Archive | December, 2011

Happy Holidays!

22 Dec

From all of us at Vision Through Words, we wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season.  As always, we’d like to show our gratitude to all of the readers and writers that have helped keep this blog going.

We will be taking a holiday break from new postings until January 2, 2012, but don’t let that stop you from going through the archives and reading the thought-provoking poetry and essays submitted by visually impaired writers and also some writers who have special relationships with visually impaired and blind people.  If you are inspired by these pieces, please comment or write something of your own and submit to visionthroughwords@gmail.com (Click on the Submissions tab for more details).

Again, Happy Holidays and a Peaceful New Year!

The Story of My Life

20 Dec

by Christy Goodwine

I was born November 10, 1970, three months premature.  I weighed one pound, twelve ounces.  My lungs were not fully developed, so I was placed in an incubator.  The extra oxygen helped my lungs, but too much oxygen caused me to go blind.

At first, my mom had a hard time accepting that I was blind.  After a while she accepted me and treated me like a normal child, even though she stayed very protective.

I started preschool when I was three.  Because I was blind, I was put into classes with students who were severely disabled or mentally retarded.  I didn’t really learn much in preschool.

When I was six, I started going to the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville.  I went to school there for thirteen years.  I learned Braille and I use that to read and write.  I learned a lot of things that helped me do for myself as much as I can.

There were times when I felt sorry for myself because I am blind, especially when I couldn’t visit my friends’ houses like my sister and my brothers could.  When I did go out, I was told I was being stared at.  That upset me.  I wanted people to talk to me if they were curious about being blind.  I could speak for myself.  That’s what I told my mom.  She told me, “Christy, not only are people staring at you because you are blind, but they’re staring at you because you are pretty, because you are well-groomed and because your clothes match.”  I still try to dress nice and look presentable wherever I go.

My mom died when I was thirteen.  She was only thirty-two.  My siblings and I were raised by my aunt and uncle.  I call them my mom and dad now.  My cousins are like my brothers and sisters, so I’m lucky to have close family like them.

I was making plans to go out and live on my own when I had a stroke a year and a half ago.  My right side was paralyzed.  I felt sorry for myself then, for being blind and having had a stroke.  I felt I didn’t have the will power to learn how to do things for myself all over again.  But then something changed.  I worked hard at rehab and with my therapies for over a year, in hospitals and rehab places and nursing homes.  I got better.  I went from being bedridden to using a wheelchair to using a walker to walking with a support cane to walking with my white cane.  I got to go places like church, out to eat and shopping, even while I was still in the nursing home.  I even went to Dairy Queen one time and got ice cream.

I still have a little weakness on my right side and my right leg still shakes sometimes and my foot loses feeling.  But I’m able to play piano again, and that’s important to me.  I play piano and sing to church groups and senior citizens and school children.

Now I live at Friedman Place on the North Side of Chicago.  I’m very independent.  The staff has helped me to get into school.  I attend the Illinois Center for Rehabilitative Education.  I’m studying keyboarding, Advanced Braille, mobility, activities of daily livingand physical fitness.I will begin GED prep classes in January, 2012.  I hope to use my training to work or volunteer teaching Braille to visually impaired children.  I am engaged to be married to a fellow Friedman Place resident.  Our wedding is planned for May 5, and that’s how we plan to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. 

Creative Person of the Week

17 Dec

David Alexander Paterson (born May 20, 1954) is an American politician who served as the 55th Governor of New York, from 2008 to 2010. During his tenure he was the first governor of New York of African American heritage and also the second legally blind governor of any U.S. state.

Paterson worked in the District Attorney’s office of Queens County, New York. In 1985, he was elected to the New York State Senate to a seat that was once held by his father. In 2003, he rose to the position of Senate Minority Leader. Paterson was selected as running mate by Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 New York gubernatorial election. Spitzer and Paterson were elected in November 2006, and Paterson took office as Lieutenant Governor on January 1, 2007.

When Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, Paterson was sworn in as governor of New York on March 17, 2008. Paterson launched a brief campaign for a full term as Governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election, but announced on February 26, 2010, that he would not be a candidate in the Democratic primary.

David Paterson was born in Brooklyn to Portia Paterson, a homemaker, and labor law attorney Basil Paterson. Basil Paterson was later a New York state senator and secretary of state, and served as deputy mayor of New York City. According to a New York Now interview, Paterson traces his roots on his mother’s side of the family to pre-Civil War African American slaves in the states of North Carolina and South Carolina. His father is half Afro-Jamaican.

At the age of three months, Paterson contracted an ear infection which spread to his optic nerve, leaving him with no sight in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right. Since New York City public schools would not guarantee him an education without placing him in special education classes, his family bought a home in the Long Island suburb of South Hempstead so that he could attend mainstream classes there. Paterson was the first disabled student in the Hempstead public schools, graduating from Hempstead High School in 1971.

Paterson received a B.A. in History from Columbia University in 1977 and a law degree from Hofstra Law School in 1983. After law school, he went to work for the Queens District Attorney’s Office, but did not pass the New York bar examination, and did not become an Attorney at law. He attributed his failing the New York bar to insufficient accommodation for his visual impairment, and has since advocated for changes in bar exam procedures.

While he was governor, Paterson’s staff read documents to him over voice mail. Paterson was the first governor of New York to be partly blind.

In late December 2006, shortly before being sworn in as lieutenant governor, Paterson said that if he ever succeeded Spitzer as governor, he and Nelson A. Rockefeller would have something besides the governorship in common: great difficulty in reading. Rockefeller was dyslexic, which Paterson compared to his blindness. During his time as Lieutenant Governor, Paterson also served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs.

Since leaving office, Paterson has been a radio talk show host on station WOR in New York City.

 

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Paterson)

The Anxiety of Deliverance

15 Dec

by Mani G. Iyer

A whole fifteen minutes left

what if he shows up early

has the time wrong

left already, after waiting

the classical music wafting

through the waiting room is sombre

let’s get out.

Begin the descent

be careful

the stairs are not blind-friendly

use the right mobility techniques

remember the instructor’s admonitions

damn it, overstepped the last one,

pause.

A sweet-scented voice’s offer for help

humorously refused

blaming it on the instructor’s ghost

these stairs have treacherous depths

easy, easy, you can’t afford to fall

Ah, some light down below

wait, wait, the rails start one step late

stoop down to touch it

which bloody blind man designed these stairs?

The cane slips

rattles down in flight

panic

hold your lifeline

one sure step at a time

is that sweet-scented lady anywhere near

ah, the bottom at last.

 

Get down on the knees

not in prayer of gratitude

grope for the cane

finally,the doors to freedom

wait inside

no, go outside

advertise your blindness

close to the door, though,

in case it rains.

The air is invigorating

where is he

he surely can’t miss the cane and the dark glasses

what if he is expecting a wheelchair-bound pickup

make a decision, quick

The watch talks

five more minutes

sounds and voices everywhere

a car door slams

no one is approaching

smell more scents of women

snatches of conversations

boyfriends and vacations,

can’t grab their attentions.

Finally,  a man’s attention

ask if he can see a white taxicab around

sorry, none in the vicinity

panic

call the wife or friend,

warn them to get ready

wait for a few more minutes.

 

Check the time again

one minute late

action required

call the dispatcher

bypass the automaton

speak to a human

frustrating apologies and music

finally the dispatcher

a pronouncement

the driver is on time and is on his way

furtively scan with neck

A minute later,

a voice

“Sir, are you looking for the ride”

“Yes, yes”

a handle of an elbow magically appears

grab it

walk to the gaping car door

plonk into the passenger seat

He ignites the engine

“Was the wait too long?”

“Yes, but I enjoyed some fresh air”

“I am sorry you can’t see, but

it is a beautiful day”.

Mani G. Iyer was born and raised in Bombay, India and has lived in the United States since 1985.  He is deaf-blind due to Usher Syndrome.  He became deaf by the age of 4, night-blind by the age of 12, and now has very little usable vision.

Randy Randy

12 Dec

by Jeff Flodin

In honor of my friend Beth finke’s new Seeing Eye dog, Whit, whose full name is Whitney, this blog is dedicated to my Seeing Eye Dog, Randy, whose full name is Randy.

 What’s in a name, anyway?  My first dog’s name was Sherlock, which everyone thought was the coolest.  When I was introduced to my new dog on March 1, 2010, I said, “Randy. What a stupid name.”  Randy Quaid came to mind, the dimwit of the National Lampoon V acation movies. Then, I was reminded that randy as an adjective means frisky in a sexual way.  A tease. Being fixated at adolescence, I began to see Randy in a different, much cooler light.

 Then the veterinarian at the Seeing Eye told me that Randyhad been destined from birth to be the patriarch of a new string of brawny black Labs.

 “You mean he was supposed to be a stud?” I asked.

The vet demurred.

 I persisted.  “So, what happened?  “It obviously didn’t take.”

 The vet sputtered and stuttered and said nothing.

 Try as I might, I could not crack the code of silence surrounding Randy’s failed career as a stud. Perhaps his puppy raising days in Florida had unwittingly accentuated a retiring personality. Maybe his was an  issue of sexual preference.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whatever forces lay behind Randy tweaking his destiny, we embraced one another as a Seeing Eye team.

 Randy’s Chicago debut was  a picnic  on the shores of Lake Michigan in late spring.  The picnic was a benefit for an animal rescue program.  Lots of dogs were there.  They competed for prizes in fetching, heeling and all manner of obedience.  Randy finished out of the money in all those contests, but he captured first prize in two categories: youngest dog and largest nose.  That was the day I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “Everybody’s a Winner.”  The Special Olympics comes to the canine world.

 Randy remains true to his calling, whatever that calling might be. Some days, it’s that golden retriever across the street.  Other days, it’s working the crowd from the doorway of the Ravenswood Pub. Every day, he’s attuned to food.  His concentration is unwavering.  Randy can stare a hole through a block of Swiss cheese while, at his south end, Mulligan the cat hangs from his tail. 

The last day of training at the Seeing Eye, the instructor took me aside and said conspiratorially, “Jeff,you know we couldn’t give this dog to just anyone.”  I smiled and nodded and wondered what on earth he’d meant by that.  Each day of the intervening twenty months has illuminated another facet of what he meant.  Not that Randy defies understanding. On the contrary, he is a quick study.  He was and is eager to please.  He is  totally without guile.  Everything Randy does, he does full bore. He’s neither the brightest nor the dimmest.  He knows no subtlety.  He’s just Randy.  He’s the dog who understands the phrase, “Be yourself and you will be loved for who you are.”

 Jeff Flodin is a writer.  He has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa for 30 years.   Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog.  You can see Jeff’s own blog called Jalapenos in the Oatmeal, which he writes for The Guild for The Blind.

Creative Person of the Week

10 Dec

Dana Elcar (October 10, 1927 – June 6, 2005) was an American television and movie character actor. Although he appeared in about 40 films, his most memorable role was on the 1980s and 1990s television series MacGyver as Peter Thornton, an administrator working for the Phoenix Foundation. Elcar had appeared in the pilot episode of MacGyver as Andy Colson (a completely different character), but was later cast as Peter Thornton, making his first regular appearance in the 11th episode of the first season.

Elcar was born as Ibsen Dana Elcar in Ferndale, Michigan. Elcar was an alumnus of the University of Michigan. Elcar was also a student of legendary acting coach Sanford Meisner. He brought this education to bear when in 1986, with fellow character actor William Lucking, he formed the Santa Paula Theater Center. Elcar sat as artistic director for six years.

Elcar had supporting roles in Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff, W.C. Fields and Me, The Sting, 2010, All of Me, and Baretta, in which he played Baretta’s supervisor, Inspector Shiller. Another of his recurring roles was as Sheriff Patterson #1 on Dark Shadows. He guest starred in numerous other shows.

In 1991, Elcar began to develop glaucoma. This condition was written into the show, MacGyver, beginning with the sixth season episode “Blind Faith” and continuing through the remainder of that season and the entire seventh season, with Elcar’s character developing the disease. The sixth season finale, Hind-Sight, was a clip show using Pete Thornton’s upcoming eye surgery as a framing device. After MacGyver, Elcar made a guest appearance in “Virus”, a 1993 episode of Law & Order, in which he played a man who blamed his diabetes-caused blindness on his former physician, and whose grandson murdered other patients as revenge.

On June 6, 2005, Elcar died at the Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California due to complications from pneumonia. He was 77 years old.

(Excert taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dana_Elcar#Life_and_career)

A Near-Sighted Romance

8 Dec

by Loyd C. Taylor

A few years back I was out on a fling,
So I drove over to a new hot spot;
It would allow me a place to unwind,
And for me, give romance another shot.
 
I entered the club, feeling some good vibes,
When I saw a beauty across the room;
As tingling chills went up and down my spine,
I had the feeling love’s blossom would bloom.
 
Aw yes, I must pounce upon this moment,
Good fortune had finally come my way, ‘
Oh, I imagined a wedding bell’s peal,
While thinking of romantic things I’d say!
 
Then to look cool, I took my glasses off,
And did shuffle around my jet-black hair;
Next, I sprayed some mint into my mouth,
When finished, I slyly slid out my chair.
 
Next, I trained my focus on her image,
As cat-like across the stone floor I walked;
I tried then to recall some poetry,
Hoping I might steal her heart as we talked.
 
I would say; ‘Thou art the rarest treasure, ‘
And, ‘T’was fate that ledest me here to thee’
But blindly I tripped, and fell in her arms,
That’s when I realized that she was a he!
 
As he wrapped masculine arms around me,
The odor from his armpit found my nose;
My eyes froze fixed on his gorilla legs,
As to the floor fell his French panty hose.
 
My eyes refocused as my stomach churned,
I thought; ‘How did I get into this mess? ‘
Then he said, with the Terminator’s voice,
‘I’ll be back, Dear, must go n’ fix my dress.’
 

(Poem found at: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-near-sighted-romance/)