That winter of 2012 introduced me to another group of people, but some were the same that I had met at the 2011 ACB fall convention. This new group of amazement made up the Blind Bowlers of Central Maine, and as a new found family collectively made their way towards me, a new sense of belonging found its way into my life.
I was petrified at the first thought of trying to bowl blind, and at first I thought it was a joke, I mean, how can someone who is blind, bowl? It just didn’t make sense to me, so I just sort of shrugged it off as a chance to get to know some new people, one of whom was a fellow by the name of Rolfe Frost.
I had met Rolfe back in the spring of 2011, when he gave me a ride home from the employment assessment testing I had done at the Career Center in Augusta. Leona had set me up for the testing, and Rolfe gave me a ride home. We instantly struck up a nice conversation that lasted the whole trip back home, and for me, there was something about this guy that put me at ease, and allowed me to feel completely comfortable as we chatted it up.
Rolfe is, well, it’s hard for me to find words to correctly describe him. He has a heart of gold, and I am blessed to have met him, along with this new family of visually impaired people, and many, many more.
Blind Bowlers of Maine. It sounded really weird back then at first, but as time went by, it took on a whole new meaning for me. As the Saturday event became something that I looked forward to, I realized that I was slowly becoming one of them, one of the Blind Bowlers. I had found an incredible place where I fit in. I had found a group of people that I had something in common with. I became a Blind Bowler, and it felt comfortably normal.
Now I have to tell you that through my life, I was a ferociously competitive candlepin bowler. The first time I picked up a ball and rolled it down the alley, I was hooked, and I instantly became good at it. From an early age, I waited for the chance to step onto the hardwood lanes and slide towards the black line, releasing the ball. As it made that sweet, unmistakeable sound of rolling down the aisle, it hypnotized me until it crashed through the pins. That crashing sound, that explosion of pin action was the most beautiful sound in the world to me, and I just couldn’t get enough.
The years went by, and the trophies piled up. Our whole family was very competitive, and we all loved to bowl. My sister Terri was the best of our clan, and I was always chasing her abilities.
Anyway, the first time I stepped onto the lanes being visually impaired, bowling took on a new meaning for me. The hardest thing for me was the feeling of embarrassment. The humility, the pride that I had to swallow was one of the hardest things I have ever done.I went from a championship bowler, to a blind bowler in the blink of a blind eye, and as another part of my past stood beside me, I tied my bowling shoes, stepped onto the lanes, fumbled for a ball, stepped awkwardly three times towards where I thought the black line was, and quickly rolled a speedy gutter ball.
Did I mention how I cringed? Did I mention the pang of pain that ran down through me? Did I mention the smile that slowly crept across my face as I stepped back and tried to find another ball? How about the fact that shortly thereafter I rolled another gutter ball?
Those trips down to Augusta during the winter months became one of the highlights of my life. I grew very fond of sitting at the tables near the scorer’s desk, and just listening to the sounds. The crashing of the pins, the gutter balls, the camaraderie, it all took me back to the reasons why I loved to bowl. A complete package of time, wrapped in friendship, family and fun.
I thank you Mr. Frost for your friendship, your dedication and for your kindness of heart.
Well the winter rolled on, and so did my O&M lessons with Rosemary. Trudging through the snow with a white cane sweeping in front of me wasn’t my idea of having fun, but what an amazing opportunity to gather in my senses. The sounds of winter crunching under my feet was an experience like no other I had ever been through. A white cane in front of me, a pretty lady ten steps behind me, an intimidating world wrapped tightly around me, it all led me towards my future, and although it seemed dull and hazy, it brought certain things towards me that I never knew existed.
There were many aspects of winter mobility that changed my perceptions. The snow had very sneaky characteristics that I soon found very annoying, and as the tip of my cane packed full of snow and ice, my worries and fears of the unknown were met head on by an unrelenting show of force by Her Magesty, Mother Nature.
To be continued…