Did you happen to see the episode this season or last of Mythbusters where they were trying to see if you could walk a straight line while blindfolded? Adam and Jaime walked in circles all over their little field of testing and never in the same direction. They never made it to their destination straight across the field and always eventually went back to the side which they started. Silly boys… Despite their method, the result was always the same. Myth busted.
Well, I had already tried busting that myth a few years before, but I didn’t need a blindfold. I couldn’t do any better, but I did eventually learn a few tricks that helped for every situation but the field in the middle of nowhere. I use tactual clues. Once I was legally blind, it took a while to go through the whole testing procedure to diagnose and even prove that I was actually blind before I could get help. I was on my own for over two years before I was put in my first orientation and mobility class to teach me how to get around independently with a cane. At first, I just sat. I was a tad bit depressed, but that really doesn’t suit me, so it didn’t last long at all before I was feeling my way around with my hands and feet. I used both at all times and even my whole body when necessary. This can be pretty scary when doing it all alone, but I made it through. I used my fingertips to feel tables, railings, walls, etc. I say fingertips, but I had to learn the hard way how dangerous it can be sliding your hands around various unknown surfaces. I looked worse than an ornery cat’s owner for a while. With time, I could recognize with gentile finger touches everything around me indoors and out including the slugs, lizards, and one snake that crossed my path in one way or another. You can’t be faint of heart or weak of stomach in this lifestyle. My feet had the better part of finding edges with my shoes to follow the sidewalk or curb of the street. It didn’t take long before I could recognize easily the change of texture, angle, and hazards. I also learned to detect vibrations in the floor when someone walked or by the breeze of air that is moved when someone moves across the room. With lots of time practicing and focusing, I can now tell whether the person moving is my husband, son, and even a couple of very close friends.
Eventually, I did get a cane and Orientation and Mobility training (O & M). This gave me an extension of my hands and feet. I am aware of things from five feet away now as I walk the sidewalks and streets. This allows me to walk at a more normal speed with much more safety. I like appearing more normal rather than moving along like a snail waving my arms around and up to protect my face and my feet moving inches at a time carefully making sure there is no crack or drop off to hurt me. The cane helps me to go up and down steps with no fear of missing steps. By merely holding the cane slanted and slightly off the step I hit the bottom perfectly, so I know when I am on the last step and stepping down before I hit hard. It may not sound like a big deal, but I assure you these little touches ease my fears greatly.
What I don’t like about the cane is that it has no brain. It can’t think and know when there is a crack and just tell me to avoid it completely. No, the cane usually sticks in the crack and stops suddenly while I walk into it with my stomach. Oh, my black and blue tummy! I also have to be careful and not run into people too hard. Yes, I will run into people because the cane can’t think, but I try to move my cane slowly and gently enough that I don’t hurt anyone that I come into contact with. Problem is that it is embarrassing. I know hearing and sighted people run into people, too, but I would prefer not to or not as often anyway. The cane is great, but for me there is a better way.
What I hope you can learn from this is that you can learn life’s touches, too, be they actual touches or touches of teaching, or whatever, by spending lots of time and focusing on the person you are trying to touch with love. My journey with learning touch is far from over. I hope you are learning something, too. I can’t wait until next time to tell you about my favorite method of touch!