Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Living in the Dark


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

I was not prepared for Molly. She lives alone with her cat in an apartment and needs a taxi ride to and from the grocery store from time to time. She has no family in the area and not many friends. She is blind. Blind from birth, in fact.

When I was a kid growing up in San Marcos, Texas, my mother would take me to the Duke and Ayres five and dime store on the town square. I guess you could compare it to the dollar stores that we have now that are so popular. On the weekends, a blind hispanic man sat on a chair just outside of the front door of the store and played his accordion. He was a talented musician and churned out song after song for people passing by. A little tin drinking cup sat next to his feet for donations. This was the extent of my experience with a blind person.

I pulled up to Molly's apartment complex and waited for her to come out. She came walking down the stairs, cane in hand and I got out of the cab to greet her and assist her to the cab. We drove to the local grocery store and chatted along the way. She was quite honest and open and unexpectedly confided to me that her dream was to get married and have children, but most of the guys she's met are afraid of potentially being the father of a blind child. I really had no idea what to say to that. I think I said, "wow" or something equally earth shaking.

We got to the grocery store and I helped her out of the cab. She asked me to take her to the customer service counter where I could leave her and she would do her shopping. It never occurred to me to ask her how on earth she could be blind and still shop. Did she stop shoppers and ask for help? As we walked to the counter she lightly held on to the back of my arm as we walked. I told her it was quite okay if she wanted to hold on tighter, but she replied that she was taught not to hold on tight and just use a light touch. I left her there at the counter and went on to my next ride.

The dispatcher called me about an hour later and asked me to pick up Molly and her groceries. I pulled up to the front of the store, got out of my cab and walked into the store to find her. She was having coffee in the bakery department. I helped her up from her chair and walked out to the waiting cab. I drove her back to her apartment and she asked me to help her take her groceries inside. She nimbly walked up the stairs ahead of me as I carried her grocery bags and stumbled up the stairs behind her. She opened the door to her apartment and asked me to put the groceries on the counter. The apartment was pitch dark and she told me I could turn on the lights if I needed to. No lights? Of course not. Why would a blind person need room lights? Another thing that had never occurred to me. She paid for her cab ride and thanked me for my help.

I still can't quite get over how odd it is that I have never been spent any time over these many years that I have been on this earth with a person who is blind. I think of her often and try to fathom what it must be like to be blind and alone. It's impossible for me to do.

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