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 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***

 

***

 

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…

 

 

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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…

 

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

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

 

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

 

I like those the best.

 

Go grab yourself some memories.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Page 38

Summer 2011

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Or did it?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

To be continued…

 

2017 06 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 21 Journal Excerpt Page 35 June 21, 2017

Emotions come, and emotions go. The distance between coming and going can feel like a lifetime, but it consists of all the things that life is made of. A recipe of living, breathing, experiencing, discovering, welcoming, and yes, veering away from. Millions of steps towards a sunset, along a sunrise, away from the rain and towards a familiar face, it all brings us to that certain spot where, for some reason, we’re meant to be.

 

And here we go again.

 

Deon

 

***

 

Page 35

 

Through the rest of summer 2011 I did manage to stick with the two groups, and as the writing assignments piled up, so too did my confidence in writing overall. I had started writing short stories and poems about my experience of losing my sight, and as I almost forgot to tell you, late spring 2011 I started my blog. I can’t really remember how I got pointed in that direction, but as I write this entry now, late spring 2017, I am still writing and posting to my blog, which is entitled, Surviving.

 

I started the blog on Google’s Blogspot platform, and with the help of my then assistive tech tutor, Mike Adams, figured out how to do it. We spent a few sessions going over the ins and outs of blogging, but time and time again I was met head on with issues with the blog site’s accessibility features, or lack there of. Before I knew it, the moderator of the second writer’s group told me about WordPress, which was another blogging platform that, from what Jacki told me, was far more responsive to the needs of those like me who used screen readers.

 

I switched over to WordPress, and am still using their website today. I think I’m hovering around 400 or so posts to my blog, and am right now in the process of posting a series of entries containing this journal that I’m writing in right now. I posted page 25 today, that’s 25 posts, 25 days in a row, and I still have a few to go, especially seeing as how I am lengthening the size of the journal as I write. Grin

 

 

Turning back a couple months, Rosemary and I started back with O&M early spring 2011, and although I didn’t look forward to the mobility lessons, I knew that I needed them greatly.

 

Our favorite stomping grounds were in the city of Waterville, and away I went, following my white cane with a blonde haired woman ten steps behind me. She didn’t have me do any more lessons with blindfolds on, which was a reason for me to jump for joy. What little sight I had was lending me a hand, as it was giving me the opportunity to find and identify landmarks, as blurred and dull as they were. Contrasted items proved to be the most benefit for me, especially with snow on the ground. Bare pavement, parked cars, telephone poles, buildings against the sky, they all soon became my best friends. I learned very quickly though just how many tricks my poor, limited vision could play on me. I remember once sighting what I thought was a telephone pole between the road and I. I soon found out that the pole wasn’t next to me, but across the road on that sidewalk. Things like that really spun me around and smacked me upside the head. A reality check supreme.

 

Our excursions around downtown Waterville usually included a stop into a small Main Street sandwich shop, where we both usually ordered bagels and a coffee. I fell in love with their asiago cheese bagel. As we sat and consumed our drinks and foods, we usually discussed the lesson. I was able to go over issues that I was encountering, and how they were affecting my ability to maneuver behind the cane. Rosemary began asking me to write up overviews of the lessons, which turned into assignments that I emailed to her upon completion. At the end of our time together, I compiled the documents into one single manuscript, which I sent to her as well. I should turn that into a book some time in the future.

 

The lessons over those next few months were a constant reminder of my blindness, but they also helped to open my eyes to what might be in store for me. Rosemary kept telling me that besides feeling vulnerable, frightened, scared, angry, frustrated, inept, uncoordinated and mad as hell, I exuded a level of confidence with the way I carried myself as I maneuvered down the sidewalks of Waterville. She kept telling me that I stood tall as I walked behind my cane, and that people were always noticing me. I was fairly certain that the reason they were noticing me was because I was a very unusual sight. She continued to disagree, and kept telling me that whatever I was feeling inside, it didn’t show on the outside.

 

There were occasions where my mobility lessons ended up being a learning experience extraordinaire. I shrug these incidents off as extreme lessons, and believe me, the emotions that accompanied these instances were very, very extreme. ,

 

To be continued…

 

 

2017 04 02 Nat Poetry Month, Questions April 2, 2017

Yes, it’s April 2nd, and from what they tell me, spring is still in the air. I agree that it’s probably in the air, but the ground here on the ridge still looks like winter’s icy fingers will be here for another week or three.

As spring is finally waking up, I’m reminded of the different seasons. I’m also reminded that life is reminiscent of those seasons. The birth, the growth, the learning, changing, adapting and everything about it brings it all around to those days when we say good bye to those we love.

This poem reminds me that sometimes, life moves too quickly. Before we know it, those things we love are gently pried from our grasp. It’s something we all go through, and it’s something we all could stand to do without, but then again, such is life.

This poem is dedicated to my father, and all those I have loved, and lost.

Life goes on, and on, and on.
Have a great day, and Happy April 2nd to you all.
dp

Questions

Slow down you guys.
Where are you going so fast?
Why did you need to leave so soon?
Is your work here finished?

I’m not sure if you know this or not,
But even though you’re not here, your inspiration lingered behind,
Your friends will always be just that,
And you will be missed.

Will we ever see you again?
Will I ever see you again?
Even though you’re not here, can you hear me when I talk?
Can you see my searching eyes?

There’s so much about you that I’ll always love.
That I’ll always miss.
That I’ll always admire,
That I’ll never forget.

Can you see the countless faces of the past?
Can you feel the love from those you were born to cherish?
Can you see the face of God?
Can you feel the touch from all the lives before?

Fear not, for you will always be brave.
Worry not, for you will always know.
Be quiet no more, for we will always listen.
Love forever, and you shall always be loved.

One and all, we will miss you all.

 

04 01 National Poetry Month, Howling Wolves

Welcome one and all to the 2017 National Poetry Month.

With these last two years, I have submitted a poem a day to this blog, and hopefully, this year will be year number 3. Time will tell, right? grinhave

This surely is a gloriously musical month, for poetry surely is the music of the soul.

I would like to add the following poem to my daily submissions, in hopes that all who love poetry gather in their chances to indulge a line or two of this form of writing that has always been a moving passion of mine.

Although this poem is a little dark to kick off the month, it acted similar to many writings of mine, in that it jumped out onto the screen with merely a few touches of the keys.

And again, the goat rambles on.

Happy late April 1st to one and all, and here we go again.

Howling Wolves

A beggar’s meal is all that’s asked.
A morsel, a crumb, a sliver of hope.
Questions that lie scattered in the shallows live on, unanswered.
Fingernails continue to carve their weary script along a furrowed brow.

Pray tell where the tips of broken shoes wander.
Hollowed out hints lend nothing to the curious heart.
A pictured work of art, but for one lost stroke of the brush.
Gather in the hours, only to wish away the day.

Weathered fingers clutch at the void.
Tattered wool beats back the howling wolves of winter.
Pangs of empty hunger cut deep with unfeeling fate.
One misplaced story,
Never to be heard,
Never to be felt,
Never to be forgotten.