Archive | December, 2013

Small Gifts

20 Dec

by Andrea Kelton

(I heard a story on NPR’s “This American Life” where a mom taught her daughter “never talk about your health.”  The mom stressed that “nobody wants to hear about your health.  It’s boring!”  Which might be true.  But what do you talk about when so much of your life is spent at the doctor?  Here’s a story I just wrote for my weekly memoir writing classI hope you don’t get bored. )
Small Gifts
The computer system at my eye doctor’s office was down, but the staff made the best of it.  I only waited 15 minutes before the tech called my name.  I followed him to the first room.  He told me that the computers were down.  Then he checked my acuity and eye pressure.  On to the next waiting room.
15 minutes later Dr. Ruderman called my name.  He led me to the examining room.
“Our computers are down,” he explained.  “So I need you to refresh my memory.  In 30 seconds, tell me your eye history.”
“Ok, umm…I was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974…had cataract surgery…”
“What year?” he interrupted.
“Both eyes?” he asked.
“Yes.  6 months apart.  Oh, and then the tube shunt you put in my right eye last June.”
“Ok.  Let’s take a look.” I heard him rolling my way as I positioned my chin and forehead on the metal rest bars.
Then he made extensive notes.  Finally he said, “You’re pressure’s good.  There are no active cells.  Continue all the drops and I’ll see you in 3 months.  You’re doing okay.”
“Okay?” I thought.  “The tech had told me my pressure was especially good—11 in my right eye 16 in the left!  And no inflammation.  I know eye dodctors don’t emote much, but…’Okay’?  Just ‘okay’?  !!
So I said, “How about we say I’m doing fabulous?”
He looked at me a moment and then asked, “Are you still working?”
“Yes.” I told him.
“And what do you do again?”
“Teach adults to read.”
Handing me my paperwork he patted my shoulder and said, “OK.  You’re doing fabulous.”
“YES!”  I thought.  “I am.”  (I may have prodded the flamboyant out of him, but it still felt darn good to hear!)
I’ve been teaching Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago since 2005.  The day after my doctor’s appointment, the subject was math. Most of my adult learners are working on reducing fractions.  But Willie’s just starting square roots.  (Willie’s been in my class –off and on- since 2005.)  After I introduced the lesson, Willie worked independently on square root word problems.  A little while later, Willie paused from his work and motioned me over to his table.
“You know what?” he said.  “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually having fun.”
Tears flooded my eyes.  I thought my heart might burst.  “Oh, Willie,” I told him, “that’s the best thing a teacher could ever hear.
“Thank you so, so much!”  I whispered.  “You’ve just made all my years teaching worth it.”
You know, when I was younger, I thought happiness came in big glitzy boxes.  Over the years I’ve learned that it’s really the small gifts that bless my days and bring me joy.
May your 2014 be filled with small gifts that bless your days and bring you joy!
And from Vision Through Words, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season & Happy & Healthy New Year!


13 Dec

by Fred Nikkl, Sr.

What a nice day, too bad I am on my way to work.  The sun feels warm on my face as I walk to the bus stop.  Sometimes, I just want to stop and let the sun and warm breeze soak into my pores.  Yes, and here is the place that always smells like onions.  I wonder what they do there?  One of these days I will stop and ask them, but not today.  Here’s Southport, let’s see if I can cross without getting killed.  No problem today.

 It’s my lucky day; the bus is empty, and air conditioned.  I can relax and enjoy the ride.  Oh no!  I have been day dreaming and lost track of the stops. 

 “Driver is this Diversey?”  He says ‘yes’ and pulls over to the curb.  Thank goodness I asked.  Wow, the smell of coffee is over powering!  The wind must be blowing from that coffee warehouse on Clybourn.   Wait a minute, this isn’t Diversey!  Where did that driver leave me?  Don’t panic, you know you’re on Ashland, so just think. 

 Wait, there’s a woman talking to someone.  “Ma’am.  Can you please tell me what street this is?” 

 “You’re not really blind.  You’re just doing this to get free drinks.”  “What is this woman saying?  It’s 12 noon and we are standing on the street. 

 How do I respond to that?  Is this a dream or a hallucination?  OK.  Here you go lady,” as I popped out one of my plastic eyes. 

 “Oh oh!” she says.

 Then a man says “”This is Leavitt” as I pop my eye back in. 

 “Thank you”  I say as I turn and walk away.

 That was kind of fun but not the best response to such stupidity.  The correct response would have been to patiently explain that I wasn’t looking for a drink but on my way to work.  Yes, that is what I should have done but this was so much more satisfying – and fun.

 Fred Nikkl lost his sight when he was a young man but that never stopped his love for adventure, including writing.  He joined us at the Words Wide Open writing workshop and has been published on Vision Through Words blog and the Magnets and Ladders website for writers with disabilities.

Gina’s Heavenly Dance

6 Dec

by Gina Falvo  (Gina was a writer in the Words Wide Open workshop at Second Sense: beyond vision loss.  She is a breast cancer survivor and this is what she thought might be if she hadn’t beat her cancer.)

I knocked on the door and it opened. I looked around and saw what I searched for. I felt so happy I did a little victory dance; suddenly the door closed.  I froze, thinking I went the other direction.  I didn’t fight the cancer.  I couldn’t handle taking care of mom.  This is the real hell, I’ve arrived.  I guess my life on earth wasn’t the hell I always thought it was.  I’ve arrived to meet the devil.

I put my hand on my left breast. The lump I felt on earth was gone.  

Mom did tell me there is hope.  Hope is the four letter word I treasure.  I heard laughter, music coming toward me in all directions.  It was white light I saw and I saw further than I’ve ever imagined I could see. I spotted my father talking with his buddies, laughing like he did on earth.  My Aunt Connie, the person I love the most was with her parents, Grandma and Grandpa Sinopoli.  When Mom spoke about her parents, I wished I could meet them.  Grandpa and Grandma Falvo spoke to me in Italian and I understood every word.  I felt a lick on my hand; I looked down and saw a pit bull wagging his tail.  I didn’t feel afraid.  Lassie came up to me; She led me through a forest filled with wild animals who weren’t wild.  I petted a lion.  

I haven’t felt this good since I learned how to cross the street without getting killed.  I couldn’t believe I could actually see.  I wasn’t wearing my glasses.  I saw my favorite celebrities.  I shook hands with Dick Clark who wasn’t slurring from his stroke.  Bob Hope told me a joke and I laughed.  Elizabeth Taylor told me I was as beautiful as her.  Wow, I never had that compliment on earth.  I heard Dean Martin singing.  My mother’s friends were there listening. I kept on going.

I saw my friend, Arnesia, who still had the laughter in her voice. “We both can see better now.”  She said, “No Lighthouse for the Blind here in heaven.”  

“This is heaven, oh, thank God!” I shouted and began my victory dance.  Arnesia grabbed me and we both were dancing.  I brushed against a man in white as I twirled.  

It was Pope John Paul II.  He held me and said, “Gina, you made it.  No more worries.  This is only the beginning of eternal happiness for you.”  

“I’d like to see God,” I asked. “I’d like to know why I always felt like he was punishing me on earth.  I’d like to apologize to God for not wanting to stay on earth until he called me.”  

“You never have to apologize to God, Gina.  God forgave you a long time ago.  Rest now; you’ve ended your journey.  The door will never shut behind you.”