A person who cannot see or hear must feel a profound sense of loneliness. To be abandoned by one’s own family would only deepen the pain and despair. Martes was shut out of the world for eleven years, unable to communciate, trapped in the abyss of silence. Until now.
Martes* is a grandparent living at La Casa de los Abuelos along with 50 other elderly. These fragile and wounded souls and bodies arrive weekly to the loving arms of Estela who brings them across the threshold with no questions asked. Their stories are varied and their physical and mental health needs are severe. Restricted to wheelchairs and walkers they spend their days in a simple abode, not the kind of place you might fancy for your own, but a home all the same, provided by a mother called to care for her elderly children.
Martes was dropped at the doorstep one Tuesday morning eleven years ago. There was no note, no information, no goodbye hug, no talk about seeing him soon. He was left alone on the street with no money and no one. What made his situation more tragic is that he is blind and deaf. He was given the name Martes, meaning Tuesday, as there was no way to even know his real name, much less to understand anything about his life.
As is her daily practice, Estela opened her home and found him a place of refuge. She cared for him : bathing, feeding, comforting and providing for his needs. For eleven years, her ability to communicate with this homeless man has been almost impossible for lack of a language between the seeing and the non-seeing, the speaking and the non-speaking.
Until Tuesday, March 13th.
What follows is the miraculous story of a woman named Debi Brady who was introduced to Martes through an interesting turn of events.
“My husband, Johnny and I are here in Merida because we watched one too many International House Hunter shows that made us feel we were being called to a better climate, far away from Oklahoma with its tornados, earthquakes and ice storms. On our quest for the perfect place, we heard Merida is a safe colonial city and my all-time dream was to live in an old colonial style home with indoor/outdoor living. So we came down twice to visit then made the decision to retire the following year. My vision coming here was to simply relax, enjoy the sights and make new friends and lots of memories.
Shortly after my arrival to Merida, I began to read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It made me question what my real purpose was here and as a Christian, what I should be doing with all my spare time. It made me look outside of myself to how I could contribute to someone else’s needs. About that time someone on my Facebook page posted some needs of the Casa de los Abuelos. The fact it was a rescue and not a nursing home intrigued me. I started researching the Casa and opened dialogue with Cori Baumann who pointed me to their website, Yucatán Blessing House which gave details about each grandparent and how to adopt them or to volunteer to help them. The minute I read about this man, that he was blind and deaf, I knew I needed to visit to see if I could assist him. In the 80’s I had met a couple … he was deaf and she was an interpreter for the state of Oklahoma. I was enamored by sign language and set a goal to learn it and become certified within a year.
My experience with the Casa from the very beginning has been enlightening. Although their funding depends on compassionate people and is sometimes very strained, Estela has faith each day that God will provide for tomorrow and continues to take in people who are in need of her assistance. Her love is always overflowing for the Abuelos and God answers her prayers because she is faithful to her calling. The things I have noticed most that intrigued me was the residents are happy, clean and engaged. They are out of bed, dressed and talking and helping each other. It’s different than any senior facility I have ever visited. It’s not a sad place in any way and the minute I get out of the car, I’m filled with real joy.
He’s come a very long way since I first met him and started signing with him. I don’t think he attended school because he can’t finger spell and his vocabulary is limited. I grab words from here and there. He doesn’t sign actual sentences. That limits me on questioning him. If I sign How are you? He doesn’t understand. If I sign You good? He understands. I’m learning through trial and error how to communicate with him.
From what I’m told, he had never tried to communicate to anyone at the Casa. They would walk him to eat then walk him back. No one knew how to talk to him. Cori said she had never seen him smile, that he just existed from day to day.
Surprisingly from the beginning he was open to me. Each time I visit I learn something new about him. My first encounter he was sitting slumped, head down. He really didn’t know what to think as this was his first time that someone was communicating with him but he was open to me. He fiercely protects his belongings which he always carries in a bag on his shoulder. He has a hard time trusting anyone, not even me after all this time. I use the things I bring to create trust, like the soap you saw on the video. I’ve noticed now he sits up straighter in his chair and often times before he even knows I’m there, he’s signing. I’ve been told he never did that before meeting me. Maybe I helped wake his memory of signing, not sure. Now he is starting to communicate with others like telling Cori he was hungry and his back hurt. The best thing is he smiles a lot now. I think he is happy because he knows I genuinely care for him and his happiness. And he knows I’ll be back with something else, and for sure those cookies. He proudly wears the hat, cross and friendship band I gave him on my second visit.
Every time I see him he tells me he prays for me. I want to believe he has family out there somewhere that misses him. I don’t want to believe he was dumped by family. I often wonder if he wondered off and someone found him and dropped him off because he couldn’t communicate.
He has a child-like sweetness about him. Like when I touch him, he smiles and sort of rocks back and forth. I love the moment he knows who I am and then he rocks and smiles. He lifts his hands like, I’m thankful to God for you.
How could I not love him?”
* After years of using the name Martes for lack of being able to speak to him, and with the new ability he is showing to communciate with his hands, Estela recently gave him a piece of paper and a pencil to see if he could write. He wrote the letters M U E L. Debi has been able to confirm using sign language that he was trying to write his name. His name is Manuel.