What do singer Bree Noble, radio announcer Marty Lancer, and resource teacher Ron Freitas have in common? All three are blind. I read their stories, and the stories of fourteen other blind people in “The Little House That Cares”. I was stunned and inspired by their courage and fortitude. They were honest about their struggles and jubilant about their victories. I read that book in humble admiration. I’m always griping about my 20/400 eyesight, and bemoaning the fact that I’m “blind”.
I’m not a complete stranger to real blindness though. For some years now, my mom has been legally blind due to macular degeneration. I travel to visit her once or twice a year, and I’m amazed at how well she does with very limited eyesight. And I’m grateful for the resources available to her through the “Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired” She is always showing me some little helpful gadget she got from the “VIPS”
Catchy name – VIPS. I was thinking about my mom one day when I was out for a walk. I was making a mental note to call the Arizona Talking Book Library, and put some books on mom’s list. Suddenly I noticed the cutest little house set back from the street. It had a nicely landscaped yard, wheelchair access, and a big sign on the front near the peaked roof: VIPS: Visually Impaired Persons Support. Right here in my own neighborhood.
I made up my mind to pop in one day and just chat with the people there; maybe get some tips for mom, or how ideas of how I can support her. But time got away from me…
Then one day my friend, Ruth McKinsey, came to my house and showed me the book she had helped edit for the VIPS. What a surprise! I’ve known Ruth for years, and I knew her daughter was blind. But somehow I had never really put it together, or thought about her possible involvement with VIPS. The main thing I know about Ruth’s daughter, Bree, is that she’s an amazing singer.
I eagerly bought a copy of “The Little House That Cares”. Some of the accounts are better written that others, but every one of them had a story that held my interest. I read straight through the book.
What would it be like to be completely blind? The question haunted me. How do you suddenly learn to read Braille or walk with a cane if blindness overtakes you quickly, as it did with a couple of the people in the book? I stood up from reading and closed my eyes and tried to walk into the kitchen to get a drink of water. But I couldn’t do it. I immediately got disoriented and nervous.
It gave me an idea though. I would buy some of those eye patches and make myself blind for a day – or an afternoon. I really wanted to see what it would be like. I decided that I’d stop by the VIP house, and see if I could get some tips or ideas from one of the people who had written stories in the book.
I told John about my upcoming experiment and he urged me to wait till he was home so he could help me. Most of the people in the book have faithful helpers or caregivers.
I was really excited. We went to Wal Mart and got the patches. John’s vacation was coming up. But I still needed to talk to a blind person and get some tips.
Then the phone rang one Friday afternoon. “Hello, Andrena? My name is Ron Freitas. I got your name from Ruth McKinsey…”
“Oh my gosh, I know who you are! It’s so nice to talk with you! I loved the story you wrote in the VIPS book.”
Ron told me he’s considering a more in-depth book, and he wanted to talk to me about editing and publishing help.
I told him I’d be glad to look at his manuscript, and I told him about my planned day of blindness. A former resource teacher for the city schools, Ron was almost as enthusiastic as I was. “Come over to my house for a couple of hours,” he offered, “and I’ll give you some tips.”
I was nearly dancing around the kitchen in excitement. A completely unsolicited offer of just the kind of help I had been wanting! John had been listening to my side of the conversation from his office, and he stuck his head out the door with the most flabbergasted grin on his face.
So Ron and I made plans to meet the following Monday…
To be continued