Surviving

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

2017 06 26 Journal Excerpt Page 40 June 26, 2017

 

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

 

In a word, thanks.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Page 40

Fall 2011

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And come they did.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And now, for those three little words,

 

To be continued…

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2017 05 20: Journal Post Page 3 May 20, 2017

Good morning everyone.

This is the third post of my journal series. As I read through these pages, I am taken back to those days in 2010 when it appears that I started this next chapter in my life. Although the going was tough, it enabled me to experience a series of tests that I would have never been introduced to, had it not been for the loss of sight.

Life is what we make of it, and here’s a small slice of my life seven years ago.

Deon

***

Page Three:
Early July, 2010.

For the next two days, I was put through a barrage of tests which all came back with the results that I was dreading. My vision was permanently impaired, and would not ever get any better than it appeared to be right then. My heart sank when I heard one of the specialists say that there was nothing they could do for me. It was Tuesday morning, and I was just coming from the last series of tests.

They had ruled out all of the other probable causes of the stroke, and pinpointed the root cause as a central retinal arterial occlusion. The blood flow had been cut off to the retina from in behind the eye. It appears that the walls of the artery collapsed, thus shutting down the blood supply. This is what happened over and over again, and the final few times on that Saturday morning finally did me in. It was just too much for the retina to handle, and it finally shut down.

It was also thought to have been caused by the continued lifelong deterioration of the arterial wall, which was the direct result from the radiation that I received as an infant to combat the retinal cancer. This form of radiation, which was very new, as well as severely intrusive on outer lying tissue, was the culprit.

I will never forget Dr. Witkin’s comments made to me in his Waterville office a few weeks later. He said that in his opinion, I had been given 50 years of vision in that eye, and from his perspective, that was a miracle in its own right. I had never thought of it like that, and have never thought of it any other way since that day. He spun my mental state around 180 degrees that day, and I owe a lot of my rehabilitation, or ability to stay focused enough to move on, on those comments.

After all of the dust had settled from the tests in Boston, a call was made and Matt came to take me back home. I was never so happy to see him as I was that afternoon when he arrived in my room at the hospital.

I did not want to be in Boston for one more second. Not one. I had had enough bad news, and wanted to say goodbye to the town where so much hope had been shattered. The dwindling hope faded as we drove closer and closer to Maine and my Battleridge home.
I had not had a cigarette in over 2 days. So I think I smoked around a pack on the way home. We stopped at Mickey D’s on Rt. 1 on the way back to Maine. The food never tasted so good, and the caramel ice coffee hit the spot.

When we finally arrived at home, I felt completely alone. I know that my wife was there, and the comfort that I had in knowing that she was waiting for me is indescribable. But even though she was there waiting for me, I felt as though there was a huge blank sheet of paper in front of me that represented the rest of my life. My life was at that point and time, very uncertain at best. It was as though someone had taken my life story, and ripped it in half and thrown it in the trash. What in hell was I supposed to do now?

So much of my life was based on pure complacency. So much of it was just robotic at best. I liked my life, but probably most of all I liked the unchanging ways of my life. There was a routine that I had grown to accept as just the way things were. I had routines that I had created, and that was just fine with me, just fine and dandy. What in the hell was I going to do now? I felt completely vulnerable and totally at risk to everything around me that I couldn’t see anymore. That was the scariest and probably the most frightful times that I had ever felt. I was completely at the mercy of everything around me. My senses were all messed up. My thoughts continually veered the wrong way down a one way street. I could come up with a thousand metaphors and they would all fit. Every one of them.

Those next few days were some of the longest of my life. I was receiving phone calls from my family continuously. They were very far away, but they seemed so very close. I did a lot of crying and complaining those next few days. Hell, those next few months. I guess I still do go through some of the same feelings now as I did back then. I feel as though I can handle the emotion swings a lot easier now.

I did continue to smoke those next few days, and that must have worried Lynne to no end. Just think of it, a blind guy banging his way outside through the garage to light his fingers on fire while trying to light a cigarette. Crazy is the best adjective I can think of. That would all come to an end sooner than I ever imagined. Thank God. I never ever saw myself quitting smoking. Never in a million years. I saw myself choking on those damn cigarettes until the day I died. Pitiful.

 

2017 04 07 Poetry, In a Darker Room April 15, 2017

Hello again. Please excuse these posts that are titled by a different date than the post entry. I wrote a few poems for the month, and am just getting to posting them on this blog. Thanks, and hi again.

To have vision loss is a journey of the heart and soul. Many times as I have searched for a sliver of light, I found myself celebrating the simplest of things that I spent a lifetime taking for granted.

Through the loss of that light, I have found new ways to discover the light, the illumination that now exists from within. I owe so much of these new ways to you all, for your words, your inspiration has helped me so much these past few years.

The light has a way of dancing across a world. The shimmer, the flicker, the incredibly quick dance of shadows as the day moves along.

So many things in our lives depend on each other. We bring things to life with the words that tell the story, and with each letter, the dance begins.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this submission, but like most everything I sit down to write, the reasons and the meaning changes each time I read the words back.

It’s another morning in April, and another poem for the National Poetry Month.

Have a great Friday, and forever write on.

Deon

***

In a Darker Room

In a darker room the light loses its way.
In a darker room the mind trips over light.
Brilliant flashes of turquoise and gold.
Illuminations set in motion mimic stars in flight.

In a darker room a word Pirouettes.
It leads to another as they flow in rhyme.
Ballet of meaning, of purpose, of life
Gathering a story that spins back through time.

In a darker room a mind rambles on.
Wandering and veering in step with the dance.
Flashes of light, flickers of fate.
Storied words that give darkness a chance.

In a darker room a door opens wide.
Timid heart roars with a passionate beat.
A picturesque view through the mind’s looking glass.
A story revealed as the words take their seat.

 

2016 04 01 Poetry: Unrehearsed April 1, 2016

And so, once again, it’s April 1, and once again, it’s National Poetry Month.

Last year, I posted a poem a day for the whole month of April, and here I go again. I love to write poetry, and although I have found it harder to write this past year, I will make my effort to once again post a poem a day to this, my blog. As I said, I love to write poetry, and as the words form their music across the page, a different side of me rises up from a hidden place, a secret place, a warming, cozy place, and as I write, a familiar song continues to play across my heart and soul.

I wish you all the best that April has to offer, and aside from being a day born unto the fools of the world, I hope that each day of this spring month brings you a sense of being, a sense of love, a sense of life that you will never forget.

And here we go with poem number 1.

***

Unrehearsed
A Poem by DP Lyons

I find it harder to write what I feel
The words can’t form their text
Emotions rush in and take hold of an innocent gaze
Memories curiously scatter across the floor

A year older, a day wiser, a moment so unsure
Character of doubt drifts across the morning mist
I reach to the left as I lean to the right
I clutch frantically for something I can’t see

One small, cautious step upon the moon
The earth spins far above
I hear the calls from a distant home
Unrehearsed words continue to lose their way

Gather in those emotions which have wandered off
Collect those dreams of a restless night
Cradle those wishes of a mindful past
And yet again, those words fall short of their mark

Continue to live the simple phrase
Faith will take me to the end of the page
Bend back those frightened words
I breathe, I feel, I live, and so, I write

 

2016 01 05 One Scoop, or Two? January 15, 2016

I went out and shoveled the driveway a couple days ago. I didn’t do it because I wanted to. I mean, who in their right mind would ever want to shovel a driveway, right? Thank God the frozen white stuff was the light and fluffy kind, for I really didn’t want to have to over exert myself, although I could use it.

I’m getting soft in my semi old age. In fact, I’m probably in the poorest shape of my life. I don’t really understand why, I mean, I get my proper nourishment every day. Ok, ok, I admit it. Some days I don’t have my recommended daily allowance of milk chocolate, but I more than make up for it the next day, or the day after, ok?

Tell you the truth, I had a hell of a time shoveling. It felt like a taste of those old panic attacks I used to get a few years ago. Maybe not quite as strong, but along the same lines. You see, as I have said a few times these past few months, my vision is nearing the end of its existence. I can’t see what I used to, and what I used to see just plain sucked. I guess I had grown complacent that the limited vision I had since 2010 would be with me for eternity. It wasn’t much to work with, but oh how I worked it. A landmark here, a door frame there, a shiny line of chrome, topped off with my two favorite trees on either side of my driveway, and I was all set to go and get some for myself.

As I slowly and deliberately pushed my snow scoop back and forth down the driveway Wednesday morning, I was faced with a deep, dark blackness that I neither welcomed, nor found any hope of being able to use. It was midnight at 10 o’clock in the morning. My two favorite trees were gone, my shrubs in front of the porch had disappeared, my garage door had vanished, the blue spruce that pointed me towards the East had up and walked away, and I was standing there, waiting for a car to go by, so that I might regain my orientation.

I find myself these days leaning and reaching as I make my way around the inside of my house. I am constantly searching for counter tops, chairs, door jams, doors, and anything that lends a hand with getting from one room to another. My wife keeps telling me I need to use my cane around the house, and I keep telling her that I will never use a cane around the inside of my house. I guess the sniveling little brat of a goat is hanging on to a sense of dignity that perhaps even I don’t understand.

No matter what it is, or called, or referred to, it’s what’s in front of me, and as I go after it, over and over again, you might say that I’m preparing for battle against a foe that will never get the better of me.

At least that’s how I approach it on most days.

My wife, God bless her, is putting up with an oil tanker full of crap that no one should ever have to endure. She has been my anchor these past six years. Hell, she’s been my anchor since 1980, and as I have said before, I owe her my life, and then some.

She has chosen to stay with me, for sicker, for poorer, for goat be in debt up to his goat caboose.

As I was saying, as I made my way down the drive with my snow scoop in my hands doing what snow scoops normally tend to do, the familiar shards of slighted sight were nowhere to be seen. I can’t imagine how the driveway looked after I finished, I mean the edges must have been as if a demolition derby wreaked havoc on the linear edges of the perfectly manicured attempt at snow removal.

As I stood there, leaning on my scoop, I listened for the oncoming traffic up and down our road. At one point, I stood there for what seemed like a goat day, until a lone car came slowly down the ridge. I was trying to gain some orientational clues as to how close I was to the road.

Is orientational a word?

As the car rolled by, I pulled out my talking calculator, my T square, my daylight savings sun dial, my bag of chocolate chips and equated that I was still 20 feet or so from the end of the drive, so, on I scooped, back and forth, South to North, and as I finally broke through the packed snow at the end of my mission, I smiled deep inside, for once again I had found a way to get it done.

I swung the scoop out in front of me, trying to find the mail box, and after several pitiful attempts, “Clang!” there it was, the steel pole of the newspaper box. Five feet further south, and there was the mail box, in all its frozen glory, waiting for me to pluck its prize, and pluck the prize I did.

With a smile, a sigh of relief and a feeling of accomplishment, I headed East up the drive, and realized I now had to try and find the front porch door again.

Orientation’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.
If you can see what you’re doing, please take the time to try and remember what it is that you see.

Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by Surviving.

dp

 

2015 07 20 One Down, Fifty Something To Go July 20, 2015

Well I did it. One down and fifty something to go.

A couple days ago I finished up with my first online class at KVCC, and I’m here to tell you that although Blackboard was a nightmare, I did it. Grin

Back last April and early May, I was having fits. I never thought I would be able to figure out the Blackboard program. It just seemed so cumbersome to learn, and as the weeks winded down towards the first day of class, things started falling into place. A lot of hard work and determination ended up making the difference. My wife giving me rides to campus for some pre course tutoring didn’t hurt either. She never gets enough credit for how she has helped me these past few years, and hopefully if I can pull my head out of my butt for a while, I can appropriately show her my appreciation.

Well, there I was this past May, heading into week one of the course which was Sociology 101. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I felt as prepared as I could. The work load wasn’t that bad, some reading, some writing, some more reading and writing, and voila! Course complete!

I only had a couple incidents of incorrect posts and disappearing assignments, but the work load wasn’t as overwhelming as I had first anticipated. There was a ton of writing, but me and writing seem to get along fairly well. I sit down, I start to type and before I know it, three or four pages are staring back at me. Piece of cake. Piece of crumb cake.

So here I am, taking a break for a week or two, and then it’s time to gear up and head towards two more online classes for this fall. I already have one of my text books ready to go on my Learning Ally ap, but I have to get some help for the second book, which is available on a different platform that I’ve never used before. One more thing to learn.

I’m going to be taking English 101 and, get this, The History of Rock and Roll. Yup. You heard it right. As much as I love music, this is one class that feels like it fell down from the musical part of the heavens. Makes me wonder if all of heaven is under the influence of music. I suppose it depends on the person, right?

I’d like to thank my tutor and mentor at the college. His name is Nick, and he really has made the difference with being able to learn and work through some difficult items, like the Blackboard.

Thanks Nick.

Oh ya, I’ve been asked to be part of a mentor program for first year students this fall. I was humbled beyond belief when I was asked, and with much honor, I accepted the position. I’m not sure how much mentoring I’ll be able to do, but if I can pass along a little piece of what has been given to me then I’ll be one extremely humbled and happy goat.

I hope your summers are going well. The muggy weather is here for a couple days, but overall it hasn’t been that bad.

Thanks for stopping by, and please take care, or else!

dp

 

2015 06 12 Just Another Friday June 12, 2015

Another Friday is upon us, and as another week winds down, June is nearly half over. I know I’ve written about how fast time flies by, and how fast opportunities come strolling down the sidewalk in front of your home, but some times I feel as if without my sight, how am I supposed to realize all these things going on around me?

I’ve heard that with vision loss comes a heightened existence of your other senses. I realized this first hand during the first year or two of darkness, perhaps mostly because I was receiving extensive orientation and mobility lessons.

Gang Way! Biggie Billy G with a cane coming atcha!

Seriously though, I did notice my hearing, my smell, my sencing of items around me, they all seemed to jump up a couple notches, and believe me, it helped me more than a few times as I swept through the sidewalks and intersections of Waterville. One step at a time, one sweep of the cane after another, with an incredible teacher standing guard over my progress.

So much of my life changed way back on that July day in 2010. So much of my life seemed completely lost, and what wasn’t lost, stood a few feet from me, arrogantly smiling, knowing full well it was just out of my reach. I hated that feeling most of all. Most times, when I would work towards these things and finally place my hand on them, they didn’t seem the same. They didn’t have that shine, or that shape, or that sense of belonging to me. I was a visitor in a foreign land, full of never ending change that I wasn’t prepared for.

Life though, continued moving ahead, and so did I.

I didn’t really know what to do, so I just kept doing whatever presented itself to me. It’s amazing to think back and understand what was really happening with me. As my life suddenly changed, so did the opportunities that presented themselves. I was a first grader all over again. I understood that there was a lot I didn’t understand, so I stood out next to the mail box, with my cane, and waited for the school bus to take me to the rest of my life.

The rest of my life. When you say it and think about it, it sounds very open ended. It sounds like amidst the anxiety of the unknown, there’s a feeling of excitement, a feeling of incredible opportunity that jumps out and asks if you’re ready or not. Ready? Me? Ready for what?

Funny thing, these obstacles full of opportunity. Dare to tread through the frightening narrows and you just might be surprised. I know I have been.

Complacency put a halt to my life experiences many, many times. I was comfortable, and anything out of the ordinary threatened that comfort to the point where I would turn and walk away, cowering back to my little, comfy place.

That was probably the most important thing about me that changed, and I’m here to tell you, it scared the gummy bears outta me. Fear of the unknown was something I never did well. I’m not saying I did it any better these days, but I put my head down, dug my heels in and did it anyway.

And here I am, a few days older with those experiences that have helped me to become a different man, swiping a white cane as he moves forward.

I have been introduced to an amazing array of inspirational points of light. I’ve been shown a courage that I never knew existed. I have been given the hope and support of a community that so many of the world never recognizes. I am blind, and I am in awe with a sense of admiration that has inspired me as I keep moving forward.

How many ways can I describe the thanks and gratitude that I feel for the opportunities I have been afforded? How many times can I say thanks and show my appreciation? How many of you have lived your lives so that I may come to know the gifts you possess?

Ok, I admit it. I’m rambling once again. As I write this post, there are people out there who don’t ever stop living their lives. Some folks might categorize them as being handicapped. Some folks might see a condition, instead of seeing a life full of life. Some will never understand how strong these people are, how determined and driven and capable and inquisitive they are.

I never did, but I sure as hell do now.