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 07 28: Journal Post Page 46 July 28, 2017

Well my journal finally screamed long and loud enough for me to realize that the story was sitting there, patiently waiting. Sometimes the really important things in our lives get moved to the side. Sometimes our attention becomes swayed towards the next amazing thing, or wonderful thing, or addictive thing, or whatever thing grabs you by the collar and jerks you sideways. I think it’s safe to say that the most important items of our lives always remain on the front of the shelf, so that we can’t help noticing them every time we walk by.

I’m not sure if this story of mine is an attention grabber, but as I’m writing it, it sure as hell is grabbing hold of mine.

Happy summer day to all of ya’s, and I surely do hope this finds you doing well.

dp

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Page 46
Spring 2012

Spring 2012 instilled many changes into my life. My vision was basically the same, although from time to time the clarity of what I was able to see seemed to grow significantly. The window of vision still remained in the right outer peripheral in a small, vertical crescent moon shape, with a larger window of light perception that brought to me the differences between day and night, light and dark, what I knew was there, and what I couldn’t see. The left peripheral of that same right eye kept reminding me of a possibly total dark future, which I hated with a raged passion.

These small tantalizing slices of better sight usually only lasted a moment or two before I was pulled back into the dull and hazy gray halls of what I had become used to, and what I relied heavily on to help me maneuver my way through the day. The blue colors that I was afforded seemed to be the strongest, which fascinated me, as every time I was startled, the color blue roared in like a cloudless summer sky. I called it Wal Mart blue, and realize now that I’ve probably already told you this. Either way, these curtain calls of color had a great impact on me.

My emotions still came roaring in like a rush of high tide. Some days I seemed to be chugging along at a good clip, not thinking about being blind, not worrying about the rest of my life, not thinking about anything other than the day. I worked hard trying to stay busy, and my computer grabbed the largest chunk of my day.

As I said, the emotions rose and fell quickly, and without warning. Many times I would be overcome with a feeling of hopeless, helpless torment, which usually left me breaking down for a few minutes. It felt like a great power was scouring my heart and soul with a cleansing release of all the worry, panic, fear, frustration, and left me completely worn out. I didn’t like these sudden surges of emotion, but looking back I realize that it was happening for a reason. I’m still learning what that reason was, or should I say, what that reason, is.

That spring I entered the final phase of my O&M lessons with Rosemary. She and I had been trudging up and down the sidewalks of Waterville for nearly two years, and our relationship had grown tighter than ever. I still disliked my lessons, but always felt good about my accomplishments after they were done, and I was writing the overview of the lesson. There was one final assignment that she handed me, and when I first heard what it was, that usual rush of charged electricity set in motion the wheels of resistance that smacked me with the usual reaction, one of which I was neither proud of, or glad to see.

Rosemary laid out the final white cane excursion, but it quickly formed into much more than just an O&M lesson through the streets of Waterville.

To be continued…

 

2017 07 07 Journal Excerpt: Page 45 July 7, 2017

Seasons come, and seasons go. With the seasons, the moments that we build can stay with us forever, like the seasons.

 

2012 was a year filled with seasons that were filled with memories that were built from moments that will stay with me for many seasons to come.

 

Wait a minute, grab a moment and build a memory. It’s as easy as 1, 2,

 

dp

 

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Page 45

 

Through the cold months, my writing found a way to keep me company. The prompts, the assignments, the poems and short stories and essays helped to take my mind off things so that I may enjoy different trips through a kaleidoscope of characters, destinations, situations and reminders of my own life. There were days when I would write a whole chapter for my fiction story, and on those days, the amount of video footage that was running through my head was amazing. As the story played, the words appeared on the screen, and before I knew it, a chapter was staring back at me, often times to the tune of a dozen pages. I explained to the writers in my Saturday group how I was writing what was playing in my mind, and one of the writers told me that she remembered that Stephen King often wrote in similar ways during the early years of his career. I didn’t believe it at the time, but I heard the same from a couple other writers, which caused me to take a step back and try to figure out how to deflate my swollen head and ego back to their original size.

 

Writing for me became a form of therapy. It allowed me to travel through my visions, my thoughts, my personal perceptions in a way that nothing else did. The more I wrote, the more I discovered things about my past, my present, my family, my childhood, my hates and loves and usually at the end of the day, when I shut down the computer, I felt as good as I did during the summer nights, sitting in the living room in Little Falls near an open window, feeling the cool evening breeze whispering in through the screen. That same sense of purpose, of life came rushing through me, and as I walked out of the make shift computer room here in Clinton, the same one where I am right now, well, it was a transformation of time, and of emotions.

 

We were able to celebrate the winter season throughout those frozen months. As a family, my wife and I, along with our son and grandson tried to gobble up as much memory making moments as possible.Jack was 6, and when I was near him and I heard his laughter, I felt like I was six and a half. I remember one afternoon, we were all out in the back yard. There were paths that I had shoveled near the back of the garage, and the snow was probably 2 feet deep, or there abouts. Jack came running up to me and pushed me backwards, causing me to fall back into the deep snow. He was laughing, I was laughing, and my wife was hollering for me not to move. I asked her what the matter was, and she hollered, “There’s a clump of dog poop right next to your head!”

 

Well, needless to say, I didn’t move an inch. Matter of fact, I don’t think I took another breath. Our son, God bless his heart, and strong arms, came running over, and with the help of Jack, the two Lyons men helped pull me back up straight, and out of the doggy doo danger.

 

I’ll never forget that moment, and writing about it now instantly took me back to that great afternoon with three of the most special people in the world.

 

Well the snows came and went, the icicles grew long and dripped their way towards spring, and if I remember correctly, that spring was one of the warmest we had seen in a while. I was glad to see the spring come along, but it just didn’t seem to have the same feeling as it usually did for me. Not having the vision to go along with the warming temps really seemed to be robbing me of a certain characteristic of the season that I had grown to admire and cherish. I kept telling myself that the magic of the season was still there, and it was up to me to figure out how to bring it to me. Perhaps what I didn’t realize was that the more important ingredient of the recipe would be for me to go to it. Another mobility lesson that I never would have expected.

 

That spring saw me continuing the mobility climb with Rosemary. We had traversed our way through the winter sidewalks, and as we stomped the snowy slush from our shoes, the lesson moved along towards the next intersection, with the promise of a toasted bagel and a hot cup of coffee waiting for us on lower Main Street.

 

Sarge and I had formed a friendship that allowed us to talk to each other about the day, the week, the past month, family ties, individual obstacles that we found ourselves working through, and the level of trust and respect that had grown for me was something that you can’t put a price tag on. When I made an error during a lesson, I knew instantly that she was cocking her head to one side, but also that she knew I would be able to figure it out and work my way through it. There were though moments though when her guidance was crucial, and as always, was only a few steps behind me.

 

I think that with any relationship, trust and respect are two of the most important elements of that, or any relationship. Without them, an honest level of communications isn’t possible. I’ve always tried to give folks the best that I have to offer. The old saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression is true, but after that first impression, the work is far from over.

 

Rosemary injected so many different things into my life. Facing my fears and finding a way to build confidence through it all did take a lot of courage on my part, but it also took a ton of guidance, of experience, of determination and devotion, all of which were part of my O&M instructor, Rosemary.

 

Thanks once again Sarge.

 

To be continued…

 

 

2017 06 30 Journal Post Page 43 June 30, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — DP Lyons @ 6:29 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

You know, sometimes looking back can seem like you’re bringing up things that happened a lifetime ago. Then there’s those times when seven years ago seems like the day before yesterday. No matter how it seems, where it happened, who was there or what happened, there’s usually one thing that’s similar about all of these memorable encounters.

 

I’ll let you think on that, and if you want, you can read about this.

 

dp

 

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Page 43

 

The wall of blind was slowly becoming a familiar thing. At times I almost felt comfortable with the thought. I’ll stick with the phrase, “almost felt comfortable”.

 

The more I lived and breathed, the more it seems I was searching for something to pull me out of the dull, mirky waters. The more I searched, the more I wrapped myself inside my writing. I remember many mornings getting up at 4am, or just as soon as the road sentries called out their morning reveille. When the black crows sang and rang down through Battleridge, my eyes popped open, and as I could see the morning light come in through the window, it wasn’t long before the keys were popping under my fingers.

 

As I told you a couple pages ago, the Halloween short story that I started had taken over my keypad. One page had turned into five, which turned into chapter 1, then stretched it’s legs towards chapter 10, then chapter 32, then fifteen months had gone by and that’s all I’m gonna write about that right now.

 

2011 turned into 2012, and the snowflakes came in a flurry of storms. My second winter of shoveling was a little different than my first, in that I knew what to expect, and figured I had the upper hand.

 

Man was I wrong!

 

I often joke about trying to shovel the driveway out front, and becoming disoriented as I approached the end by the road, but looking back, there were quite a few times when my charismatic ego stepped knee deep in it.

 

When you think you have things figured out, and thirty seven seconds later you don’t remember ever feeling that way, a bit of soul searching and praying might come in handy. If it doesn’t, they can never tell you that you didn’t try.

 

I remember getting to the end of the driveway, and if the snow was heavy, I tried to find a way to get the scoop full of snow up over the banks. Well, it seemed to me that the easiest solution would be to push the scoop full across the road and slide it into the ditch, which didn’t have the high snowbanks that the end of the driveway had.

 

I used the ash and maple trees on either side of the driveway as landmarks to get my bearings. I relied on these very heavily, and for some reason, my vision, my sucky vision, my pitiful, unrelenting vision wouldn’t allow me to find the trees once I crossed the road.

 

Getting lost in the woods is a scary thing. I’ve been there before, and learned a vital lesson during the experience. Getting lost 34 feet from the end of your driveway might not seem so bad to some people, but for me, the experience was full of the same anxious moments. Heart pounding, sweat rolling, eyes desperately searching back and forth for a clue, hoping to God that a car didn’t come by, but wait a minute! If a car did come by, I might get my bearings and be able to get back to the safe zone, my home.

 

This happened to me a few times that winter, and a few more before and after that winter, and each time it happened, I wished I was back in my pair of Red Ball Jets, sitting on my new Schwinn Stingray, riding towards a sunset of nothing but what a young boy wishes and hopes for.

 

But there I was, once again, trying to find how to get back into my driveway from across the road.

 

The names were not changed to protect the innocent, mainly because blindness doesn’t care a damn about any of that crap.

 

The winter of 2012 filled my story with many more situations, issues, disappointments, hopes, wishes and what mattered the most was the amazing amount of opportunities that were peeking through the fabric of the day, enticing a blind goat to keep stepping forward and reaching out to find a new way to live.

 

I could bore you with more of my perceptions and opinions, but the story needs to keep moving forward before I get too old to remember the highs, and yes, the lows. There’s many of both, and our little Daisy dog just flew by the laundry room, busting me out of my concentration.

 

Dogs love to dance, and it grabs my attention every time. Grin

 

To be continued…

 

2017 06 27 Journal Excerpt Page 41 June 27, 2017

 

Isn’t it good when things go according to plan? Isn’t it great when you don’t have to worry about the unforeseen snags that can sometimes occur? Isn’t it marvelous when you turn, look back and think to yourself, “How the hell did I manage to get through that?”

 

Oh how life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, and my oh my how fast it can happen.

 

Take a step, or two, and dare to brave the new world. Sound a little frightening? Ok then, how about just trying to brave the new day then.

 

Deal?

 

dp***

 

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Time described: Summer, Fall 2011

Page 41

 

As fall continued to move on through, my mobility lessons continued on as well. Rosemary and I had the opportunity earlier that summer to work with Waterville’s new talking pedestrian crossing assistance program things. Grin Rosemary almost cried when she found out they were planning on installing the new poles at each lighted intersection throughout the city. She had been after the city to upgrade their pedestrian crossing signals for some time, and from what she and I had encountered on our lessons around the city, a lot of the current systems were very poor, some to the point of not working at all. I remember the intersection of Elm, Park and Appleton where the library is. The signal didn’t work very well. In fact, it was quite dangerous for pedestrians, let alone someone who couldn’t see. When the walk sign was lit, the traffic light stayed green, so the normal crossing opportunities conflicted with the traffic. Talk about taking your life in your own hands! Sheesh!

 

Rosemary and I spent a ton of time on that intersection, and when the signals were synched properly, I learned how to hold my breath while crossing. So much of what I learned had to do with trusting that I was visible to drivers. Now I’m fully aware that I’m a big dude, but cars tend to be quite a bit bigger, so when we’re talking about a one on one conflict, well, need I say more?

 

Learning the proper crossing techniques with normal intersections depends on quite a few things. Not all intersections run the same as far as the light patterns. We spent a few lessons just standing at each corner and studying the patterns, one corner at a time, and believe me, there is a lot to learn from a simple 4 way intersection. With Rosemary’s help, I learned the patterns and applied the skills for a few more lessons. This was a couple months prior to the start of updating the city systems, and by the time I had learned just that one intersection, we moved on to another one.

 

Waterville has roughly 25 or so lighted intersections, and virtually every one is different. Those lessons with Rosemary were long, grueling and exhausting. By the time I arrived back home, I was mentally fried. I usually had a hard time falling asleep because of visions of busy intersections dancing through my head.

 

One lesson while we were heading down Main Street, we came across a road crew working on the intersection of Temple, Main and the Concourse entrance. After going back and forth through the intersection a couple times, Sarge asked the crew what they were working on. When they told her they were installing new audible pedestrian crossing systems, Rosemary hollered out loud. It scared me a little, as I couldn’t really hear their conversation very well because of the road noise. She grabbed me and pulled me off to the side, and as she told me the news, I could hear the excitement in her voice.

 

That intersection was one of the first installments done in the city. These systems weren’t like other systems I had worked with , for instance, down in Newton Mass. Their systems were chirping sounds that signified when crossing by pedestrians was safe. The Waterville systems were talking systems that told you in a synthesized voice when, and which streets were safe to cross. They also had beeping indicators so that you could find the poles and push the buttons to start the crossing pattern. Another really cool feature that impressed me even more was when you walked up to the pole and hit it with your cane, the volume level of the beeping, and of the voice assistant increased. It was also designed to increase automatically with increased road noise, such as trucks and other loud vehicles, so that you could continue to hear the signals. Pretty cool innovations if you ask me. Waterville was the first city in the state to have these new systems, and I was probably the first blind person to use them, or one of the first.

 

Within a few months, all of the lighted intersections of Waterville were set up with the new system, and the fun was just starting, from my perspective anyway.

 

With new technology, come new opportunities, and new issues. With any changes, mobility also changes, and a new way to do things needs to be taught, learned and implemented. That particular intersection that saw the first new system provided for some unique challenges. On the intersection’s south west corner, the pole that controlled the Main Street crossing was placed roughly fifteen feet from the actual start of the crossing. These signals were set up to announce when the walk light was lit, so when you heard, “Main Street walk signal is lit. It is now safe to cross”, the smart move would be to start sweeping your cane and head across. There was one problem though. As I said, the pole was quite a distance from the start of the cross walk, and there was also a time indicator that counted down to let you know how much time you had before the walk time ended. Of course, this count down indicator on the pole had no audible indicator associated with it, so Rosemary was the only indicator mechanism that told me how much time I had left. By the time I reached the cross walk and got half way across the street, the time was up, and the traffic began to flow again.

 

Not a good scenario!

 

I couldn’t move closer to the start of the crossing after I pushed the button on the pole because I couldn’t hear the voice announcing unless I was standing right beside the pole. The volume increasing didn’t seem to raise the voice levels sufficient enough to be heard more than a few feet from the pole.

 

Are you confused? So was I.

 

Well, we both decided that this scenario sucked out loud, and Sarge told me that it was up to me to fix it. I ended up contacting one of the Public works managers and told him about our dilemma. He agreed to meet us at the intersection on my next lesson, which he did.

 

That day I felt like the problem might be addressed, but it would probably take a few weeks to iron out. The manager met us at the street corner that next lesson, and while Rosemary and I were describing the problem, he hopped on his phone, called a number, opened the control panel on the box’s box, punched a few codes into the small keypad inside the box and extended the time allowed to cross the intersection by fifteen seconds.

 

Problem solved in less than five minutes.

 

Oh how I love modern technology, especially when it works well.

 

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

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 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…