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

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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…

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2017 06 24 Journal Excerpt: Page 38 June 24, 2017

As some memories fade, new ones are born. I wish I could have all of my memories back, but if the unwritten rules say we have to turn over those to gather in these, then I’ll keep trying to make the best of it. Some of my childhood memories are as strong as the ones from last week. How is that possible? How can that be? Such a long time ago, but then again, a couple years ago seems at times as far away as a childhood in Little Falls. Digitally manufactured and preserved by an imagination out of control.

 

My memories of my past have come to visit so many times. Some days I just sit and think about different things. Once in a while I reel in something that I haven’t thought of for quite a while, and usually it builds a smile across my face.

 

I like those the best.

 

Go grab yourself some memories.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Page 38

Summer 2011

 

I have an amazing lady by my side. I know she isn’t happy that she’s reading about herself right now, but she is a part of my story, as she has become a part of me.

 

Thinking back, there were so many times when she went the extra distance to help me realize that my life was very much still worth living. Although my pity prone self pushed back many times, there were those times that it didn’t, and the result was a taste of a world gone by, with a pinch of a world waiting to be.

 

That summer of 2011, we bought several five gallon buckets and set off to grow some potted roma tomato plants out behind the garage. I remember every part of the experience, and that first bite of one of the tomatoes was pure heaven. The plants didn’t yield as much as our traditional garden tomatoes used to, but the smell of the vines, the taste of the fruit was unforgettable.

 

I tried to do as much with my stupid sight as I could. I joked that I could see just enough to piss me off, and it was true. So many times I would strain to see just a little bit more, and each time I did, I became dizzy as hell, almost to the point of passing out a couple of times. I dunno what was causing it, but I soon learned that I needed to accept what I had and learn to do the most with it.

 

My dreams were a trip back then. I would often dream about being able to see, and realizing in the dream that I was supposed to be blind. The dreams inserted the belief that I could see, and my blindness had somehow miraculously come to an end. Eventually, I would wake up, and again, I was reminded that I still couldn’t see. I loved the feeling that my sight loss had come to an end, and wish I could have convinced the moment of the dream to follow me back to reality. Oh how I wanted that to happen.

 

Or did it?

 

There were several mornings in those first couple years when I awoke to see something very familiar. Yes, that’s right. See. Each time the experience was the same. The images of my past, or so I thought, seemed to catch up to me for a friendly visit.

 

As I woke up, I lifted my arm off the bed and swung it into a new position. I saw it. I saw the skin color, the contours of my arm, the color of the wall, the ceiling, even the shimmering ring on my finger. I moved my arm a few times to make sure it was real, and the vision corresponded perfectly to my movement. My heart stopped in my chest, my breath couldn’t breathe, and as I stared at my arm, it stared back. I thought I must be dreaming, but knew I wasn’t.

 

The visions continued on for roughly thirty seconds, and then, slowly, the picture faded into a dull gray haze. I was shocked by what I had seen, and sad to see it go. The experience, brief as it was, sent an electric current down through me that lasted all day. These sightings happened five or six times within the course of a year or so, and to this day I can still see the skin tone of my arm. It was like an old friend had stopped by for a visit.

 

Unimaginable, unannounced, unbelievable, wonderfully unbelievable, simply unbelievable.

 

As I wrote a little earlier, Lynne kept tugging me towards new experiences that proved to be eye opening adventures. I imagine she was trying to get a piece of me back from the past, almost like planting a tomato plant in the fertilized soil, so that it would grow and become something new, something that stretched to meet the sunshine and learned how to grow towards tomorrow.

 

As the metaphors stampede my thoughts, I realize that I am the luckiest guy in the world to have the partner I have. I also realize that so many times my stupid ego has continuously gotten in the way of a good day. Pitiful, selfish, self centered child who had no clue how to recognize a golden opportunity.

 

I forgot what it was like to live, but I was comparing everything to my sighted life. I was comparing apples and oranges.

 

While I waded through the turmoil of existence, I did manage to keep my feet moving forward. I kept reminding myself of the promise I had made to myself to move forward, no matter what, and to never turn away from an obstacle, a challenge, a formidable wall of fear, for those things that proved to be opportunities often disguised themselves as things that I used to veer away from or ignore completely. My old character traits of complacency and laziness wanted to take me for another stroll, and many times I still gave in, until I remembered the goal of maneuvering through whatever this darkened corridor had in store.

 

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 03 Journal Excerpt: Page 17 June 3, 2017

O&M, (orientation and mobility), was a crucial ingredient of my rehab, and of the rest of my life. This mind altering, anxiety building, emotion forcing tool proved to be a new window into my new world. It was a necessity that was brought on by my vision loss. Vision. Boy does that word have a ton of definition. I never realized it fully until I lost it, but did I?

I write a lot about O&M because I felt a lot of it, experienced a lot of it and learned a great deal from it.

Well, that’s about enough of that, and here’s some more of this.
Have a great day, and thanks.
Deon

***

Page 17

My mobility instructors name was Heather, and I thought that we hit it off ok. She had a raspy voice that could not be mistaken for anything other than her. She had a good sense of humor and it showed. I found myself growing quite fond of her, even though she continued to boot my ass all over the campus and the town for that matter.

One of the first lessons we had was to go to what they called Newton Center, or Newtonville, which was a fairly busy part of the town. Little did I know what I was getting into as I had never experienced anything quite like what I was about to go through.

We walked to the busy side of one of the blocks and she proceeded to tell me to go find CVS and buy a pack of gum and then come back out. I walked down the entire length of the block figuring that I would be able to find the store front on sight alone. Man oh man was I ever wrong. This would be the first of many times that my crappy vision would play tricks on me.

After walking back and forth along the block, I came to the stark reality that I would not be able to do this on my own. I didn’t know what to do. I was mystified and baffled and felt all alone in a strange town in a strange state. A state of confusion was more like it. I was honestly as humbled as I had ever been in my life.

After what seemed like 4 hours, I finally figured out that I did need assistance and it was up to me and only me to get it. So I did.

I asked the first person, the first shadow I noticed walking by and they assisted me to the front of the store. I did manage to walk in and make it to the sales counter. I could see well enough to know where I was inside the store and managed to purchase a pack of gum. It felt strangely wonderful, and at the same time I was terrified as hell.

I made it out to the front of the store and reunited with Heather. I felt a little cocky as to why she had given me such a simple task. We then proceeded to walk back around the corner to the car. Along the way I managed to mistake a car on the side of the road as a car in a parking lot. I walked around to the right of the car and proceeded to walk right out into the road. Heather managed to grab hold of me and pull me back onto the sidewalk. She composed herself and asked where in hell I thought I was going? I had no clue what I was doing or the danger I was putting myself in. Once again I wanted to go home and wake up from the horrible nightmare.

When we finally made it back to the car, I broke down and lost my composure. I felt completely chewed up and spat out. I felt like I was a completely lost soul with no hope of ever finding a way out of this mess that I was in. Helpless, hopeless and useless is the best description I can come up with. Those are 12 step slogans and boy did they fit my mental state at that moment.
Once again I had beaten myself up, after I had been told that I shouldn’t beat myself up. I was very hard on myself for the predicament I had let myself get into. I was a lost cause in my mind and I needed help.

Heather was as cool as a cucumber. She told me everything I needed to hear and quite a bit of the stuff I didn’t want to hear. They were for the most part, one in the same.

I grew rather close to her that day. She was able to pull me back from the pummeling I was giving myself. She was able to reassure me that I was right where I needed to be and that part of the learning process was the figuring out the mistakes and errors. There were going to be a whole slew of them for sure. I didn’t disagree. I couldn’t.

Those first few mobility lessons were a drastic step sideways for me. They weren’t forward, nor were they backwards. They were exactly what I needed to get my bearings and helped me set the tone for my rehabilitation in the next coming weeks. I hated the days when I had Heather’s classes, and the other days, well, I hated them a little less.

To be continued…

 

2017 05 27: Poetry, Sweep May 27, 2017

Learning how to use the long, white cane was one of the toughest tasks I have ever taken on. The more I learned, the deeper the reality dug in. I am fortunate to have had such a great instructor, and as the lessons continue to come at me through the course of the days, I realize that she was preparing me for the rest of my life.

This poem touches on some of those emotions, those anxious moments, those stepping stones that helped me reach this day, today.,

I’ll be back tomorrow for another journal excerpt, but for now, well, here’s hoping you have a great night.

Deon

***

Sweep
Written 09 29 2012

I grab my cane and sweep along, not sure of where to go
Shadowed lights and dull grayed scenes dot the void along my way
I listen for a clue, a hint, a reminder of where I would like to be
Stray reminders of yesterday’s innuendoes echo through my cluttered memory

Sweeping aside a dark, never ending world, tomorrow comes again
Tap aside the daggered edges of yesterday’s haunting whispers
Spirits lift me up and out of the chains of a coal black, midnight noon
A chorus of invisible lullabies keeps my dreams just out of reach

A question of mind, a hopeful stare, a passing plea for patience
Unseen ripples reflect from a stone cast from an unfamiliar shore
Friendly voices from hidden smiles lend a hand with welcomed comfort
Uneasy feelings tug at emotions that were never felt before

A heart pounds from deep within a core of fiery red
Passion for life bravely beats back the barrage of darkened foe
The staff, the motion, the sweeping steps, the screaming spirit within
Glowing through midnight’s plight, embers of my mourning lead me home

 

2017 05 27: Journal Post Page 10

Another weekend is here, and for those of you who are working, it’s probably gonna be a long one. Good on ya.

This next segment was written May of 2011, and describes the goings on of summer 2010. Such a long time ago, but the memories seem closer than ever. I remember struggling with my vision back then. I remember trying with all my might to catch a glimpse of this, or a sliver of that. I remember around this period of time standing out back with Lynne, and for a second, just a split second, I was able to make out her eyes, her smile, her face, and oh what a sight it was. Those quick as a cricket snapshots will stay with me forever. It’s amazing that the last three faces I saw were my wife, my son and my grandson. How fitting is that! Grin

It’s safe to say that because of that, I am blessed.

Have a great day, and don’t forget to remember what you see.

Deon

***

Page 10

With all that I was going through, I managed to keep it somewhat together. I did lose it a few times and found my self babbling and sobbing on the pity train to nowhere. I couldn’t afford the price for a ticket on this train. I didn’t even want to know where it was going. All I knew was that I wanted to get off, and in a hurry.

The lessons that I had that hot August were the prelude of many to come. I was starting to get small glimpses of how much I didn’t know about being blind. It’s funny how sometimes my sad mental state would convince me that I had this blind thing licked, and then in the next breath I was snapped back to reality with a flurry of blows to my ego and my overall view of the situation I was in. The situation. It sure as hell was a situation. I learned from Leona that it wasn’t really a condition, but a situation. I had always been able to think my way through situations in the past, with a few exceptions. On occasion, I felt as though I could think my way through this one also.

Rosemary and I usually traipsed around a few blocks in Waterville. I had told her on a few occasions that I was afraid that the vision I was left with was hampering with the learning of cane techniques. Well I went and opened up my big mouth. The next lesson, she informed me that maybe we should try the mobility lessons totally ecluded. Blindfolded here we come!

There is no other experience in my life that has been as humbling as walking around with a cane blindfolded. I can honestly say that at times I wish I could have crawled into a hole and slept through it like the bears do. I knew though that I must prevail through these lessons and learn what I could from them. I was very scared of losing the sight that I have. I realized then, and now that if I lose what I have, it’s going to be a whole different ball game. I needed to work on my cane skills and utilize the rest of my senses to the best of my abilities. I still am weary of losing the small amounts of vision that I have left. It is always in the back of my mind. It never goes anywhere. It is like a never ending haunting reminder of what could very well be.

On my second or third lesson with rosemary, I was trying to go up and down a long, high, curving staircase in Augusta. This was again a first for me. I panicked several times and had as much difficulty doing this as I have had doing anything thus far. She could obviously see the panick stricken look on my face and decided that we needed to take a break and talk about what I was going through. I sat down and almost broke down in tears.

She asked me to tell her what I was thinking. I told her that first and foremost, I hated the cane that was in my hands and I hated having to do what we were doing, but I knew it was necessary. I also told her that I trusted her with my life at that point. I told her that I couldn’t see how I could continue the lessons unless I did. I don’t know if that struck something inside her, but there was a long pause. She then said in her stern voice, “Let’s go big guy, times a wasting.”

I could have either hugged her or smacked her, but I decided to get my ass up and continue the lesson.

We then went out in the parking lot of the building and she told me to walk a straight line. I walked for what seemed like a hundred yards and she told me to stop. She then informed me that I had turned 180 degrees and was walking in the opposite direction.

I bent over with my hands on my knees and shook in my shoes. It was at that point that all of my false ego, all of my self centered pride, all of my confidence fell flat on its face, and I was left standing there, naked, facing the rest of my life. Plainly put, I wanted to die.

She explained that everyone has a natural gait that leads either left or right. I was a right footed walker it seems.

We then worked on correcting my gait and for the most part it worked. She stood in front of me about 50 yards and told me to walk straight to her. I did, and I did. It was a great feeling. She was very pleased with my actions taken to correct my right footed gait.

We continued to work on my cane skills in the next few weeks until I left for the Carroll Center in September. Yes, I was accepted into their independent living program that was scheduled to start the third week in September, but that felt like a million years away.

To be continued…