Through our lives, there are things, circumstances, interactions that can change the course of our lives. Many things after 2010 did exactly that, and along with these happenstances, I have learned a great deal.
This next page describes one of those moments that changed my direction. It led me towards a body of people who not only inspired me, but who also taught me about a different kind of family, a different kind of commitment. As long as I continue to have them in my life, the inspiration will continue.
Written June 2017, describing Late summer, fall 2011.
The summer months came and went. My interaction with the two writing groups really kicked into gear, and the word documents began to appear under my fingertips. I especially remember falling in love with writer prompts, which is when you are given a theme, a subject, a few lines of action, and from these prompts, well, it is amazing the different stories that unfolded onto the screen. I loved to write, and it was starting to show.
I hadn’t had any interaction with any blind folks, other than my first VRC Leona. The only visually impaired people I had met were the ones at the week long employment workshop back in the spring, and other than trying to stay in touch with them via email, they just sort of faded back into the worlds they had come from. I do still get emails from one of them, and am in touch with another one through ACB, but that’s been it. I didn’t know any blind people to speak of, and just kept poking along as usual.
The weeks kept piling up and fall was on the move. I had always loved the fall season, with the leaves changing and the air becoming brisk, especially in the mornings. Fall was always the busy time for me with my job. People were starting to gear up for winter driving, which meant they might need a new set of snow tires. Who you gonna call? Me, the tire biter extraordinaire! Grin
My wife gave me the name, “Tire Biter”, and in our house, it stuck like glue. She used to joke about me and my physical abilities. She would describe me as riding around the country side, reaching into the back of my truck while I was driving, and flinging the tires out to my customers as I drove by. She likened the experience to, “pinging” the tires. Yes, I was fairly strong statured, and physically agile from many years of heavy lifting, but each time she described my animated role, well, I’m chuckling now thinking about it.
I miss the fall months and being able to ride through central Maine as the scenery turned into pure magnificence. The routes up through Farmington, Sugarloaf, Rangely, down to the coast, through Knox County, it was utterly beautiful, and from 2006 through 2010 I did my best to capture it all on my first digital camera.
That fall saw me reminiscing back through the years as I flipped through my mental photo album. Endless mindful collages of people, family, pets, nature, smiles and birthdays and Christmases and reunions and especially those simplest things of all. I constantly reached in to pull out a handful of images from my past, for they were the only things I had that remotely resembled the present.
Yes, fall came, and with it, my introduction to the American Council of the Blind of Maine. I got a call one evening from a woman who was involved with the group, as well as the Clinton Lions Club. Mary Ellen Frost invited me to sit in on the ACB’s annual conference, which was being held in nearby Waterville. I accepted the invitation and agreed to sit in on the morning session.
Comparing my nervousness of the past when it had to do with things of this nature, I didn’t feel anxious or nervous leading up to the next morning. I suppose that having so many mobility lessons had built up my ability to go at new things head on, without those same internal emotions that used to really grab hold of me in the past. I had felt the complete gambit of emotions, many, many times, and this experience was no different than any of those that O&M brought on.
The next morning came, and Lynne and I made the short trek into Waterville. I didn’t know what to expect, and tried to approach this brand new opportunity with a wide open mind.
Mary Ellen met my wife and I in the motel lobby, and from there, she escorted me into the conference room. She sat me down at a table with Carson Wood, a long time ACB member. He didn’t seem very interested in striking up a conversation with me, and before I knew it, Mary Ellen grabbed me and led me to another table loaded up with women. Nervously, I sat down and was instantly surrounded with questions, comments and through all of their interaction, I felt like I was at a very welcoming social event.
As the morning session got underway, I was helped back to the table with Carson. I don’t think we uttered more than a few casual words to each other through the remainder of the morning, so I tried to focus on the speakers for the next couple hours.
One of the speakers, Brian Charlson, was the director of the Tech department at the Carroll Center. He was the one who interviewed me for possible selection into their office skills program, which I never got the chance to attend. Brian talked about assistive technology, and in particular, iPhones and iPads. I had heard his presentation back at the Carroll Center, and with a few additional bits of new information, he once again graced the room with his tech savvy abilities.
The morning went along, and through it all, I was a little overwhelmed with all of the information. The director of DBVI, John McMahon, was in attendance, and delivered his presentation in a well rehearsed fashion. The rest of the folks that spoke I wasn’t familiar with, so a lot of the morning ended up turning into a barrage of white noise. Too much information at a hurried clip entered my noggin and swirled around until most of it ended up blowing back out through my ears. Still though, I was very grateful for the opportunity and in the end I realized that they had sold me on becoming a member.
At the time, I wasn’t aware of the NFB, (National Federation of the Blind). Sure, I had probably heard the name a few times, along with ACB, but didn’t really understand who they were, or what they did. Having the chance to sit and listen to the morning session gave me a great deal to think about, and think I did.
To be continued…