Frank Gallimore was born in Valencia, California on October 11, 1978. Shortly after his birth Max Gallimore and Laurene Simms moved their three children to Oregon. Frank has fond memories of his early childhood, playing with his older siblings Jed and Rosa in the fields and woods near their home. In an interview with the KODAheart team, Frank explained, “there’s two childhoods that I remember, there’s the childhood that’s kind of idyllic – living out in the country- … [and] the part where I was in Indianapolis … and that was much more urban.” In retrospect, Frank describes himself as someone who “[grew] up mostly in the Pacific Northwest, but moved around a little bit.”
Frank was raised in a bilingual home. “90% of our communication was ASL,” Frank explained, but he attributed a love of reading to both his parents. “My dad was definitely more on the literary side – he liked reading poetry and novels and that kind of stuff and he would share a lot of that with us.” Storytelling was an important expression; Richard Kipling and Edgar Allen Poe were recited at home alongside ASL stories. “My brother was the big storyteller. He was always good at telling stories and my sister and I would just sit there in awe.” These experiences highlighted language differences, “His stories were more ASL- my dad’s stories were much more, English-y, in a way” but also encouraged a love of language and an environment of language play.
At around the age of ten, Frank and his family moved, first to Nebraska and then to Indiana, where they settled for several years. In Oregon the children were homeschooled, but in Nebraska, Laurene began teaching a small class of deaf students at Helen Hyatt Elementary School. Soon, Laurene accepted a teaching position at the Indiana School for the Deaf and the family relocated to Indianapolis. Max took a position as an editor. Jed and Rosa attended the deaf residential school, but Frank as an “OH-CODA” (only hearing person in the family), attended a hearing school.
Frank remarked that as an OHCODA, he often felt like he missed out on the experiences of his family members. “For me, the hard part wasn’t necessarily figuring out how to adapt to my hearing friends or the hearing world- although that was difficult for me – it was much more [about] accepting the fact that I’m hearing. Accepting the fact that I’m not actually a full member of the deaf community and that kind of stuff.” Though he emphasized, that K/Codas are a part of the deaf community as “a fundamental nature of biology,” he noted “inevitably, there’s a painful distance there. That is, inevitable when you realize, on the one hand, biologically I’m absolutely a part of the deaf community and this is definitely my culture and my birthright. On the other hand, I can hear. And I have the ability to speak in English, and hear in English, and passively absorb English everywhere around me. So that experience is something that, in some ways, boots you out of the Deaf community… It definitely- it lessens your membership a little bit. And you understand there’s certain part of the Deaf experience that I’m not participating in, simply by virtue of the fact that I can hear. So that is a reality that can be hard to cope with.”
Moments when he could participate in the experiences of his siblings were meaningful for Frank. He remembered his elation at being able to run into the dorms to collect his older siblings at the end of the day. “That was one of my favorite things in the whole world to do. And I felt so special that I could just run into the dorm and everyone would know me and say, ‘Hey, it’s Frank, how’s it going? Hey!’. It was a passage for me in the sense that after spending the whole day being a hearing kid… but seeing that part of the world, and understanding that part of the world, and being able to communicate with those kids in their language, really, it helped me feel like I was able to reconnect a bit more with my roots, with my family, with what was really at the core of my cultural identity.”
“So that experience was powerful for me, but it was still painful as I got older. Just knowing that, okay, today, as I get up in the morning, everyone’s going to go to the School for the Deaf but I’m going to go [to the hearing school]. That feeling was always a little bit frustrating, a little bit painful, a little alienating for me. So that was tough for me to get through as a kid.“
Frank described himself as “a very shy, nervous hearing kid” and “an introvert.” When his Deaf family was the subject of conversation he remembered that it “was always a much bigger deal to [him] than to everybody else.” He explained, “in some ways I feel like a hearing person may be able to wrap their heads around, a little bit more, that your parents are from Yugoslavia, than the idea that your parents are Deaf. There’s a little bit of context there that people are a bit aware of. ‘Okay, your parents are from Europe, they speak a different language, etc, etc, etc.. So, I can kind of picture what your life at home might be like. I can get a sense of what it’s like to be you.’ That kind of thing. Whereas, I didn’t necessarily feel like anybody really understood at all what it was like to have deaf parents.”
That sense of understanding would come later. Frank attended his first CODA event at 18. He was convinced by his cousin Sheila Jacobs to attend a regional retreat in San Diego. There he met Dale Dyal and other CODA community members. “And that for me was a signal of that notion of a birthright. I think that was the first time that I ever really got to thinking about how much of a gift it is to be a Coda. And how beautiful it is, and how unique it is, how wonderful it is to have these experiences and to be able to be in a room full of people that speak the same language, in that sense, and really know what it feels like to be a Coda and to go through those experiences. It was really the first time I’d ever been in a room full of people that I’d felt a kind of connection with in a powerful way, that I didn’t have to explain anything and all that stuff.”
Later Frank also worked as a counselor at KODA Camp at Camp Mark Seven. He explained that as an adult, he had begun to feel isolated. “I was starting to feel more and more nostalgic for my childhood, for my family because, at that time, I was an adult and I was living on my own and I saw my brother and my sister and my mom and my dad maybe once or twice a year because we all lived in different states… I was starting to feel a little bit- I miss that Deaf-World. And the only way that I was relating to the Deaf-World was as an interpreter, which is not the same experience.” Working at a summer camp program was “a great way to reconnect and see what life was like for kids with deaf parents, kids that were a lot like me growing up…And I had that same feeling that we’re in the same room with people that really get it, you immediately have this feeling of being in a circle of safety… There’s a lot of power and strength in that vulnerability. Which is what I was most impressed by – again, that feeling of, it’s an amazing gift that we have here and I feel okay with being myself and defining myself now and it’s okay. So it was very empowering. So that was kind of my experience with that. I would recommend it for anybody – I feel like it’s such a powerful experience.”
As a teenager Frank’s family returned to the Pacific Northwest. His mother took a position at Western Oregon University. After he graduated high school, he enrolled in the University of Oregon where his passion for poetry emerged. Frank attributed this to his family. “The influence of my family was a big part of that… I think a lot of our love for reading came from both my mom and dad. My dad was definitely more on the literary side – he liked reading y’know poetry and novels and that kind of stuff and he would share a lot of that with us and I think we grew up with that -just admiring that part of him.” After he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, Frank enrolled at Johns Hopkins University. He graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts in Poetry in 2007. Since then Frank has published in a number of places, including Slate Magazine, The Harvard Review, The Cortland Review, and Cimarron. He also has a book of poetry, forthcoming, that includes some introspective work on his experience as a koda.
Frank is also an accomplished painter, a talent he attributes to his older brother. “I started creating art out of admiration for my big brother… I wanted to be so much like him growing up. So when he started doodling, I started doodling.” Frank’s paintings include a variety of subject matter. As he explained, subjects are often chosen based on nostalgia. “In both my writing and my painting there’s a lot of nostalgia and memory and reflection. But I think that the painting has a lot more to do with body, with physicality, with animals, texture… a lot of my painting is a way of tapping back to that physicality of memory. Not necessarily linguistically. So theres a bit of a line between poetry and art in that sense.” Frank also provides great insight into his artistic process at his blog. View his artwork at website, frankgallimore.com, where he welcomes questions and/or commissions from visitors.
Another outlet of creativity in Frank’s life emerged in 2008. KISSFIST Magazine got its start when his sister, Rosa Lee Timm, approached him about creating a forum that would highlight the accomplishments of artists in the community. “It started with my sister coming up with the idea. She was interested in doing something that would spotlight a lot of the stories and the people that we knew… that we felt were deserving of more notice, deserving of more praise. there could be so much more done to draw attention to deaf artists, to Coda artists, to the whole spectrum of people out there in the signing community.” Relying on their own social networks, they collected stories, artwork, photos and other matter and produced twelve issues that explored subjects for and by the signing community. The production is currently on hiatus, as work, social and family commitments have pulled both Rosa and Frank in other directions. “But I would love to get back to KISS-FIST and do some more issues and – it’s just so fun,” Frank shared.
In addition to these pursuits, Frank has worked as an interpreter and is Creative Director of Marketing for Purple and ZVRS. He recently “live” painted a piece of a art in the ZVRS booth while at NBDA conference. Find out more about the story behind the painting in an interview here.
We ended our interview by asking Frank, If you could offer advice to yourself as a koda, what would you say? Frank replied, “There is something very profound about being a KODA. About having the privilege of being a part of two different worlds and having that knowledge and having those stories. I would tell myself to remember as much as possible. To try to build stories for yourself.. there is a sort of wealth of empowering experiences that you have…experience of shifting between cultures and what makes us who we are, experiences that define us. Number one, be proud of the richness of your experience. Its not something ever to feel ashamed of, or to feel alienated by. It’s not that you are one or the other- it’s that you are both and that is wonderful.
“The other thing I would say is that, especially now, in our rather exhibitionist culture, we tend to have this habit of wanting to define other people. We are privy to so much of the personal narratives of others that it can be easy to mistake others for characters in a movie or book. We are so much more complicated than that, and richer for it. Therefore, it is nobody else’s job but your own to define who you are. Period. It is no one else’s job to define who you are but yourself. And that’s the fun of it. That’s the joy of being you. Being able to say “I’m going to be whatever I want to be. I get to choose.” It’s like a blank canvas, I get to paint whatever painting I want to put on there. And the great part about it is it’s only going to be as good as I want it to be. It’s only going to be as wonderful as I choose it to be. So, if I want to be silly, weird, eccentric, whatever I want to be, I’m probably going to find a circle of friends out there that’s going to work with me, that are going to get me, that will enjoy me for who I am, as long as I stick to who I am.
“That’s what I would say to me. I wish I had heard that when I was a kid.”