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 25 Journl Excerpt Page 39 June 25, 2017

Through our lives, there are things, circumstances, interactions that can change the course of our lives. Many things after 2010 did exactly that, and along with these happenstances, I have learned a great deal.

 

This next page describes one of those moments that changed my direction. It led me towards a body of people who not only inspired me, but who also taught me about a different kind of family, a different kind of commitment. As long as I continue to have them in my life, the inspiration will continue.

 

Have fun.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Page 39

Written June 2017, describing Late summer, fall 2011.

 

The summer months came and went. My interaction with the two writing groups really kicked into gear, and the word documents began to appear under my fingertips. I especially remember falling in love with writer prompts, which is when you are given a theme, a subject, a few lines of action, and from these prompts, well, it is amazing the different stories that unfolded onto the screen. I loved to write, and it was starting to show.

 

I hadn’t had any interaction with any blind folks, other than my first VRC Leona. The only visually impaired people I had met were the ones at the week long employment workshop back in the spring, and other than trying to stay in touch with them via email, they just sort of faded back into the worlds they had come from. I do still get emails from one of them, and am in touch with another one through ACB, but that’s been it. I didn’t know any blind people to speak of, and just kept poking along as usual.

 

The weeks kept piling up and fall was on the move. I had always loved the fall season, with the leaves changing and the air becoming brisk, especially in the mornings. Fall was always the busy time for me with my job. People were starting to gear up for winter driving, which meant they might need a new set of snow tires. Who you gonna call? Me, the tire biter extraordinaire! Grin

 

My wife gave me the name, “Tire Biter”, and in our house, it stuck like glue. She used to joke about me and my physical abilities. She would describe me as riding around the country side, reaching into the back of my truck while I was driving, and flinging the tires out to my customers as I drove by. She likened the experience to, “pinging” the tires. Yes, I was fairly strong statured, and physically agile from many years of heavy lifting, but each time she described my animated role, well, I’m chuckling now thinking about it.

 

I miss the fall months and being able to ride through central Maine as the scenery turned into pure magnificence. The routes up through Farmington, Sugarloaf, Rangely, down to the coast, through Knox County, it was utterly beautiful, and from 2006 through 2010 I did my best to capture it all on my first digital camera.

 

That fall saw me reminiscing back through the years as I flipped through my mental photo album. Endless mindful collages of people, family, pets, nature, smiles and birthdays and Christmases and reunions and especially those simplest things of all. I constantly reached in to pull out a handful of images from my past, for they were the only things I had that remotely resembled the present.

 

Yes, fall came, and with it, my introduction to the American Council of the Blind of Maine. I got a call one evening from a woman who was involved with the group, as well as the Clinton Lions Club. Mary Ellen Frost invited me to sit in on the ACB’s annual conference, which was being held in nearby Waterville. I accepted the invitation and agreed to sit in on the morning session.

 

Comparing my nervousness of the past when it had to do with things of this nature, I didn’t feel anxious or nervous leading up to the next morning. I suppose that having so many mobility lessons had built up my ability to go at new things head on, without those same internal emotions that used to really grab hold of me in the past. I had felt the complete gambit of emotions, many, many times, and this experience was no different than any of those that O&M brought on.

 

The next morning came, and Lynne and I made the short trek into Waterville. I didn’t know what to expect, and tried to approach this brand new opportunity with a wide open mind.

 

Mary Ellen met my wife and I in the motel lobby, and from there, she escorted me into the conference room. She sat me down at a table with Carson Wood, a long time ACB member. He didn’t seem very interested in striking up a conversation with me, and before I knew it, Mary Ellen grabbed me and led me to another table loaded up with women. Nervously, I sat down and was instantly surrounded with questions, comments and through all of their interaction, I felt like I was at a very welcoming social event.

 

As the morning session got underway, I was helped back to the table with Carson. I don’t think we uttered more than a few casual words to each other through the remainder of the morning, so I tried to focus on the speakers for the next couple hours.

 

One of the speakers, Brian Charlson, was the director of the Tech department at the Carroll Center. He was the one who interviewed me for possible selection into their office skills program, which I never got the chance to attend. Brian talked about assistive technology, and in particular, iPhones and iPads. I had heard his presentation back at the Carroll Center, and with a few additional bits of new information, he once again graced the room with his tech savvy abilities.

 

The morning went along, and through it all, I was a little overwhelmed with all of the information. The director of DBVI, John McMahon, was in attendance, and delivered his presentation in a well rehearsed fashion. The rest of the folks that spoke I wasn’t familiar with, so a lot of the morning ended up turning into a barrage of white noise. Too much information at a hurried clip entered my noggin and swirled around until most of it ended up blowing back out through my ears. Still though, I was very grateful for the opportunity and in the end I realized that they had sold me on becoming a member.

 

At the time, I wasn’t aware of the NFB, (National Federation of the Blind). Sure, I had probably heard the name a few times, along with ACB, but didn’t really understand who they were, or what they did. Having the chance to sit and listen to the morning session gave me a great deal to think about, and think I did.

 

To be continued…

 

2017 06 23 Journal Excerpt: Page 37 June 23, 2017

 

Our lives are full of stories that we keep with us through time. The years are filled with trends that we latch on to with a ferocity for excitement. Myself, I have what you could call an addictive personality, so the trends, the impulses, the things that latch on to me become very addictive to me, and man do they have a way of changing me. Some of these trends, as quickly as they grab hold of us, they also can just as quickly pack their bags and move on down the road, rapidly being replaced by the next trend, the next impulse.

 

This next page deals with a couple of those trends, those things in my life that had a unique way of latching on to me. Some times we don’t notice one trend being replaced by another, but often times, we do.

 

It’s Friday, and I hope you all have a great rest of your day, and weekend.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Page 37

Summer 2011

 

There were many instances of my lack of concentration getting the better of me. Through it all, I had to learn how to trust my mobility instructors, and I’m very glad I did. Gaining trust in them allowed me to focus on the most important thing of all, my relationship with my cane. I had to learn how to trust my cane along with trusting my instructors, for my cane was also an instructor. My cane talked to me. It spoke in a language that I had to study, and as I began to understand the cane, I began to figure out how to open the doors of mobility., As I walked through those doors, I learned another lesson, probably the biggest one of all. I began to learn that I lost my vision so that I might learn how to see. The mobility, the assistive technology, the additional heightened senses, the inspiration that was coming at me, that was touching me, that began to rise up from within me, all of these additions to my life were so very unexpected, and to this day I’m still learning from each and every one of them.

 

Other emotions were having their way with me as well. It had been a year since the world had grown dark around me, and through the 2011 summer, I was constantly reminded of just how much I couldn’t see. I was a stubborned blind man with a passion for hanging on to my independence. I didn’t want to let go of the past, of my life with sight, and as the days progressed, small pieces of my past life, of my independence fell through my fingers and away from the present. Every time it happened, I shuddered inside as I lay another part of my past to rest. Realizing all of the things that I couldn’t do any more was a painful task that wreaked havoc on my vulnerable soul.

 

The tears that had flowed so freely began to diminish with time, and with each incident of bitter truth, I eventually felt like a damp dish rag that had been wrung out over and again and over and again. I tried to find things to feel happy about, but the happiness didn’t last long. The smiles quickly turned to a thin lipped frown that was full of anger, resentment and fear.

 

Man, as I write this, I’m being flooded by samples of those emotions. Here it is several years later, and the heart still races, the anxiety still rushes and the doubt still creeps in.

 

That summer of 2011 also saw me say goodbye to a dear old friend. I had written about my roto-tiller that sat idle through the summer of 2010. I wrote about pushing it back to the garage through half a foot of snow in early December. I wrote about how she hollered and screamed at me for just one more chance to run through the garden. As she cried, so did I. Another part of my past was slowly coming to a sad end.

 

I ended up trading the tiller for a 12 string Fender electric acoustic guitar in the summer of 2011. Lynne posted an ad somewhere that I would like to trade the tiller, and at just about the same time, she saw another ad from a gentleman in Moscow who was looking to trade his guitar for a tiller. That’s Moscow Maine. Grin It was meant to be, and saying goodbye to my old ground chomping friend was one of the hardest things I had ever done. If not for another girl entering my life at the same time, I don’t know what I would have done. Holding that guitar in my arms as he drove away with the tiller was the worst of times, and the best of times. I could hear my tiller screaming to me as he drove away, but I also heard a sweet 12 stringed lullaby softly playing in my ear.

 

Man, the emotions that swept down through me during these times was simply amazing. I guess they played a major role in helping to build a new foundation that started to replace the one that was being slowly demolished. Is demolish a good description? I’m sure there’s a more suited word, but at times it sure felt like it was truly being demolished.

 

Life continued to come at me. It didn’t care what I was going through. It didn’t care in the least. It was only able to continue on as before.

 

No matter what.

 

To be continued…

 

 

2017 06 22 Journal Excerpt Page 36 June 22, 2017

Here I go again on another emotional trek. It seems that’s mostly what I did back a few years ago. I lived a little, I felt a lot. It’s pretty safe to say that a lot of what I was feeling was so different, I wouldn’t have been able to put a name with the emotion. Fact is, if faced with those same emotions today, I probably still couldn’t pin a name to it. I lived it though, and learned a great deal from it, from them.

 

This next excerpt took me back to a place that I’ll never ever have to worry about forgetting. The level that this page grabbed hold of me was unforgettable, and the lesson learned was priceless.

 

I hope you’re having a great day, and I’ll catch up with ya later on.

 

Be well.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Excerpt describes summer 2011.

 

Page 36

 

With each O&M lesson came different situations which proved to supply me with different experiences. As my written overviews detailed the lessons, they allowed me to go back and explore those experiences from my own unique perspective. So many lessons accompanied so many memorable moments.

 

One of the most memorable of the bunch was the time when I didn’t care much for where the street ended. There I was, walking my way down the sidewalk, when all of a sudden, I took three or four steps onto a lawn. I turned to face Rosemary and asked her what the hell happened, and why I was standing on grass. I imagine she was smiling as she looked at me and told me to figure it out.

 

Well, I turned a quarter turn, then another, then another, and again asked her where I was. The panic slowly subsided, only to be replaced with a level of confusion that I had rarely faced.

 

She was very determined not to help me figure it out, and so as I turned where I stood, I tried to figure it out. The audio clues continued to come at me, but I couldn’t put them to any good use. I looked up to find where the sun was, then listened again to the sounds. Cars going by, children playing, a dog barking, they all mixed into my head like a chef’s salad, and for the life of me, I couldn’t find the ranch dressing.

 

Finally, as I slowly started to remember where we were, the neighborhood, the pieces of the puzzle began falling into place. The children were out at recess at a school that was at the end of the street where I had been walking. The traffic was running back and forth, which I knew was Pleasant Street. The sun was, for the most part, in the eastern sky, for it was fairly early in the morning. The grass? The grass? Really? Now, let me think.

 

And think I did, until a smile crept across my face.

 

Rosemary asked me what I was smiling about, and I began to tell her what I thought had happened to the wandering goat.

 

I had reached the end of School Street, which had the school on my right as I approached the street corner, the School Street and Pleasant Street corner. This particular street corner was not raised up from the street, but was flush with the street level, which explains why I didn’t detect it with my cane. I swept right past the tactile mat at the corner, not hitting it with my cane, and proceeded to walk right across the street without knowing it. Rosemary had walked up beside me as I approached the corner to make sure there was no traffic coming along Pleasant Street. There wasn’t, so she let me walk across the street, through the opposite sidewalk, which was also level with the street, and up onto the lawn of an apartment building, where I finally realized something was wrong and stopped.

 

This was one of the most awakening moments of my mobility experiences. I will never forget it, and as I write about it right now, those same emotions came rolling in. Remembering back, I am pretty sure that I had become completely caught off guard, mostly because my concentration had been broken. The sounds of the children outside playing at recess picked me up and carried me away. This was the second time we had been around that same block that morning, and I guess you could say I was feeling a little cocky. I was so self assured that there would be no problems to think through, no obstacles to work through, no dilemmas to have to problem solve through. It was just me, my cane, and my misplaced ego against the great big beautiful visual world.

 

Man how 8 seconds can change your attitude.

 

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 13: Journal Excerpt Page 27 June 13, 2017

When something is out of your control, it can be frustrating to no end, especially when it messes with your plans. I’ve had a plan or two impacted greatly with circumstances beyond my control, and as I would shake my head and curse under my breath, I began to understand and learn the significance of patience and understanding. I’ll tell you right now that I’m still learning, and still do get flustered from time to time, but like I said, none of it is in my control.

If my frustrations are caused by me, then that’s a completely different learning experience.
Grin

Go after it, grab it, live it and learn from it. This life of yours wouldn’t want it any other way.

Deon

***

Page 27

Winter continued to roll on through Christmas and the first of 2011. Early in February, I had the privilege of being invited to attend a jobs workshop put on by the Division of the blind in Augusta. Leona was very excited, and when she got excited, so did I.

The first two days of the workshop had me wondering what in hell was going on. The two facilitators seemed to hate the Governor, and made sure that everyone taking the workshop knew about it. They were very unprofessional, and I was left thinking that maybe this was not going to be such a good workshop. The second day of the event, we were supposed to get a storm that afternoon, lasting right through the next day, so they cancelled the classes for the next day, and let us out early that second afternoon. On that second day, Leona came in during a meal break, and sat to talk with me. Apparently she could sense the frustration in my voice as we talked, and later that night, called me to discuss it.

She asked me, and I let into her about how totally perplexed I was by the situation, and did not know how anyone would benefit from the workshop.

She pulled me out of the workshop, and I took it again the next month, which was in March. I am not sure if these two facilitators still do the workshops, but if they do, I pity the participants.

The major event cancelling storm came and went, and the sun was out by nine o’clock that next morning, which was said to be the morning of the biggest storm mankind had ever seen. It was a fairly harmless storm. These days were not going to be able to be made up, so we were going to have to try and squeeze in the work into two fewer days. The facilitators seemed that they wanted to call off that next day in some sort of rebellious tone against the Governor, who had came out and said that if you live in Maine, you should be able to drive in the snow, especially if you had lived here for very long. This particularly seemed to frustrate these state workers, as no Governor that they didn’t vote for was going to tell them when to not take a snow day. It was a pitiful display of spoiled childish behavior, and I was very glad that Leona pulled me out of the workshop. When I took the second workshop, there were people taking the second one who had also been pulled from the first one.

The next event in March was done with professionalism by two facilitators that showed passion and expertise in the materials, and in the way they facilitated the week’s events. I benefitted greatly from the lessons. I still keep in touch with one of the facilitators.

The helper that was assigned to me for the event was Sharon Pottle. She provided the transportation and helped me with reading the printed work in the workshop. We hit it off rather well, and had some wonderful discussions during the half hour trips there and home.

The winter seemed to fly by, although it also seemed longer than the other seasons I had just come through. I missed so many things about the winter. I missed watching the snow fall. I missed being able to drive in the snow. I missed being able to use my snow blower to create the dog paths out in the back yard. I used to love walking the dogs outside after I had finished clearing the paths. It was just so clean and neat looking, and I loved watching them run through the paths. I miss being able to see the turkeys out back by the corn field scratching at the dirt. I missed being able to see the trees after an ice storm. I miss the look of branches laden with ice. I missed so many things about the winter. It was still there, but it just seemed so far away. Sort of like looking at things through a display window at a department store, but not being able to touch the items. Winter seemed to be just out of my reach, along with so many other things.

To be continued…