April 24, 2014 marked one year since I lost my sight. Instead of spending an evening together breaking bread at a 5-star restaurant, I thought it would be better spent by making a charitable contribution. Because the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind has helped me in not only teaching me the tangible skills of mobility, but the intangible ones of confidence, self-acceptance and simply dealing with this new reality. I wanted the donation to help others who might not receive the lessons/skills otherwise.
Space does not permit me to by name call out each of you who have helped me navigate this new path, but my intent is to recognize all.
Bob and Faye Beyer – The surgery did not end up like we hoped or expected, but you embraced me and the unknown. I cannot ever thank you enough for all that you have done for me and have and continue to love me unconditionally. We all came into this thing blindly. You are truly what family is supposed to be!
Denise McCaskill – You promised you would be there for me through it all. It has not been easy and sometimes I know you did not know how to help me and I did not know either, but you still tried. Life is so different and I miss all those girls’ nights out. You are still a great friend and I miss the daily talks.
Maria Ashlon – You often come over and end up cleaning the house for me. I so appreciate it. You are always so positive and full of sunshine that it is hard to feel sorry for myself.
Dr. Allessandro Olivi – You saved my life and killed the brain tumor, for that I am eternally grateful. We found the tumor too late to save my sight, and for whatever God’s will is, he has a purpose for it. You did all you could and there has never been blame. I gained a world renowned Neurosurgeon as my doctor and the warm gentle spirit of the Italians that I miss.
JIEDDO J1/4 – My work family, before this happened, I did not believe those words. I have never been a part of an organization that has cared for its people like J1/4 does. Thank you for learning with me, how to work just a little bit different so I can bring value to the mission. Thank you for learning how to be more specific in direction and when referring to papers/slides and the like. Right, left and the slide with the heartbeat glideslope are great; this way or that slide, is no. Thank you for all the offers to go get lunch or coffee and for guiding me to a meeting. I especially appreciate everyone who treats me like they did before I became blind. It makes me feel normal. I do like the difference in that now I feel like I have friends in addition to just co-workers. I even respect those who do not choose to interact unless required. That is honest and you do not give pity. I care greatly for you all.
Thank you to my co-workers who donated their hard earned leave to me. Thank you to everyone who has supported, encouraged, had patience, and told me that I inspire them. I often keep going so I do not let you down.
Jim and Diane Raynor – You are the greatest neighbors that I could ever ask for. The chores and errands you do for me are immense and routine. From feeding Romeo occasionally, to the trash, to taking me to the store for coffee creamer and all the other things like checking what is on the TV when I have done something silly with the remote control. I appreciate it all.
Kathy S, and all the other Jieddo “drivers” – Kathy, from the beginning, you have picked me up every day without fail. I love being your permanent slug. You look out for me and often make me laugh. I thank you every day because I always appreciate the ride.
Maria and Walter Mehra – My neighbors who moved away, I miss you. Thank you for all your help when I first got home. You helped me get the house ready to sell and you brought over dinner after a long day at work. Thank you for the continued friendship.
Nana, My sweet grandmother – It is so wonderful sharing my birthday with such a wonderful woman. You always call and check up on me. You encouragement is relentless and your love is unconditional.
Brandon at CLB and Melanie at DVBI: My O&M instructors – I may not always be easy, but without you I would not have walked the steps that I have and made the progress that I have and been able to look behind me and say “look how far I have come. We still have a long way, but we will do it!
All the security guards at the Polk building – Every day you help make sure that I make it in the door. You offer an arm, a smile friendly conversation when I wait for visitors to escort into my area and always congratulations when I accomplish something new or you see me out and about walking. It is reassuring to know that you are looking out for me and you are there if I need you.
Luke Patterson at the Tucson VA Blind Rehab Center, SENSI! – You put up with me for 4 hours a day for a month. You taught me a lot of the basics an issued me so many tools, devices and technology items. I could have stayed for 3 months and not have learned all that I need to. I will be back to learn the next phase soon.
Jeff Ermold at DVBI – You have picked up where other JAWS instructors have left off. You answer or find the answers to sometimes crazy “how do you” kinds of questions. It is sometimes nice to know that I do very advanced things that most folks are not; even as I learn this dastardly system. But because of you I see the progress and I thank you, there is still so much to cover and learn. I am up for it if you are!
Marisol Carmona – My first blind friend. You are the one who answered all the “new blind girl questions” and have given new meaning to the blind leading the blind! You get so excited when I do something for the first time.
They say there is always something positive to come of the most negative things. My darkest days have been this past year. For each person I come into contact with and you are kind, gracious and compassionate, you are teaching me the same. That is a continuous lesson and I am thankful. I am humbled by all of you. Just think, if I have done all that I have in this first year, the next one will be better.