The little boy bounced and twisted as he walked along holding his mother’s hand. His eyes happened to fall on me during his gyrations of fun, halting all his movements as his hand was pulled forward as his mother kept walking, oblivious to the change. The little boy pulled her arm towards him, and she leaned near him asking, “What, Sweetie?” as she realized his eyes were bulging as big as saucers. The little boy leaned and whispered in a hushed tone that only those within ten feet around him could hear, “Mama, Look, it’s Helen Keller!” Mama looked confused as she followed the direction of his piercing eyes to see me standing before them.
Yep! I get that reaction sometimes. Why? Well, it isn’t because I look like Helen Keller. At least, I don’t think. I actually wouldn’t know, but I don’t think I do. I have been told by a few that I do look a little like Anne Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, with my little bronze, roundish sunglasses. I don’t think that is why I get this reaction, though. No, I think it might have something to do with me having a guide dog and those dark glasses that instantly tell you I am blind, along with the fact that I am almost always listening to people talk, uh, with my hands. As I have said in my previous post, I am a bit different than you might expect. I am DeafBlind. I even get a few stares from adults who seem to think that Helen Keller was the only DeafBlind person who ever lived. Yes, I am different; but there are quite a few of us out there who have dual losses of sight and sound.
I am also not incapable of doing things. Many people seem to think that because I am not able to hear them or see them that I must be incapable of thought or intelligence, at least. I can read. Well, not print with my eyes, but I read with feeling through touching braille. I can write by typing in English print or even on a piece of paper. My writing in cursive or print may not be perfectly neat, but it is legible. I can also write in braille using a slate and stylus or on a Perkins brailler which is a lot like an old manual typewriter, but with only seven keys. I can speak with my voice because I did learn to speak before losing too much hearing as a young child. I also can talk like many other Deaf people who may not have speech. I speak and understand American Sign Language or ASL which is a real language, though visual. I also have a fairly good grasp of French; though, with this Southern accent, I won’t say I can speak French. I have hobbies like reading, writing poetry, game playing, hiking, geocaching, TV. Yes, even TV. I love reading TV scripts or closed captions in braille. My favorite show right now is “The Big Bang Theory” because it reminds me of the craziness of living with “Aspies” and nerds. We, DeafBlind, do have personalities. My personality is pretty wacky.
Everything I do is through touch. I feel my way with a cane or the harness of my guide dog to travel in the community, to shop, and to visit friends. I place my hand over another person’s hand to see their signs of ASL. I listen to music by feeling the vibrations. If it is a song I know from years ago, I can sing it and still have perfect pitch. Yes, these are the touches of life, my life. Like Helen Keller finding the world of language for the first time at the well, touch can bring you a world filled with wonder and wisdom. Last time, I shared with you about my struggles in the Dark Silence. These touches of life help me to live through the Dark Silence. The hardest thing to cope with has been people who don’t understand that I am still a person, and they refuse to touch me or even be near me to talk through someone else. They feel too afraid to reach out and talk with me. You don’t need to know ASL. You only need to reach out a hand to mine. That is all I need to feel your love and friendship. Communication is easy once you can make that one step. There are lots of ways to communicate with me through technology and interpreters, but the beginning is a touch of the heart and hand.
We will explore life through touch-Homeschool Touches. Whether you need touch to journey through the Dark Silence or just need a new perspective, touch can make life richer.