Surviving

Feeling the warmth of the sun on a cloudy day. A glimpse into a blind billy goat's unique, ever changing perspectives.

10 24 2014 Four Times Twice October 24, 2014

Four Times Twice

It’s a good thing I’m taking a math class. That way, I can determine how many weeks I have been in school so far. Now then, let’s see. Four, times twice, well, that should be like, umm, double up on the four? Right? Which should be, umm, oh I don’t know, err, 8?

Ding, ding, ding! Tell him what he’s won Johnny!

It’s a brand new week of school! Yes, that’s right. I’ve won me another week on campus, full of people who want to learn just as much as me!

Eight weeks of school. Eight weeks of college behind me. Eight weeks of campus achievement that I never have to give back. Eight weeks, and it’s all mine.

Almost two whole months of higher education, surrounded by other people who want to help me get smarter. Fifty six days of mind bending aerobics, dipped in savory curricular sauce, and smothered onto the most intriguing tasting tid bit my world has ever seen. Give me a napkin and show me where the bowl of dipping sauce is, because I’m hungry!

I guess I always had a passion for learning. I remember when I was a little tyke back in Little Falls grade school. I had three friends in my class, all boys of course, and we were all constantly going at each other, trying to outsolve, out learn, out test each other. It was like our own private competition, and we were good at it. I got straight A’s up till junior high school. It’s something that I always did, and it didn’t seem like it was really that hard. Well, I guess it didn’t seem hard because I concentrated and applied myself to the level that I was capable of doing.

Time sure has a way of changing some things though, and sometimes it’s not for the best.

I’m not sure what happened to me, other than to tell you that outside influences seemed to latch onto me and yank me sideways, and I found myself not caring, not wanting, not understanding how important a good, well earned education was, or should be, or could have been. I got caught up in a world of influence and peer pressure and it wasn’t too long before I completely lost my drive, my passion and my urge to gain knowledge.

I started hanging around the wrong crowd, and even though it felt like the right thing to do, it led me down the wrong path that wound up convincing myself that dropping out of school was the proper thing to do.

There’s no doubt that drugs and alcohol were at the top of the list of things that persuaded me of stopping my creativity, ending my intuition, putting a halt to gaining every single day. Drugs and alcohol stripped me of so many things that I had been taking for granted, and it wasn’t long before a different young man was looking back from the mirror.

Needless to say, a spiraling trend downward left me dropping out of school my senior year, I guess so that I could go to work full time and make more money. More money to me meant only one thing. More Money to Party!

I don’t really need to go into the details. I imagine most of you can muster up a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.

So much wasted time. So much wasted effort. So much for continued education. I never really thought of myself as someone who would ever go to college. Perhaps that’s why this seems so unbelievable to me. Perhaps that’s why I feel quite determined to prove my old way of thinking wrong. Perhaps I feel I have something to prove to myself. Perhaps.

We live our lives as we see fit. We go through the motions at times, unaware of any other motions that could, or should come into play. We live and learn, but there’s always room for improvement. What we don’t know, we have never known, or knew and forgot, or just thought they must have been talking about someone else. Whatever it is, for whatever reason, taking that initial step sometimes proves to be the hardest thing about the learning process. After that, it’s amazing how our instincts sometimes have a habit of taking over and having their way with this learning thing.

There’s quite a lot I don’t know. There’s quite a lot that I’d like to know. There’s a lot of time that I’ll never get back. There’s only so much time ahead of me.

There’s no time like the present. Right?

 

10 10 14 Seven Weeks October 10, 2014

Good Bye Week Seven

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in college for seven weeks now. Each week, from the time I climb up the staircase in Hinckley on Monday morning, to when my ride arrives to take me home on Thursday afternoon in Fairfield, it’s a blinding blur, brought on by a beautifully woven tapestry of campus activity. I don’t know where the time goes, but man oh man does it ever.

I’ve experienced many firsts in 45 days. I’ve soared through the highs, sidestepped along the lows, made a few friends, learned a few things, been reminded of a few more, and I have to keep telling myself that I’m just getting started.

I’ve had a few fits with my new laptop, or should I say, a few more than a few. I am gaining with Windows 8.1 though, and as far as Office 2013? Well, let’s just say I haven’t thought of anything nice to call a ribbon yet. I’m working on it though, and sooner or later, those pesky little buggers will pay!

I’ve had some days when my lack of vision hasn’t bothered me, and other days when it was all I could think of. What I’m able to see changes as quickly as the weather, and if it wasn’t for the hours and hours of mobility lessons I had this summer, I’d probably still be trying to find the staircase in the Averill building in Hinckley. Probably be trying to find the doorway into King 112 also. How much I can see through my fogged up, waxed paper view really determines how some of my days progress.

My health has been good though, which I should never take for granted.

I have some wonderful instructors who have bent over backwards to try and give me the materials in an accessible format. You have no idea how wonderful it is to know that you all have my best interest at heart. None of this would be possible without your accommodations and insight, and I thank you all.

There have been a few things that have sent me spiraling, but with each incident, I absorb, adapt and advance towards the next opportunity to experience and learn.

I have been offered help by a number of students in a number of different situations, and all of them have been met with a slice of humility that reminds me just how generous and compassionate the human heart is.

I have come a long way in seven weeks. I have learned a lot, but mostly I have discovered an unquenchable thirst to learn even more. I’ll never get back the years that have led me to this point, but without them, I probably would have ended up somewhere else, and I think I prefer being right where I am.

I’ve learned how to see things differently these past four years, these past seven weeks, and the gained insight can be measured only with my actions and abilities.

Accessibility has come a long, long ways over the years. I couldn’t have picked a better time to have lost my sight. With all the technological advances that the digital world has brought to the blind community, it’s exciting to think where it’s headed, and what will become the norm in probably just a few short years. I don’t take anything for granted any more. I can’t afford to.

It’s been seven short weeks of one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It’s been 45 days of highs and lows, surrounded by pure possibility.

I look forward to the next seven weeks with courage, faith and hope, thanks in part from the encouragement I continue to get from all around.

I am extremely blessed to have crossed paths with you all.

dp.

 

10 08 14 Blinding Speed October 8, 2014

I sat in the doctor’s office in Boston feeling absolutely sorry for myself. I hadn’t been blind long, but it seemed a thousand years of hell. I hadn’t been sightless long, but I couldn’t remember what it was like to see. I hadn’t been in the dark for very long, but it sure seemed long enough.

No matter how I approached my seemingly unavoidable demise, no matter how I tried to regroup, no matter how I tried to remain positive, the barrage of unanswerable questions kept pounding me down deeper into the mud. Every time I found the strength to slowly pick myself up, another unsuspecting question came along and threw me back down into the cold, wet, breathless mud. One minute I felt like I stood a small chance of figuring it all out, and the next minute I felt like a devastated beggar, standing in line for a zip loc baggie half full of stale bread crumbs. I hated where I was, and where I was was all that I had. My life was gone. My wife was talking to me, but it felt like she was a million lifetimes away. My job was over, my hobbies were lost, my house had disappeared, my garden had up and walked away, my ash tree out by the well cover, my two dogs, my work truck, my double row of spruce trees, my son, my grandson, everything that was what I called life was all taken from me in the blink of a sightless eye and hidden deep into the darkness. The same cold, endless darkness that swallowed the world that was spinning around me at blinding speed, laughing and poking and ridiculing me until I crawled into a corner and curled up into a surrendered ball of brutalized blindness. What I had was what I didn’t expect, and what I had to look forward to was what I could never want. The troubles of my past seemed laughable compared to the destruction that had broken into my house and devastated the foundations of my home.

It hurt when I tried to think. It hurt when I tried to smile. It hurt when I tried to breathe. It hurt when I tried to live. From time to time the surging tide of disaster would ease, but as quick as it lowered, it came rushing back in with twice the force, completely catching me by surprise every time and leaving me bruised and scarred. It resembled what I would only be able to describe as hell, and no matter how much I didn’t realize or agree with it, I was in complete control of it all.

Not until I realized this did my future seem possible without vision. Not until I figured out that life was a train, and I was the conductor did any of it make sense. Not until I remembered that this life we live is reflective of situations that present themselves, and the choices we make with them define our character and set in motion our futures. When I remembered that this precious thing that I had been experiencing for nearly fifty years was a gift, and that each day opened up a newly wrapped present to live and love, only then did my future start to whisper to me and tell me that just perhaps everything would be ok.

I had been through trials and tribulations throughout my life, and for the most part, I had always been able to shrug them off, learn from them and keep on chugging along. It’s who I had become and it’s what I became used to. We all go through our own ups and downs, and we all find ways to cope and live with and through it all. We always find a way to absorb, adapt and advance our way into tomorrow, and when tomorrow does finally come, there we are again, smack dab in the middle of another experience.

Four short years have gone by. Four trips around the calendar have grabbed me and pulled me into today. Four amazing years of first times, first tries, first firsts have grabbed hold of me and pulled me off to the side, just to show me something different about life.

Four years have shaped and molded me into something I never thought I would become. With all the new gray hairs and all of the broken white cane tips, I have come to realize that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be ok. I won’t know until I try, that is, I won’t know until I grab my cane and head out the door to see what I can bump into, or trip over, or knock over. I’ve come a long way these past four years. I’ve felt a lot of things, heard a lot of things, learned a lot of things and even seen a lot of things. I always tell people that it’s as if I became blind so that I could finally see. I don’t know what I’m looking at half the time, but I always know what it is that I can see.

If you see me coming at you, it probably means I have some place to go, or I’m looking for more chocolate.

Life is so short. If we only knew just how short it actually is, perhaps our journey would look a little different. I think back on my own journey of the past 52 months. I think back and try to take it all in, but there’s just too much of it. If the last four years are any indication of what the next four will bring, I’m in for one hell of a ride.

 

2014 09 21 So Long Week Four September 21, 2014

So Long Week Four

Well here I am, smack dab at the end of week four, and all I can do is root through the ups and downs of some of the fastest four weeks of my life. Through the month, I have tried to remain as positive as possible, and for the most part, I have remained grateful. I have stepped back when I needed stepping back. I took advice and used it when advice was exactly what I needed. I asked for help when I learned it’s sometimes what I do best. I accepted help when it presented itself, and though sometimes I didn’t feel that I needed it, I graciously humbled my ego and grabbed an elbow.

I forgot my cane one day, my ear buds another, and my digital recorder made it with me every single day of the month. I’d say that ain’t too bad for a rusty, dusty, tattered, old billy goat from the ridge. Actually, I’d say it was frigging amazing. Grin

I have been tugged back and forth with accessibility issues, mostly having to do with my laptop. Thank you Mr. Tardif for your patience and understanding. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. One thing I did was make a promise to myself that I would do my part to go the extra mile and try not to be a burden on my classmates, instructors, tutors and whomever I come in contact with. I am old school, molded by the hands of an old school father, and although he might not know it, I am a chip off the old block.

It would have benefitted me if I would have started learning my Windows 8 laptop earlier in the summer, but it just didn’t happen. Neither did learning Office 2013. Did I ever tell you I hate ribbons? If not, then let me tell you, I most undoubtedly do. I suppose I had been able to cheat with my Office 2003. You see, my sight was still with me back when I used the old fashioned tab menus and drop lists. I could picture them in my mind and was comfortable with them. I was never much of an Office user, but I was familiar with how to go about using it. Not so with these pesky ribbons. Not so to the nth degree.

Did I ever tell you I hate ribbons? I’m not too fond of bows either, and it’s all Microsoft’s fault. I await the release of Windows 9 and pray it falls back upon some overdue logic.

I have had a few mishaps with my mobility, but not too many. I had a young girl graciously open the right door of a double door set for me a couple weeks ago, and I walked right into the door on the left. I can imagine how it looked. My hat flipped up on my head, my knee rattled the door’s frame and my foot kicked the door. The only thing that didn’t come in contact with the door, was my cane! Go figure. All I could do was mumble, “Well I guess I found that door alright.” I’m glad I couldn’t see, because I’d rather not know who was watching. That set me back for a half hour or so, but I eventually shrugged it off as just another one of those things that I probably could have avoided, but didn’t.

I have kicked a chair. Ok, ok, I have kicked several chairs. I have pounded a desk with my thigh a few times, knocked someone’s pencil, or pen, off their desk. I have walked into a parking slot when I thought it was a sidewalk. I have only walked into the wrong classroom four times though, and that is perty darn good for a cane smacker. I haven’t tripped anyone up with my cane yet, and care not to think about that day which surely do cometh.

I have been blessed to have both of my current text books available for the Learning Ally program. I am accessing them on my iPod Touch, and it is so much more accessible on that platform versus my desktop or laptop. I know there will come the day when I won’t be able to get a text book in this format, and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now though, I am smiling with the accessibility and praising those who deserve praising.

Week four is behind me now, and it seems almost too good to be true. I remember waddling around campus this summer, trying to figure out how on earth I was going to pull this college thing off. I didn’t have a clue where I was going to collect the courage from. Funny thing is, all I had to do was let the inspiration of the last four years settle in and take its place. I have found so much of it, and so many places where it comes to good use.

I know it’s only four weeks, but it’s four more weeks than I had just four weeks ago.

Thanks KVCC, the blind community, DBVI, Sarge, my family, friends and anyone else I haven’t tripped up with my cane yet.

Look out double doors! Here I come!

 

2014 09 09 Looking Back on Week Two September 9, 2014

Looking Back on Week Two

As I look ahead at the possibilities, I look back at the opportunities that have crossed my path. Week two at KVCC is behind me, and although I still pinch myself from time to time, I remember it all. Every cane sweeping moment is lodged firmly in my dusty bucket of brains, and as I head into week three, I feel poised and ready for more.

I never really know what my days are going to produce for situations and obstacles. I never know how the twisting, turning road will come at me, and I try to find time during my day to stop and thank my lucky stars that I had the chance to do what I did over the summer.

From the orientation and mobility lessons, to getting to spend some time with the KVCC administration and faculty, to being afforded a helping of digital tuning, I had a unique chance to catch a small glimpse of college life, even if but for a moment or two. The insights and perceptions I gained over the summer months helped me to prepare for what the fall semester would bring. Oh yes, there have been those unexpected moments of anxious stares into the unknown, but with them, came a calming sense of accomplishment for what I had already worked through with the preparation.

The biggest plus of all, is the comforting feeling that I know where I am at all times when I am on campus. I know how to get from King to Lunder. I know where Room 107 is, and how to get to King 112. I know my way through Carter, up those dreaded split stairs, out through the zig zag sidewalk towards the King, and through the dreaded interior of the King building, on my way through to Lunder and the Learning Commons. It’s such a good feeling to not have to worry about how to get from here, to wherever there is. For me, being oriented is half the battle. Not having to worry about where I am all the time has freed up my brain to try and focus on other more important things, like school work, my laptop, my recordings, people’s names. Things like that.

I did have to work my way into the swing of things, such as maneuvering through crowded halls and stairwells, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before I’ll feel more comfortable with that as well. It reminds me of my days at the Carroll Center in Newton back in 2010. Those first few weeks were a worrying frenzy of trying not to trip up folks with my cane, not falling down a stairwell, wondering why the elevator door kept opening up in the basement, trying to figure out how to make it from the fish bowl, to the ?Rose Room. It all came to me in time, and with a lot of hard work. I have done the hard work during these past few months, and now I have even more hard work to do. What a trade. Grin

Fact is, I am where I am because of my own perseverance, by the Grace of God, and by the hands of some very knowledgeable and intuitive professionals who know how to help a blind man to see.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to train my brain again with how to study, how to focus, how to pay attention, organize, figure out and get the point. It will take me even longer to dust off the cobwebs and break out the ways of old. I always took pride in being a quick study in my younger years. I never took advantage of it as I should have, and now, because I waited so long, I have my work cut out for me. It’s something I chose though, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think I would have it any other way.

My brain has come a long way in four years. I have learned how to sort and manipulate my data intake a lot differently than I have ever been used to. I am probably using parts of my brain that have been lying dormant for quite some time. Perhaps maybe forever? Who knows. All I do know is that I smell smoke from time to time, and it isn’t because someone is burning the blueberry field.

What I’m trying to say is thanks. Who I’m saying thanks to, is all of you. Where I need to be is right where I am. The only person I need to impress, is myself.

Ready? Ok then.

Here we go!

 

2014 09 01 Week One September 1, 2014

Week one has come and gone, and with it, a drumming heart beat that kept in time with a lingering melody that walked beside me all the while. Like a familiar taste on the tip of my tongue, this rhyming rhythm threw down its poetic verse as if daring me to keep pace with my own sweeping steps. Every where I turned, everywhere I stepped, everywhere I swept and tapped my cane, everywhere I stood and listened, the musical chimes of a campus come alive, wrapped its soaring chords I have grown to love around my searching ears and hummed a soothing tune, as if it were meant especially for me.

The hallways chorused in with their symphonic overture, like a magnum opus of the richest kind. I had heard the footsteps before, but never crafted as clear as I did these first few days. I had walked right along side the mentoring tutors of old, but rarely had I ever felt as big a part of something as grand as this. I had tasted those seeds of wisdom from days ago, but the flavor was unlike what I savored this past week.

As I walked and swept my way down through the corridors and stairwells, I was reminded of a boy who hopped and ran through those hallways of yesterday. I was reminded of a yearning from once upon a boy, of a magnet pulling at my metallic soul, that same soul that pounds away inside me today. I remembered back, and as a smile crept across my face, I became aware of a feeling of belonging to something that has always been there, but I never took the time to pay mind to.

It’s such an elusive chore really, to know where you are, and to be able to breathe in every ounce of the goodness. It’s a gift from the here and now, a treasure that remains always in view. It has always been, and will always be the gift of the present, wrapped inside today and waiting to be experienced.

I could hear it throughout the halls this week. I could tell that something special was going on, and as the sounds came cascading in, I became aware of how grateful I felt to be a small part of it.

The learning never stops. The yearning remains alive. The fires from deep inside have once again been ignited by a constant source of energy from a campus in Central Maine.

The things I once dreamed have come true. The things I never thought reachable have wrapped their arms around me.

I hear a welcoming voice inviting me in. Sensing an opportunity, I reach out and grab hold of the moment. If but for only a moment, I will cling tightly and open my mind.

Week one has come and gone, and as I sit back and reflect, I hear the faint calling as the halls beckon me towards week 2.

 

2014 08 20 The Bell Rings August 20, 2014

And away I go, down through the hall. The lights overhead help guide me along the echoing path as I step towards my future. A door to the right, a door to the left, a dull light starts to show itself ahead of me. I smack my white cane against the walls of the corridor. The crack of the stick upon brick rings down along the narrow hall as I pass under another ceiling light.

Where am I going? Who is that I hear? Am I walking towards something significant? Is there a purpose or an ingredient cleverly hidden somewhere inside this never ending tunnel? I sense someone, then someone else, walking towards and past me. I feel the strangely familiar energy all around me. I smell an awareness that has somehow eluded me until now. I reach out and try to touch the energy that is coming at me from every angle.

A light appears from the corner of my eye. It’s another dull, murky reminder of those visions that remain just out of reach. I stop my sweeping. I stop my stepping. I stop my breathing. I stop, I turn and I listen. My senses switch on. The light is coming from a room and I am drawn to it as though it was meant just for me.

I brush my forearms against a doorway as I head towards the light. The light is brighter now, and a different echo takes control of my perception. A hollow echo. A beckoning echo. A welcoming echo that hugs me tight and welcomes me into its faintly familiar feel.

Slowly I sweep and move through the hollowed room. Carefully I make my way towards the light ahead of me. My cane smacks something to the right, then cracks against something to the left. A force pulls me to the left as I methodically make my way towards yet another unknown.

The feeling begins to grow. The past sings softly at my side as I reach out and down. My fingers slide across a smooth, flat surface with rounded edges. I shuffle my feet and slide around the smooth surface, and there it is. As I reach down, I feel the welcoming whisper of a rolling chair. As I slide the chair carefully away from the smooth, flat surface, I position myself in front of it and then, I sit.

The room swirls around me with a hundred memories from decades before. I hear the sounds of chair legs dragging across the floor. I hear the laughter as it races past the outside in the hallway. I feel the chalk as it drags across the freshly cleaned board. I feel the electricity of the gathered young as they wait, patiently for the lessons to be learned. I taste the sweet flavor as life’s nectar fills my soul with the yearning’s of a young boy.

I take a deep breath and ready myself for another taste of a higher plateau.

Am I where I’m supposed to be? Am I as ready as I could be? Am I aware of how grateful I should be? Am I able to grab hold of the day and seize control of my own personal destiny?

The room begins to fill with footsteps, voices, promise and hope.

The bell rings as a quieting hush hugs the room.

School has begun.

 

 
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