, daddy, I got my shoes on.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOMER: What were some of your proudest moments?

WASHINGTON: What are my proudest moments? Well, I did not graduate from high school, so I began to read books in Braille to learn the ways of life. And then I taught people to read Braille, so if I could help some person than my living will not be in vain.

TOOMER: Do you have any questions for me?

WASHINGTON: Do you have questions?

TOOMER: For me?

WASHINGTON: Yes. I'm 95, and I might live to be 100. What are you going to do with me?

TOOMER: I am going to take care of you the best I can.

WASHINGTON: You're doing a wonderful job. God bless you.

TOOMER: Daddy, I thank you for the interview.

WASHINGTON: Oh, you're welcome. Thank you, Melva.

GREENE: That's John Washington with his daughter Melva Toomer in Durham, N.C. In 1952, he helped start the first Braille magazine for African-American readers. That conversation will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and featured on the StoryCorps podcast.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.