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…

 

 

Advertisements
 

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 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…

 

 

2015 06 27 Discombobulated June 27, 2015

So there I was, standing with a arm full of folded bath towels when all of a sudden I walked up to the fridge and opened the door. There I was, standing in front of an open fridge wondering why I was standing in front of an open fridge. I couldn’t remember ever having put away folded bath towels in the fridge. As I closed the door to the fridge and turned towards the bathroom, I smiled and shook my head, wondering how I was ever going to find my way to my pillow that night.

I shouldn’t have felt so discombobulated, because it wasn’t like I never did absent minded things like that before I lost my vision. Fact is, I used to walk into a room, stop, and think why I walked into that room at least once or twice a week. Fact is, I’ve been absent minded since they discovered I came equipped with a mind. Fact is, the busier I became during the course of my life, the more I frequented rooms for no particular reason. Fact is, being a human is like owning a free life time pass to the greatest show on earth, and the popcorn always has just the right amount of salt and butter.

No, sorry. No m&m’s. I just saw that in the Whiplash movie, and within a couple weeks from watching the movie, I’ve heard people talk about this trendy blend a couple times. Weird? Oh you betcha.

So, as I was saying, no one knows about being absent minded more than I do. There were those occasions that I would drive right by my next sales stop and keep on riding towards my next stop. Some times, I didn’t realize what I had done until I did in fact arrive at that next stop, and then, as I stared at the invoice of the customer I just rode past twenty minutes before, it finally dawned on me that my truck did a bad thing.

Bad, bad old truck! Might as well blame it on something else, right?

Have you ever thought of something, some place, some word, some occurrence, but for the life of you you couldn’t transform the thought to words? Is that a form of absent mindedness? Is mindedness a word? Should it be? What was I writing about?

Oh ya.

I have run into non connectivity between my brain and my keypad quite a bit these past few years. I know what I’m thinking about, but I can’t think of the correct word to adequately convey the meaning onto the screen. I know some of you are thinking to yourselves, “Why don’t you use a thesaurus?”

Goat don’t work that way.

Fact is, if I can’t say it one way, there’s always some other way to construct a writer’s path that gets the job done. I know I’m not the most fluent of writers. I don’t have a pocket dictionary in my pocket. I have a limited vocabulary that sometimes has me scratching my head. I do like to paint a picture with words, but I probably should have gone to artistic colors in text class or something, because I do at times feel like a fish out of water when it comes to hitting a concrete wall of confusion and doubt.

About half an hour ago, I was standing in the middle of the kitchen, slowly turning around in a circle, from the sliding window, to the kitchen sink, back to the kitchen table, and all the while I wondered what it is that I was supposed to do.

I didn’t figure it out. I didn’t remember. I didn’t let it bother me though, and so I walked in this room, woke up my computer, opened a word document, and as I sometimes do, I started to write.

I didn’t remember anything I wanted to write about, so here it is.

 

2015 06 17 None the Less June 17, 2015

I noticed something the other day, and that’s that I shuffle my feet when I walk across the floor. I do the same thing that used to make me laugh when I was a young sprite. I’ve turned old, right before my very eyes that can’t see. Not that it really bothers me, or I should say, out of sight, out of mind, right?

I remember when I was a young lad, watching older people and the way they handled themselves. They just seemed to have such a significant stature about themselves that I was sure I would never see. Now, I don’t know if I have achieved that same stature as I used to witness, but I’m old none the less.

I know, I know. All you guys and gals that are roughly the same age as me are calling me names as you read this, or completely exiting this post. I’m sorry for stuffing you into this rude category, but all I’m trying to do is convey the fact that no matter where I go, the older I become, and I’ve been to quite a few places, so I can’t help but realize that I must have done some huge amounts of oldening up.

Is oldening up a useable phrase?

I didn’t think so, but I ain’t letting that stop me!

Onward, through the fog!

There I go, getting older by the moment again. Again? I didn’t stop getting older, did i? I didn’t stop maturing and acting, umm, older, did I? I didn’t stop doddering and fidgeting and rambling and fumbling, did I? I just pissed a lot of you off once again, didn’t I?

Good. Nothing like getting things accomplished.

I was with my son and grand son the other day, and as I sat in amazement, I thought to myself how wonderful it was to be able to be with two of the most important men in the world. I thought and I shifted in my seat as I thought some more, and it dawned on me that my grand son Jack is the same age as I was when I used to look at grown ups, older people as really, really old. Then I thought to myself that I’m of the age that I never thought I would ever be, and as I once again shifted in my seat, I smiled as I reached out and squeezed Jack’s shoulder.

Then I reached down and grabbed his knee until he screamed out in tickled agony!

Sometimes being old has its advantages, you know?

 

2014 11 22 Week 12 Thanks November 22, 2014

Week 12 and a Holiday to Boot

Yes, that’s right. Week 12 has ventured in, made itself known and quietly stepped aside. Do I feel smarter? Should I be smarter? Do I look smarter?

Don’t answer that last one, and here we go.

It’s been a dozen weeks of text book prep. It’s been a dozen weeks of recording discussion. It’s been 84 days of trying to find the handles of the double doors. Let’s see. 12 times 7, carry the, yup! 84! It’s been 3 months of banging down through the aisles, trying to find my seat, setting up my laptop, grabbing my ear buds from my bag, setting my digital recorder on my desk, making a few friends, making a few more, learning a little, learning just a little bit more, recapturing abandoned brain cells, weaving down through the halls, listening to the echoes of my cane in the stairwells, receiving mobility assistance, receiving more mobility assistance, shaking hands, laughing at my instructors, laughing with my instructors, finding out that my recorder wasn’t recording, finding out that my laptop wasn’t connected to the school’s Wi-Fi, listening to my stomach growl in math class and listening for the wonderful sound of my wife tapping the horn in the Chevy at 12:22.

We’re heading into the home stretch of the semester, and I can’t believe it. The days have gone by so fast that it’s hard to remember all that’s happened. From the discussions with my DBVI VRCounselor Annette, to the futures planning meeting, to the first phone calls with the college, to the summer long mobility lessons, to having my picture taken in August with a KVCC t-shirt on, it’s been a marvelous experience, wrapped in the layers of so many amazingly inspirational people within the halls of KVCC.

There’s so many different ways to do what I have done, but none of it is possible without the help, guidance and assistance that I have received. I am blessed with family and friends who have shown their belief in me. This itself is worth celebrating. To have such positivity surrounding me is a gift that never stops giving. Every time I realize you all are there, your presence grows even larger.

With the holidays approaching quickly, there’s no time better than right now to thank you all for your help and support. In the true fashion of seasonal spirit, deep down inside there’s a warm fire burning that just plain feels good. The smiles and laughter of the season always seems to grab hold of me. I never know when it’s going to happen. I never know when the emotions will come flooding in. I never know how many ways there is to be thankful, until they all gang up on me. I just never know, but I do know one thing, I know that I’m going to keep my feet moving towards the spring semester with an even wider outlook than I had in August. I’m going to take my place in one of the seats, in one of the classrooms on the campus of KVCC.

I had a spammed post comment on my blog saying that that particular post was negative and led the reader to think that I was looking for pity, that I was feeling sorry for myself. I went back and read the post he was talking about, and although I did point out some difficulties I had been having, I also showed a sense of humility that had always been hard for me to face. I have been humbled on more than one occasion at school, and each time I have had the opportunity to absorb, adapt and advance my way towards the next opportunity to learn and grow. You see, I have listened and studied the friends I have made in the blind community, and I have learned from them that nothing is perfect, and if it seems perfect, then just wait a second, because it’s subject to change, just like everything else. I also learned that with these changes, I can also change with them. Such a brilliant concept that we all have the ability of taking advantage of.

Pretty cool, huh?

I want to wish you all the happiest Thanksgiving ever. I hope your day brings you smiles, laughter and love.

Don’t look now, but I hear week 13 knocking at the door.

Take care and stay warm.

 

10 10 14 Seven Weeks October 10, 2014

Good Bye Week Seven

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in college for seven weeks now. Each week, from the time I climb up the staircase in Hinckley on Monday morning, to when my ride arrives to take me home on Thursday afternoon in Fairfield, it’s a blinding blur, brought on by a beautifully woven tapestry of campus activity. I don’t know where the time goes, but man oh man does it ever.

I’ve experienced many firsts in 45 days. I’ve soared through the highs, sidestepped along the lows, made a few friends, learned a few things, been reminded of a few more, and I have to keep telling myself that I’m just getting started.

I’ve had a few fits with my new laptop, or should I say, a few more than a few. I am gaining with Windows 8.1 though, and as far as Office 2013? Well, let’s just say I haven’t thought of anything nice to call a ribbon yet. I’m working on it though, and sooner or later, those pesky little buggers will pay!

I’ve had some days when my lack of vision hasn’t bothered me, and other days when it was all I could think of. What I’m able to see changes as quickly as the weather, and if it wasn’t for the hours and hours of mobility lessons I had this summer, I’d probably still be trying to find the staircase in the Averill building in Hinckley. Probably be trying to find the doorway into King 112 also. How much I can see through my fogged up, waxed paper view really determines how some of my days progress.

My health has been good though, which I should never take for granted.

I have some wonderful instructors who have bent over backwards to try and give me the materials in an accessible format. You have no idea how wonderful it is to know that you all have my best interest at heart. None of this would be possible without your accommodations and insight, and I thank you all.

There have been a few things that have sent me spiraling, but with each incident, I absorb, adapt and advance towards the next opportunity to experience and learn.

I have been offered help by a number of students in a number of different situations, and all of them have been met with a slice of humility that reminds me just how generous and compassionate the human heart is.

I have come a long way in seven weeks. I have learned a lot, but mostly I have discovered an unquenchable thirst to learn even more. I’ll never get back the years that have led me to this point, but without them, I probably would have ended up somewhere else, and I think I prefer being right where I am.

I’ve learned how to see things differently these past four years, these past seven weeks, and the gained insight can be measured only with my actions and abilities.

Accessibility has come a long, long ways over the years. I couldn’t have picked a better time to have lost my sight. With all the technological advances that the digital world has brought to the blind community, it’s exciting to think where it’s headed, and what will become the norm in probably just a few short years. I don’t take anything for granted any more. I can’t afford to.

It’s been seven short weeks of one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It’s been 45 days of highs and lows, surrounded by pure possibility.

I look forward to the next seven weeks with courage, faith and hope, thanks in part from the encouragement I continue to get from all around.

I am extremely blessed to have crossed paths with you all.

dp.