Cleo (Yaiya) Chafouleas

by Samantha from Lagrangeville

Yaiya at her Grandson's Wedding (Picture Library)
Yaiya at her Grandson's Wedding (Picture Library)

Do you know what it is like to live life not being able to hear the world around you? My grandmother (Yaiya) does. My family and I call her Yaiya, because our family is Greek and it is Greek for grandmother. I might be able to hear, but I know going through life, not being able to hear the world around me, would not be easy. My grandmother overcame her handicap, not letting it stop her from living her life. She did not give up. She got a good education and raised an amazing family.

Yaiya was born in 1931. She was married on May 6, 1951 to Nicholas Chafouleas who was also deaf. Yaiya went from being Cleopatra Papajohn to Cleopatra Chafouleas that day. She and her husband raised five children, Lois, Andrew, Vera, Louie, and my mother Sandra. After the youngest of their five children, Sandra, was eleven years old my grandfather, Papoo (Greek for grandfather), died from a heart attack. My grandmother did not give up on life then either. She kept living her life and made it worth it. She raised their five kids and is now taking a big part in raising her eight grandchildren, varying between the ages of twelve through thirty-two. The newest member to our family is her beautiful great granddaughter, also named Cleo, who is five months old. To this day I think of Yaiya as a family hero. She is very strong, never gives up, and is an independent woman. Even though she didn't go to a regular school, she didn't give up on learning and getting a good education. She went to a school for the deaf. Now Yaiya is about to turn 80 years old this March, and doesn't look a day over sixty. She was a beautiful woman her whole life and still is. When I am down or upset, Yaiya helps me. She comforts me, and makes me feel better. I really do love that about her.

Yaiya's actions make me think that if she can get married, raise a family and do all the amazing things she did while being deaf, then I can too and anyone else can for that matter. That is one of the many things I have learned from watching my grandmother. If you put your mind to something, you can do it. Another thing I really love about Yaiya is she doesn't judge anyone. She lets them do what they want to do and be who they want to be as long as it makes them happy. I have noticed that when people are smiling and having a good time she is also smiling and having a good time even though she cannot hear them. That is what I think really counts. Every day she amazes me by how much she laughs and smiles. She is just thankful that she is alive and with the people she loves, and I think that is amazing and inspirational to me and others around her. Yaiya is also a really good cook. She cooks for the family and I every day in the summer and two days a week during school. As I was a child she was basically a second mother to me. During the summer while both of my parents are working, Yaiya watches my brother and I and takes care of us at her house. Yaiya also taught me sign language. It was a little hard at first learning from someone who is deaf and can't really speak as proper and clearly as others, but in no time I was signing the alphabet. Even though Yaiya is deaf, she still has fun with her family. She loves to play cards and board games with her friends and family. Yaiya loves to watch sports, and television. Words cannot express what she means to me and our family.

I value that Yaiya doesn't let anything get in her way. Being deaf was difficult, but she did not let it hold her back in any way, even though she was different than most people. She doesn't worry that she is different, because she isn't. To me she is better than others because she has done and accomplished so many things that people with perfectly capable abilities cannot do. When her husband died, she did NOT give up on her family. She kept on living a good life and raised their children on her own with the help of extended family members. She never showed she was scared when she really was. That's what I really admire.

There are many heroic qualities about my Yaiya. She is nice, caring, smart, strong, independent, a loving mother, daughter, sister, wife, aunt, niece, grandma, and great grandma, but most importantly my family hero. She never gave up nor will she and is always willing to go that extra mile for her family and friends. She is an Extraordinary woman and I hope she knows that. I am just grateful to have her as a grandmother. I LOVE YOU YAIYA!!

Page created on 12/27/2011 4:02:00 PM

Last edited 1/5/2017 10:39:06 PM