This was originally posted on February 21, 2016 at 5:01 PM on Blogger.
So, I shan’t spend a paragraph apologizing (though I am sorry) or coming up with excuses (it’s the beginning of my second semester!). But, you know, I’m an artist, we’re supposed to be inconsistent and flighty. And inconsistency is far better than the other legacies left me by past writers (and other artists): reclusiveness, torrid yet doomed romances, depression and suicidal tendencies, etc.
But, my dear readers, I digress.
Two weeks ago I went to spend a few hours with my eldest sister and her daughter, my niece. Upon arriving at the train station, I called my sister—who was going to meet me—and discovered that she had not yet left the house.
Initially, I’d planned on staying downstairs in the station and waiting for her (I didn’t want to use the wrong exit), but the scent of urine had wafted into my nostrils one too many times, and so I decided to head upstairs.
While up there, inhaling deeply of the fresher air, I began playing with my phone; texting and eventually calling one of my friends for entertainment. In the midst of my phone conversation, a being slams into my stomach and, in a deepened voice says “Bebe.”
(note: My actual nickname is Lily ‘or Lee Lee’ but with the arrival of my niece eight years ago, Bebe or Bee Bee ‘but that one looks weird’ was born.)
As I laughed and told her that she was a little creep, she was telling me !”come on”. She took my left hand and put it on her arm before we started walking. And then she and I walked home together (with my sister following behind us, of course).
Kiki—my niece—was actually a pretty good guide. She sometimes wouldn’t tell me to stop at street corners but I think a part of that is her still working out the stop sign and traffic lights and when to and not to go herself. She would also just make short stops rather than slowing down. But other than that, she walked me into nothing. (I was also still using my cane and eye, of course.)
Now, I’d noticed this before too, with my god sister (who is the same age). Though with her, she would always hold my hand. That’s actually what Kiki used to do as well so I’m not sure what changed. But anyway Naya (godsister) was generally a far better guide than her older—by five years—brother. I was going to write that it is because I grew up with Kiki and Naya why they are such good guides, but I grew up with Jamari (godbrother) too. But he’s just an interesting young man 🙂
But it seemed like they were less worried and caught up in…everything. They look out for themselves when walking, and now they were just looking out for one more person.
There have been many times when someone was going to guide me, and they were so busy apologizing for doing perceived wrongs, or obsessing about whether or not they would walk me into anything, that they usually do all of the things they’re worried about.
* * *
My niece still occasionally asks about my eyes. For example, two weeks before this event, she asked why my eyes were different from those of her and my sisters’. I told her that I was born like that (I know, I know, not really an answer, but I wasn’t going to launch into the explanation of pigmentation and stuff… but perhaps I should have), and also that it was sometimes good to be different. She disagreed, saying that people laughed at you when you were different (I’ll be working to change that point of view). And later that day, when I was talking about my BrailleNote, she asked if it was something that only people with blue eyes could have.
But even though she’s still trying to grasp all of the intricacies of my disability (what I can and cannot see), she does get it, mostly (as evidenced by every time she shoves a book in my face so I can more clearly see a picture). Kids learn so quickly. And I appreciate their candidness (that many adults lack).
Initially, I just wanted to write this post to tell you about what good guides some kids make (some kids are naturals, just as some adults), but as I wrote, it morphed into how easily they adapt. And how many of us lose that as we grow older. My niece, godsister, and godbrother grew up with a blind person in their midst, and I feel (hope strongly) that I’ve helped with a new generation of at least three open-minded kids. Not only in terms of how they react to and treat blind people, but other disabled people too.
I hope this for everyone I’ve spent a prolonged amount of time with. Peers, older people, cousins, my other godsiblings…
In the case of my niece and my godmother’s kids, knowing their parents, I don’t think they’ll loose it (I’m not sure what word best fits here)..
It saddens me a little when a person who, as a child might have asked questions like: “why are your eyes like that?” or something, grow up to be terrified, for lack of a better word, to ask questions because of perceived societal rules. Especially as we become more and more sensitive and increasingly obsessed with political correctness.
Moral of the post: be open. Embrace your inner child. Be okay with guiding and speaking to a blind person (or other disabled person). Maybe don’t ask your questions as bluntly as a child might “What’s wrong with your eyes?” but still ask, maybe start with “your eyes are interesting.” But please, and I beg of you, if you ask someone if they have in contacts, and they say no, please don’t ask if they’re sure/certain. Yes, this has happened… more than once.
I realize that the eyes questions are a little specific to me and a handful of other people, so something else I’m asked is: “how do you use your phone?” While sometimes it frustrates me (if I have an earpiece in, I’m probably listening) but I realize it’s irrational. My favorite is when people ask if there’s “some sort of braille” or “tactile feedback” on my screen. It makes me laugh, I’m not sure why, but I do appreciate that the asker is trying. Their trying to come up with a solution, and even if their wrong, it’s a conversation starter.
And while I am asked these questions outright, more people spend the time whispering to their companions instead of asking the person who can give them an answer. Most kids would ask.
Kids also whisper, both to their parents and friends, but I feel it is more likely that they will say something.
Why do parents hush their kids when they ask things? Or apologize profusely even after the question is answered? Especially when they were probably wondering the same thing?
But I guess this is where we straddle the line of “politeness” and “being rude”.
In conclusion: be open. Let yourself be open.
Till next time
Ps. 655 pageviews!
And over the last two or three days, I’ve acquired 4 new subscribers to my vlog, giving me 37!!!!!!!!!