Surviving

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

2017 08 01: Page 46 and a Half August 2, 2017

Ok then, and here we go, again. This following page isn’t from my journal, but rather from the series of lesson overviews I wrote back when I was taking the O&M lessons. This particular overview describes the last lesson of the original structure I worked from following my initial vision loss of 2010. This overview is rather long, and I apologize for that. I didn’t want to cut and chop the original piece, and figured it was best as it is.

I thank you for your patience, and hope this finds you doing well.

Best to you all, and away we go, again.

dp

***

Page 46 and a Half
2012 05 14 Mobility Lesson Overview

Let me start this lesson overview by saying that this will probably be my last written lesson recap , as my orientation and mobility program is winding down. It has been a long, hard, difficult and grueling twenty or so months since I first held a mobility cane, and there has been a lot learned. I have overcome and worked through many different obstacles in this time. I have been shown how to deal with different dilemmas, and have been taught the skills necessary to take on the world and be an independent traveler. I have been shown how to work through difficult situations, and I have been praised, as well as reprimanded, when the time was right. I have learned how to take my fears and worries and nightmares, and turn them into a tremendous opportunity for growth and maturity. I have been blessed to have been given the opportunity to turn the frightened, vulnerable person from those dark days in early summer 2010, into a capable, independent individual, who just happens to be blind.

This last lesson proved to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It proved to be some of the best learning blocks I have been able to be a part of. It proved to be one of the best days with my cane I have ever had.

Several weeks ago, Rosemary told me of the lesson that she had in mind, and left it up to me to come up with a plan of attack, and to carry out the lesson on my own.

The objective was to plan a trip from my home, to the Apple store, located in the Maine Mall in South Portland, where I was to meet up with Rosemary. At first, I wanted nothing to do with this lesson, and cringed at the thought. These initial reactions were the norm for my ordinary past characteristics to something of this magnitude. Over several days of thinking about the chore I had been handed, I continued to fall back on the promise I made to myself when this journey of mine came to be. I remembered that I promised myself that I would not walk away from any challenge that presented itself to me, no matter how much I wanted to. This promise has proved to be more than beneficial to me on many occasions, as I have been confronted with many obstacles and situations that I would have normally run away from. Once again I was confronted with another difficult task that I could not afford to veer away from

Trying to lay out the lesson in my head proved to be rather confusing at first. I guess I try to figure it out in one fell swoop, and without being able to jut down notes, or map out the lesson on a piece of paper is quite trying at times for this soggy melon sitting on my shoulders.

The first thing I needed to accomplish was to learn the schedules of the three different buses that I needed to use on the lesson. The first bus, the KVCAP bus from Waterville was fairly familiar to me, as I had taken that particular route a couple times in the past few months. It was determined that the best time would be the 8:30 bus, which would put me at the Concord Coach terminal in Augusta at approximately 9:15 that morning.

After calling the Concord terminal, I was able to plan the second leg of the lesson, which would have me on a bus, departing from Augusta at 10:15, and arriving at the Portland terminal at around 11:25. This part of the lesson had me a little worried as I failed to fully prepare for the transition from the Concord Portland terminal, out to the Portland city bus stop, which was the starting point of the last bus leg of the lesson. I also had to do some last minute preparations for when I arrived at the Maine Mall. When I say, “last minute”, I literally mean it, as the last leg of the lesson was not fully initiated until I arrived at the mall.

The calling, and planning by me was done rather sporadically, in that I did not follow each step of the planning in an orderly fashion. I ended up zig-zagging from one step, ahead to another step, then back a couple to one of the earlier overlooked steps. I was a little upset that I let my planning get distracted, but I suppose that by having the end product reaching the initial goal, well, it all worked out in the end.

In the future, I should be able to better sort out the planning, and make sure that each step is done in order, so as to not have the burdens of loose ends cause any grief during the actual trip.

After getting a ride from my wife to the Concourse in Waterville, I hopped onto the 8:30 bus to Augusta with no problems. There was one other gentleman waiting for the same bus, and we struck up a nice conversation.

I informed the bus driver that I was going to the Concord Coach terminal, and asked her if the bus drop off point was in front of the doors, or would I have some maneuvering to do in order to get inside the terminal. She informed me that she would be able to drop me off directly in front of the terminal entrance. She did, and I entered the building with no issues. After strolling carefully through the open room of the terminal, I was asked by the head clerk if I needed assistance. He directed me to the counter, where I purchased the ticket for the 10:15 bus to Portland. I asked him if it would be possible to have some assistance when I arrived in Portland, as I needed help to get out to the bus stop to catch the Portland Metro bus to the Mall. He told me that he would call the Portland terminal to let them know, and also let the bus driver know. I felt perfectly at ease with this information, and settled into a seat to wait for the departure time.

The next hour was filled with sounds of travelers arriving at the terminal, in anticipation of taking the Portland bus. It did get rather loud and busy inside the terminal, and this did create a little anxiety for me. I have always gotten excited in situations such as this, and without the visual input, I felt a little uneasy by all of the commotion going on around me. Please understand me though, when I say that the level of anxiety that I did feel was very small compared to how I would have been just a few short months ago. I have learned with my lessons, and am able to take charge of my emotions, so as not to let them overwhelm me as they have done so many times these past two years.

The bus departure was announced over the loud speaker, and I could tell where the passengers were leaving the terminal towards the Portland bus, so I got up and started maneuvering towards the doors to the bus. I was approached by the head clerk, and he told me he would be happy to help me get out through the doors, and onto the bus. I told him I would appreciate the help, and was told to wait in the lobby, as he had to go out first and help the driver load the bags into the storage compartments of the bus.

I did take a few steps towards the doors, as I could see the contrast from the light outside. As I approached the doors, I was asked by a passenger if I would like some help outside. I accepted his offer, and made it out to the bus, and in line to board. The driver of the bus came up to me and introduced himself to me, and then offered assistance to board the bus. Once again, I accepted the offering, and soon found myself in the front seat, immediately behind the driver. I sat down and took a deep breath, and felt relaxed, as I had an hour to go before I arrived in Portland. This would supply me with ample time to regain any lost composure, but it also gave me time to recapture some unwanted anxiety, as I was still unsure of the next part of the lesson.

The bus pulled into Portland on time, and as soon as I exited the bus, I was approached by an employee of the Concord Coach’s Portland terminal. He introduced himself to me, and said he would be able to help me out to the Portland Metro bus stop. I felt like I had cheated some how, as this seemed to be a little too easy. I had major concerns about this portion of the lesson, and having him sighted guide me all the way out to the bus stop, well, it was a very good feeling, and I think I shook his hand eleven times as I thanked him.

As I stood at the bus stop enclosure, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I felt a sense of pride. I felt like I was a million miles from home. I felt a little like an out of place wandering nomad, looking for the next ride to take him to places unknown. It felt exhilarating, and scary, and unbelievably electrifying. I had been in Portland so many times in the past, but this was the first time I had felt like I was really “in” Portland. I felt a little overwhelmed with all of the sounds and smells and as I stood there, I realized that at that particular time, I was experiencing the end results of all of the hard work I had done in all of my lessons. I was being rewarded the fruits of my labor. I was being handed something new, and for the most part, I knew exactly what to do. It felt good, and new, and strangely appropriate.

As I waited for the 11″35 bus to the mall, a young girl came up to the bus stop. I could hear her drop her heavy suitcase, and immediately asked her if she was taking the bus out to the mall. She said that she had been on the bus from Augusta with me, and that she was taking the bus out to the airport, and wasn’t sure if it was the same bus that I was waiting for. The bus stop apparently had a placard on the inside wall that contains the bus routes and numbers of the bus line, and as she studied the information, she told me that indeed, we were waiting for the same bus. I smiled as another piece of the puzzle fell into place.

She told me that she was heading home to New Mexico, and had just finished her year at Colby college. I told her that I lived nearby Waterville. She seemed a little preoccupied, and restrained from talking to me, so I ended the conversation.

As she told me that she needed to go back to the terminal to get some change, the bells from a nearby railroad track sounded. Once again I was hit head on with just how far from home I was, and how vulnerable I felt. This feeling didn’t last long though, as the sound of the approaching bus took charge of the moment.

The bus pulled up to the stop, and the doors opened, with the driver shouting out to me, asking me if I was going to the mall. I smiled and hollered yes. As I approached the bus, he informed me that there was about a foot gap between the curb, and the bus entrance. I thanked him as I climbed on board. As I handed him the fare, he informed me that there were seats open right away on the left. I quickly smacked my way to an open seat. Just as I sat down, I felt a large bag plopping onto the seat to my right. It was the young girl whom I had been chatting with at the bus stop. I smiled, sat back, and took another deep breath. Another piece of the puzzle had been firmly put in place, with just a couple more to go.

The bus ride to the mall was full of all types of audible excitement. The sounds of the air brakes, the city traffic, car horns, sirens, and the sounds of the passengers in the bus, it all sounded wonderfully busy to me. It sounded as though I was listening to a movie. It sounded like I was heading to the mall, and as I smiled again, the bus loud speaker bellowed, “Macy’s, Maine Mall, next stop.”

The bus stopped, and as I got up and moved towards the front of the bus, the driver asked me if I needed help exiting the bus. I smiled, and politely told him that I didn’t. He again told me that there was about a foot gap between the bottom step, and the sidewalk. I thanked him again, and smacked my way down the steps, and out onto the sidewalk in front of Macy’s.

I swept and took several steps until I found the wall of the store, where I turned, took another deep breath, and smiled as I reached into my pocket for my digital recorder, and my cell phone.

I had recorded all of the information that I would need for the trip on my recorder, and quickly found the recording for the Mall Security phone number, which I called. I told the officer on the other end that I had arrived at the Macy’s stop of the Metro route, and that I needed assistance to get into the mall, and to the Apple store. After ending the call, I leaned onto my cane, and wondered if Rosemary was near the area, watching and waiting. I smiled again, and chuckled under my breath.

A couple minutes later I heard the faint sound of keys jingling, and wondered if it was one of the security officers approaching. It was, and as I took his arm, I smiled again. The last piece of the puzzle took it’s place. The finished product, nearly complete. I was on my way into the Mall, and to the Apple store

As we arrived at the store, he asked me if there was someone I was supposed to meet, and what they looked like. As soon as I described Rosemary, I heard her voice behind me, to my left. At that point, I started celebrating in my mind. The confetti and balloons started falling, and as the master of ceremonies congratulated me, I took another deep breath. I had made it. I had successfully thought out, planned, and carried out my last mobility lesson. The hardest lesson of all. The most gratifying lesson of all. The ending lesson of a long line of mind bending, twist turning, gut wrenching stepping stones of the past twenty-one months.

I thanked the Security Officer, shook his hand, and turned my attention to Rosemary. she asked if I was hungry, and I assured her that I was. We made our way to the area of the mall where the food court is located, with her sighted guiding me through the Mall.

We ordered a sandwich and found our seats, and as we sat there and ate, I couldn’t keep from wandering back through the past few hours. I kept going over the lesson, step by step in my head. I tried to stay focused on our discussion, but I found myself still sitting on one of the three buses, making my way to Portland. I felt wonderfully good, and as I took one more deep breath, I was able to take in all of the sounds of the Mall. I had grown up nearby, and had been in the Mall a hundred times during my youth. I knew exactly where I was, and exactly how I got there, and it felt satisfyingly wonderful.

We talked and ate our sandwiches, and then made our way back to the Apple store, where we got some information on some of the apps that are available for their products. I also got the chance to play a little with a new iPad. The store was alive with the sounds of technology. My heart was racing, and I tried to take it all in.

As we left the store, and headed outside to Rosemary’s car, I actually got a small sorrowed feeling that the lesson was finished. I realized that we still had an hour and a half ride back to Waterville, but the lesson felt like it had come to an end.

The ride home was full of discussion about the lesson, the past year and a half, and all of the things that blended into it all. Rosemary told me several times how proud of me she was, and how confident I looked as I stepped off the bus at the Mall. I suppose after hearing this from her, and from others, that it might be starting to sink in that I do have a strong appearance to other people. That how I appear to be on the outside is perhaps slightly similar to how I feel on the inside. Perhaps the scared little boy is starting to look and feel like a competent, capable, strong willed man. Perhaps I may fully take hold of these feelings in the future, but I must hold tight to that scared little boy on the inside who is constantly seeking experience and maturity. I need always remember where that scared little boy has been, and all that he has felt, and been scared of, and overcome, and held passions for. I can safely say that all of what that scared little boy has to offer, will always have a place in the life of the man that stands before the mirror these days. I can never let myself forget how far I have come, and will hopefully never lose focus on how much further I still have to go.

I realize that my journey is not so different than most peoples, in that I have to wake up every morning and live it, no matter what may come along the way. I take on the day, one step at a time. I live my life, one sweep of the cane at a time. I am like all the rest in that respect.

I remember back to the days that followed my sudden loss of vision, and I reflect back on how alone and fearful I was. I remember how much of my life I wanted to trade off. I would have given anything to have been able to work out a deal with God to trade all of my woes, misfortunes and just overall crappy luck for another day of sight. Just one more. That’s all I wanted.

I realize today that my life is right where it is supposed to be. All of the twists and turns that have led me to this day are for but one reason. I have learned what I needed to learn this past couple of years. I still have much to learn, and will take it on, one experience at a time.

I also feel that I needed to learn about other people as well. I needed to learn how to really feel gratitude. I needed to learn how to ask for help, and graciously accept it when it was offered. I have learned how to step back and feel the complete electric charge of pure humility. This, more than any other feeling, has helped me to overcome, and conquer my tightly twisted emotions that had been such an unanswered part of my life. I am able to feel those same emotions these days, and ride them through the experiences that have enabled me with so many wonderfully different learning moments.

I have so many things running through my mind as I write this overview. It is hard for me to put most of it into words, and as I try to get them into this document, I drift back and forth through time.

I realize that my future is at best, uncertain. I also realize that if I continue on the same paths of the last twenty or so months, I will be better prepared to handle the uncertainty of my future, one sweep at a time.

I can never properly express my humbled thanks to the Division for these learning opportunities, and for having such a wonderful instructor as Rosemary placed in my path. I am where I am today because of her devotion, steadfast drive, determination, and wonderfully natural guiding instincts. I am blessed to have been given the chance to work with her, and have grown quite fond of the comfortable feeling of knowing that she has always been just a few steps behind me, ready to teach, ready to praise, and ready to steer me straight.

I realize that every time I leave the comforts of my home, I will embark on a new mobility lesson. I realize that all of the variables of the day will continue to come cascading in on my world.

I also realize that I am no longer fearful of the unknown as I once was. I am ready, willing and able to tackle the rest of my life, one mobility lesson at a time.

To be continued…

 

2017 06 26 Journal Excerpt Page 40 June 26, 2017

 

Some days I don’t feel much like writing. Other days, it feels like I didn’t write enough, or I didn’t write about the right thing, or I strayed to the left when I should have veered to the right. Through all of my time spent writing, I have built up quite an assorted array of essays, stories, poems, and a ton of other things that I don’t really know what to call. Through my fingertips a new world has arrived, and as I have read back through this journal, I’m glad I was chosen to create the text.

 

In a word, thanks.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Page 40

Fall 2011

 

During the month of October, I had the chance to attend my first white cane and guide dog walk of independence in Augusta. My wife, son and grandson Jack also came along, and again I had the chance to meet some people in the blind community of Central Maine. The day was perfect, with warm temps and sunshine flooding the streets of the capitol, and as the canes and paws made our way around the downtown area, I realized that when it came to mobility with my white cane, I wasn’t alone.

 

My retired VRC Leona McKenna was also in attendance, but she wasn’t able to go on the walk with us. She had just been through a rather difficult surgery procedure on one of her feet, but she was there 100 percent in heart and spirit.

 

I did get the chance to talk with another woman, Marge Awalt, and her husband Hugh. They had brought a door prize with them, a voice activated dog that reacted to an accompanying book being read. Did I describe that good enough for you to follow along? Anyway, it was a pretty cool door prize that Jack ended up winning.

 

I just talked with my friend Lynn Merril on the phone, and she remembers being there. By the way, I should remind you again that this page post differs from others, in that I am writing it right now, the 25th of June, 2017. I am gap solving with additional journal info that I never wrote about, until now.

 

Well, the fall was full of differences, as you can imagine, and that I never would imagine. A funny thing happened on the way to writing a short story for my Saturday online writer’s group. We were directed to write a short story for Halloween, and so I set off on a quest to do just that.

 

I didn’t end up writing a short story though.

 

Usually short stories consist of roughly ten pages or so. As I started writing my story, something inside me kicked into gear. I knew after a couple pages that this story wasn’t going to be a short story. Just the way the events started happening, and the way that the movie inside my head was playing, I knew it was more than a short story.

 

Well, Saturday came, and during the group meeting everyone started discussing their stories. During the week leading up to the meeting, members usually submitted their writing piece to the groups list serve, an email list only accessible by group members. This way, the writers had a chance to read the other writer’s submissions in preparations for the next meeting.

 

Anyway, the online meeting started, and the critiques started flowing. When the critique moved to my submission, I told the members that I tried to write a short story, but couldn’t find an ending to it, so I submitted it anyway.

 

Everyone seemed to like the 8 or nine page submission, which I had entitled, Chapter One. There was another writer in the group who decided not to write a short story, but instead continued with chapters of a lengthy story he was writing. Even though I felt a little awkward not being able to end the short story, I shrugged it off as a stepping stone for things to come.

 

And come they did.

 

During this time, my sessions with Mike Adams also continued. I was becoming more comfortable with using my computer, as well as web stuff, in particular, my blog. I had started the blog off with posts declaring my hate for cancer. I had named the blog “Surviving”, as a reminder that I was a cancer survivor, or as I like to say, a cancer conquerer. I hadn’t really thought that the name could mean so many different things, such as surviving blindness, mobility lessons, lawn mower repairs, one sock coming out of the dryer, and probably the worst thing of all, running out of chocolate. The word had so many possibilities, and with each possibility came a world of issues, of chances, of opportunities that could either set you on your ass, or pick you up and take you to the other side where the roses were handed to you in the winner’s circle.

 

Yes, the lessons with Mike proved to be very beneficial, as I had become very dependant on my computer. I communicated with people with it. I felt so comfortable with writing, and while doing so, I didn’t have to worry about maneuvering around my day. I did my maneuvering with the keypad and my fingers. The text that JAWS read to me became a world that I could control, and without the vision there were so many things that I was constantly coming in contact with that kept reminding me how much of my day was completely out of my control. I mean, how could anyone control what they couldn’t see? How is that possible?

 

So many times those slogans of AA came into play, Keep it simple stupid, Turn it Over, Let go, Let God, they all reminded me of the one true thing that I could always control, and that was me. Little old me.

 

Every once in a while I go back and read an old blog post. Often times I sit and laugh while reading, and I ask myself how I ever learned how to write the things I do, the way that I do. I’ve often said that my writing is sometimes like a ping pong ball bouncing all over the place. I just shrug it off, and consider that as long as all the words end up on the screen, then it’s all good. Most of the time, they do, but how the hell would I know? grin

 

And now, for those three little words,

 

To be continued…

 

2017 06 17 Journal Excerpt Page 31 June 17, 2017

I’m not gonna lead into this next segment with much in the way of comments, except to say that the roller coaster of emotions kept on rising and falling through the days of 2011 with an endless surge of electricity. As time chugged along my entries into the journal grew wider apart, and I forgive the repetition of what was going on. I guess although it was the same old thing over and over, the days separated the events from each other, and through it all, the growth was evident.

I hope you’re all doing well, and here we go.

Deon

***

Spring, 2011.

Dana burke is here right now cleaning our furnace. I like him a lot. Always have. He is just so damn friendly, and always has made me feel like family around him. I have always considered him as one of the best people I have ever met, plus he’s funny as hell!

Well, Like always, the winter of 2011 slid on by, and spring came none too soon. I had survived my first winter as a blind man. Lynne had made it through probably one of the hardest stretches in her life. I realize that I must have been a trip to live with during those first few months. If I could manage to climb out of my head some days, it probably wasn’t that bad for her. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many days when this feat was accomplished. Most days, I was a blind guy with many needs and constant reassuring that I was ok. Some days I was totally convinced that I was not. I did seem to plow through that first winter with the love and support of all my family. I do not like to think where I would be without the help, love, and support of my wife. As much as she doesn’t think that she is my anchor, I will tell you that she is my anchor, and I would aimlessly drift out to sea without her.

Spring did come, and the snow left, and it was good to see it. There were a ton of things that were bothering me about the coming summer. There were so many things that I was no longer going to be able to do, and that bothered me to no end. I really had a hard time with all of it, and I can remember lying many mornings in bed, awake and contemplating the days ahead of me. Every time I would think of something different that I was no longer going to be able to do, I would get a rush down through my body, and then feel really really sick to my stomach. It would come in waves, and the tension and anxiety that these feelings and thoughts created was relentless, and continuously pounded me down, flattening me and snatching the breath out from my heart and soul. I really did not know what to do with these feelings, but I also knew that I had been feeling similar feelings throughout the months since the vision loss. I knew I would be ok, but some days I didn’t know just how I was going to be ok, with all of these fearful feelings resonating inside my troubled soul.

Prayer, and support, and internal determination got me through these months, these mornings, these days and afternoons, and if not for the tools that had been implanted in me over those few months, I probably would not have been able to keep my head above water. I owe so much to so many, and had so little to give back in return, or so I thought.

One day leading into another, and the troubled thoughts and worried paths that my mind took seemed to keep piling up. With each day of pain and anguish, there came with it a day of growth and accomplishment and determination and strong will.

Entry, April 22 2012,

It has been many moons since I have written anything in this journal. I am sorry.

In that spring of 2011, I was faced with so much adversity that I really felt like I was on auto-pilot or something. I was going through the motions, and gobbling up every last thing that I could get my hands on, but still I was left with an empty feeling, similar to the one I am feeling right now. It is a haunting, relentless feeling of doubt and worry and anguished anxiety that always tends to leave me in a state of constant worry about things I feel I can not control, but somehow should still be able to. Those days through the spring of 2011 flew by, as all the other days did. I couldn’t see the leaves on the trees budding. I couldn’t see the starlings flying north in a never ending line. I couldn’t see the grass on the lawn turning green. I couldn’t see the crocuses, or the daffodils, or the new growth on the spruce trees. I couldn’t see any of it, but I knew it was there, just out of reach. Everything felt just out of reach. Everything felt like it was behind a curtain, and the show just wouldn’t start. Everything seemed just out of reach.

I dove head first into my computer even more heavier through the spring. I was writing every day, and relied heavily on it. It was the one thing that I could control, and I thoroughly enjoyed the thought of it. It just felt so good to write my emotions and feelings and thoughts, and then go back and read it afterwards. It was like I was reading it for the first time. It was a good, new feeling that I quickly grew fond of. It was what I wanted to do more than anything else, and I quickly became addicted to the sound of the keys popping under my fingers.

I also started back in on my mobility lessons in March of 2011 with Rosemary. This is when I started writing lesson overviews after each lesson. I found that when I wrote about the lessons, I was able to go back and really take a long look at how I felt, what I learned, the emotions I experienced, and the growth that I was working on. I still didn’t like the lessons much, and with each time out, I found that my skills were getting better. The uneasy feelings were becoming bearable. The doubt was replaced with a feeling of humility that helped me through it all.

I still to this day, don’t like my cane too much. It is the one thing that totally reminds me of just how blind I am. I still feel embarrassed when I have to use it in public. I feel like the whole world is watching me. I feel like the center of attention, and that, to me, is the worst feeling in the world. I have never been one to crave attention. I have never dealt well with it, and don’t look for it. I can’t help it, but it is just the way I am wired.

through the spring, I tried to stay in touch with family as often as I could. the home finances were constantly tight, and thank God that Lynne was working. Her extra income really helped to make ends meet.

To be continued…

 

2017 06 16 Journal Excerpt: Page 30 June 16, 2017

This next excerpt was written November, 2011. A lot of time had passed since I had started the journal, and with large chunks of no activity, I often repeated myself with the entries. Many different things stuck out in my mind, and many things slipped to the side along with the rest of the blurred time.

That first year of vision loss was like the 100 meter dash. Ready? Set? Gunshot! Look at me go! It’s amazing that the world was able to keep up with me, because it sure as hell seemed like I was dashing around like a frantic man, late for work, late for the train, late for a very important date.

The important date was the rest of my life, and although I couldn’t see it, I could sense it standing there, checking the time on its wrist watch.

Time’s a wasting, so we better get going with this next post.

Take care.

Deon

***

Page 30

Nov. 12 2011

It has been, once again, several weeks since I have written in this ledger. I realize that when I have such large gaps in the entries, that the subject lines can tend to sway to and fro, as I lose focus of where I am, and the topics I have covered.

Winter 2010, 2011 was a long lonely winter for me, as well as for my wife. I know that it was probably the hardest winter she has ever had to endure. Not only was it a long and cold winter, but there was a lot of snow, and adding the extra work that she was forced to deal with, it must have been hell for her. I do admire her, and her perseverance through the long snowy days.

For the most part, I tried to do what I could, when I could. I managed to keep some paths cleared of snow out back, so that we could manage the dogs. I can only imagine how ratty the paths looked, after I got done shoveling and clearing them of snow. Most attempts at this was just that, attempts. I had no real idea what in hell I was doing. I tried to keep my visual land markers in order, but some days the blinding snow played tricks on me, and I would seriously lose my orientation. I can remember one day in particular, I thought I was shoveling out around the pool, so as to make a short run for the dogs, and a place to chuck the Doggy doo. I had no idea whether I was shoveling the existing path or not.

I was not. I had veered to the left, and was shoveling where no man had gone before. It was the final frontier, and I had no control of the bridge.

I had many times such as these, where I thought I was going in one direction, and to my shocking surprise, I was heading in the total opposite direction.

Writing this, I think back to the Lion’s meeting that I spoke at, and the facing the flag dilemma. grin

From that shoveling round-about experience, forward, , I fully understood that there were going to be times and places where my limited vision would let me down, and that humility would play a major role in how I managed to handle different situations.

I continue to get twisted around from time to time, and there are very many situations where my vision is completely useless, such as in dark, and unfamiliar areas. I will always have to keep the mind set of a blind man, and learn from each experience. I have captured many skills this past year, and as long as I can keep a healthy frame of mind, I will continue to learn and grow, as a man who can’t see very well.

Through the winter months, as I have said, I completely dove head first into my writing. I continued to get pc tutoring from Mike Adams, and with his help and guidance, I continued to advance my knowledge, and learned the accessibility features of my pc, and am grateful for the opportunity in doing so.

In early march, I did get switched over from System Access, to Jaws. I had to wait a couple months for the full version software, and up to then, I had a demo version installed. I was able to dive into it, but the demo version had a time limit on it, and after the limit expired, you would have to reboot the pc to gain another full time interval again. I did not like to reboot my pc, as most of the time, it would take me around an hour to get it fully up and running again. I have been having a series of issues with this pc since back in early 2010, where it would do the dreaded blue screen of death, and crash with a system crash dump. On top of that, when you would start it from a cold state, it would run fine for a few minutes, then with a click of who knows what, the pc would just go black, like someone had unplugged it.

These problems have been plaguing me ever since, and at this time, I leave it on 24/7. I don’t dare to shut it down, for fear of having to go through this process every time.

There also started another issue where even with a quick reboot, the pc would start ok, it seemed, but none of the programs would load up, and the system was virtually unusable. This dilemma would last sometimes for an hour or so, until everything would start loading and working all at once. It really freaked me out when this happened. When this still happens.

Over the years, I had used a little program called C Cleaner. It was a utility tool that had a couple functions. I used it to clean the junk out of the pc, like temp files, caches, recycle bin, and the temp files of the web browsers. It also had a nice registry scan tool that picked up errors, and corrected them.

I had stopped using the program after learning that the company where my wife was working recommended that none of their employees use it. She convinced me to delete the program, and so I did.

It was a few months later that my pc developed the issue with the programs not responding upon a reboot. I was in peril, as my screen reader would not load upon reboots. I was left without the use of my pc, and it really sucked.

I then remembered about the registry scan utility of ccleaner, and figured out how to download, and reinstall the program. After a few frustrating hours, I did manage to get the program up and running, and I ran the registry scan a couple of times. Thank God the program was somewhat accessible, and I could maneuver through it.

After the registry scans, I reluctantly tried a reboot, and the program response was back to normal. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, as I had brought my pc back into a fact simile of normalcy.

Nothing had felt as good as that did in quite some time. I felt independently capable of handling a problem, and was very happy with myself. I will never use another registry scan utility again, and fully feel comfortable in recommending this program to anyone I know.

To be continued…

 

2017 06 14 Journal Excerpt: Page 28 June 14, 2017

The ability to use my computer is such a big part of my life. It has been since 1995 really, and although a lot has changed since then, it has continued to be something that I rely on to stay in touch with people, and also to continue to discover a world of writing that has opened my eyes to so many new things, both about me, and around me.

I can’t imagine where I’ll be 20 years from now, but I know for a fact that there’s only one way to find out.

What? You don’t know? You want to know?

You better get moving then. Grin

Deon

***

I was introduced to Mike Adams in mid December, 2011. He was to be my new assistive technology tutor. It seems that Steve Sawczyn had landed a huge opportunity with Target. He was hired to revamp their website structure, making it more accessible to the visually impaired community. Their headquarters is out in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and he was traveling back and forth throughout the winter months, and has since moved out to the area permanently. I did feel a little let down when I heard the news that he would no longer be my pc tutor, but Mike stepped in and restored my sense of direction as far as my computer skills was concerned.

I was still using System Access back in December, and Mike instantly told me that he thought I would be better off with Jaws, than System Access.

Back when I was at the Center, I had a meeting with the head of the Technology Department, when it was thought that I would be returning sometime in early 2011 for an extensive course on office skills. I was told back then that I would probably be the only one in the program that would be using the system access screen reader. It was just not common place like Jaws, and I would have to have a separate instructional program designed around my screen reader. I was not comfortable with this option back then, and I was very anxious when Mike Adams told me that I had the option of switching over to the Jaws Screen Reader program. I gladly said that I would really like to switch over, so the order was put in motion, and I started the waiting game.

I never did get to go to the office skills program at the center, as I was told that it would probably be just as good for me to receive home tutoring through the division, instead of through the Carroll Center.

I think back now, and wish I would have had the chance to go to the program in Newton. At the time, I really did not want to leave home again for a long period, as I did in the fall. It would have still been winter, and I could not consciously leave in a good frame of mind knowing that the snow and all that goes along with winter could pose all kinds of problems for Lynne while I was gone.

That bothered me to no end.

So it was decided that I would stick with the home tutoring in the meantime. I was told that I would be just as well off with the training at home, as I would be taught the same platforms, and it should be just as extensive a program as the Carroll Center’s would have been.

Looking back, I know for a fact that I didn’t receive anywhere near the same intense training that I would have gotten in Mass, and am reluctant to think that I am just as well off today without it, and with the training that I did receive here at home.

One thing is for sure, I didn’t receive any substantial pc skills training while enrolled in the center’s independent living program, and I was very disappointed with this. One of the things I figured was that at the least, I would come home with some acquired assistive technology skills that I could continue to build on. Fact is, other than practicing touch typing, there was no real pc teaching, which left me scratching my head. I know that the office skills program would have done great things with my pc skills, but my expetations going into the 8 week program were let down completely in this respect.

Through my time with him, Mike taught me Windows, JAWS, MS Office programs, Windows Explorer and the internet. One thing about assistive technology, it changes every day, as does the accessibility of everything it comes in contact with. What works today might not work tomorrow, and vice – versa. If you think you have it figured out, wait a minute and you’ll figure out that you were wrong, or they were wrong, or it was wrong, or everything is horribly wrong and they’re all out to get you.

Really though, it feels like that some days, as the learning never ends, even though you don’t feel like learning on that particular day.

Mike and I figured out a few things, worked through a few things, made notes on a few things, and through it all, a brand new world introduced itself to me. Was I ready for this new thing? This was, strangely so, the same thing that I had loved to do, back when my eyes worked. This was the same thing that I played with, figured with, fought with, had fun with and missed greatly. Having to learn it all over again from a new perspective sort of pissed me off. Matter of fact, it really pissed me off to no end! Still does some days, but it is what it is.

I just got one of my random, out of the blue, wildly illustrated mental images of a pair of white gloved cartoon hands reaching down and typing on the keypad. Strange? You betcha. These mental snapshots and quick vids have been happening a lot these past couple months. Looney Toons gone horribly astray.

Anyway, I’m back.

Where were we? Oh ya. Mike Adams.

Mike and I worked together through the fall of 2011, and into early winter. At the end of this learning stretch, Mike told me during one meeting that he figured he had taught me all that he could, and there was really no reason to continue the lessons. I felt a little confused with his comments, mainly because I felt in no way as if I was ready to go tackle the digital world on my own. Fact is, it really scared me to think that I wouldn’t have him coming every two weeks to iron out the problems I had come across with using digital access.

That was one of those moments where I wanted to change what was happening, but it was out of my control.

Learn and live, or was it live and learn? I wasn’t sure, but I moved on none the less.

To be continued…

 

2017 06 06: Journal Excerpt Page 20 June 6, 2017

Through my life I have driven many miles. I figured it out a few times in my head, and it comes out to roughly 2 and a half million miles.

I should get a smiley sticker for that, right?

Many of those miles involved going to family destinations, Buffalo, Michigan, New Hampshire, Down East, Charlotte, and each and every time, as I was driving towards family, I felt like I was heading home. That warm, indescribable feeling grabbed hold of me and guided me home.

Family has a very strong impact on our lives. When my son came to Newton Mass to pick me up and take me home, I had never felt more like I was going home than these times.

They say that home is where the heart is.

I can’t ever begin to argue with that.

Deon

***

Page 20

The weekend before my Center graduation I was not expecting to be able to get home. It had been a couple weeks since I had been back to Clinton, and I could tell Lynne was getting restless for me to come back.

Matt called me on skype on the night before that last weekend at the Carrol Center, and asked me if I would like a surprise trip home. He wanted to surprise his mom. I was all for it. Boy was I ever. I knew she was having a hard time at home and I wanted to get back to Maine as soon as possible.

Well that Friday he came to get me after classes let out at lunch. I was all jittery all the way home and I was excited to be able to surprise her. The ride seemed to fly by faster than it had ever before.

We drove in the yard at home and I got out of the car and walked up to the garage. Matt walked up onto the cellar bulkhead and Lynne heard the bulkhead squeak and groan. She came out the front porch door and started hollering at him to see if he was ok. She saw me and thought it was him. She started to shout over to me, thinking I was him, and then she all of a sudden realized it was me.

She let out a scream and came running over to me barefoot, crying and hollering and crying. She grabbed hold of my coat collar and pulled it tight to her as she gave me the most wonderful hug I have ever felt. I started hugging her and crying myself. It was one of the best feelings I have ever had. I wanted it to last forever. I was just so happy to be home and in her arms. It was wonderful. I could say it over and over again. It was wonderful. It was really really wonderful. Wicked wonderful even.

That weekend was one of the best I had had in a while. It seemed really good to be home. It also seemed good to have Lynne so excited to have me there. I had felt so inadequate around the house since July, and it really felt like she wanted me home. I felt like I was finally home. I think I’ve wore out the word, “home”.

Well we had to do some scraping to come up with enough cash for Matt to get me back to Newton. We did manage to scrape up enough, and Sunday afternoon we headed back. The ride back to the campus seemed to fly by, as I was playing over and over the scenarios in my head from that weekend. I knew that I would be returning home after that next week, and I was glad. I had had enough of the Carroll Center, and wanted to get on with my life once again. Little did I realize though how much of a role the center had in getting me ready for that

To be continued…

 

2017 06 05 Journal Excerpt: Page 19 June 5, 2017

As I read through my journal, I have a hard time some days trying to figure out where to cut off for the next segment. The information tends to come across as a bunch of short scenes, which is exactly the way things transpired back then, and now as well. Life is full of little segments that make up a day, then a week, then a month, then before you know it, you’re a year older. Sometimes those little blurbs of life take forever to happen, and sometimes they roar through in the blink of an eye.

This is page 19 of the journey, and I hope your journey through today is a good one.

Deon

***

Page 19

I did manage to get my wife’s laptop running with the help of Lynne and Steve. He had helped her get System Access going on it and I was able to figure out how to run it for the most part. It sure was good to have it with me as I went back to the center. I felt connected with everyone through email. The first two weeks left me frustrated trying to use the community pc at the center. I was unfamiliar with Jaws, and they were running windows millennium, a platform that I was very unfamiliar with. I did manage to get out a few facebook posts those first few weeks, but the experience was lame at best. I was very frustrated and welcomed the switch to my own laptop.

The first weekend home did seem to fly by and before I knew it, I was back at the center raring to dive head first into my six week program. I also managed to get skype going on the laptop, and after I got my folks and my sister Terri on it also, it felt like I had a slice of home right there with me in my room.

Carlos did graduate and I was wondering if there was going to be another roommate to keep me up at nights. There was none. I had the room all to myself. I also had the bathroom all to me as the other two people who shared the facilities with us were also not there any more. I had the next 3 weeks to myself. I slept very well the next few nights and really enjoyed the peace and quiet in the room. Carlos used to talk non stop about things that I couldn’t even understand. His heavy Hispanic accent left me pretending that I knew what he was talking about.

In those first few days of my full program, I got into a routine that was both comfortable and relaxing to me. I started walking around the campus in the evenings and early on the weekend mornings. I would walk roughly an hour at a time, and it felt good. I also did get some recognition from a lot of the clients as well as a few of the instructors. I found myself counting the minutes at the end of the day until I could go on my walk. I had a good route set up, and I could see enough of the contrasted visuals so that after a couple days, I could almost make it around the entire half mile route without using my cane. I felt like I was cheating, but I felt damn normal walking without the cane. It just felt like I had full control of the situation. One thing I had lost sight of was control of certain situations that included my mobility. After all of those hard lessons with Heather, it felt so wonderful to be able to walk around without any assistance. I felt independent, just like Hermie the dentist.

I guess that as my program progressed, I built a good relationship with all of the instructors as well as the clients. I was there for myself, and everyone knew that. I was also there to gain friendships and connections that might someday benefit me in my future situations and ordeals.

I did keep in touch with Leona from DBVI with emails. I got to talk to my wife every night on skype, as well as my folks and Matt also. One night I remember in particular, I was chatting with Lynne on Skype and she was playing me music she was finding online back at home. It was like I had my own personal DJ doing a radio show tailored especially for me. It was an evening spent with my wife I will never forget. It was wonderful to say the least. We did it again for another couple of nights, but none of them were as good as that first night. My DJ Cubby. I smile now thinking of it.

Well the weeks passed by and I was afforded another weekend back home. Matt was coming to get me and take me back for the weekend. He put a ton of miles on his car in those 2 months. He told me that he was able to find the center without any directions after a couple times back and forth. He felt like a world traveler. I think he liked the traveling. I know that I used to love coming down around the Boston area. It just felt so alive compared to the slow pace back at home. He agreed.

To be continued…