by Nancy Scott
I sometimes wonder how my parents managed to raise two children, one of whom was totally blind. Hindsight is 20/20, even when you can’t see. So now I see many things my parents must have been very grateful for as I grew up.
For instance, they surely celebrated my ability to tell time. This was partly because I was a responsible child (or early control-freak). If my mother said “Inside by five,” I’d verbally start coralling my brother around twenty of.
Braille watches were and are expensive and fragile. The lids open and expose the hands. You can’t get them dirty or wet. I was not a fragile child. I went through more than a watch a year. But my new watch always arrived after about two weeks of my constantly asking, “What time is it?”
My parents were also grateful that I liked reading. They wanted me to have an education. They also wanted me to have something to do in the back of the car during three-hour trips to relatives’ houses. Beating my brother up or constantly asking “What do you see out the window now?” were somehow not agreeable childhood behaviors.
Until I could be distracted by novel-length Braille books, my parents spent considerable energy on an invented game concerning “claiming” expensive cars my family saw as we travelled. I of course was score-keeper. For instance, if someone claimed a wrong car or a car no one else saw, they lost one car and I got one. If two people claimed the same car at the same time, I got the car. My mother was bad at “Claim It,” so I got a lot of cars. Until adulthood I never suspected the game’s true purpose.
And speaking of long car trips, my parents probably breathed a huge sigh of relief when I mysteriously lost the very small amount of light-perception that I had. Its only practical application was knowing if flashlights worked when they held them up to my face. But seeing bright light from the corner of my left eye meant I could see cars’ passing lights. I counted 86 of them one night coming home from a New York visit to my grandmother. I thought I was very clever, but my parents tired of confirming each set of lights.
Naturally my parents’ gratitude list was longer than three things. Like when I finally learned about line-of-sight and stopped sticking my tongue out and annoying grown-ups who could see me but weren’t in the same room. (I also learned about corners.) Or that I finally got scared and stopped begging my mother to stay up with me for late-night horror movies. But you get the idea.
Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet. Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.