[bct] Prologue to my Lifecast, enjoy!

  • From: "Dana Niswonger" <dniswonger@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2005 04:45:27 -0600

There's Light Where You Are Too!
In Memory of Sandra

When I was born and my Mother found out I was blind, she became determined to 
make all the right decisions to provide me the best care possible.  When I
was four, she sent me away to boarding school in Pittsburgh PA.  In 1960, this 
was the only way blind children were allowed to be educated and we lived
in Pennsylvania at that time.  The children at these schools were taken care of 
by people known as house parents.  One of these for me was a woman named
MS. Coolly.  Although I have very clear memories of her, the worst ones would 
not surface for more than thirty years.  Perhaps the only thing important
about this experience and my sharing it with you is that at age four I learned 
how to lie to protect someone I loved.  I remember being taken to this place
every Sunday afternoon by my parents and growing extremely nervous the closer 
we got to the school.  My Mom tells the story of one Sunday afternoon when
I crawled on to the back dash of the car and refused to get out when we 
arrived.  Curling myself into a ball, my parents tried to fish me out of the 
car.
 After some time and both of them getting in the back seat they were able to 
trap, restrain and extract me from my refuge.  I have always wondered why
no one ever ask themselves why this happened so often.  You see, I got along 
very well with MS. Coolly.  I took her flowers from our back yard, she was
my surrogate Mother in the absence of my real one.  I spent five nights a week 
with her as my primary care giver.  This will become important later but
that's all I'm going to say about her for now.
We moved to San Bernardino California the next year and I started first grade 
at age five in Lincoln elementary school.  I did well in school, loving Braille
and liking arithmetic very much.  I met another kid named Steve Hayze who had 
sight and we quickly became friends.  Steve now lives in Orange county and
runs a company called Genesis Engineering.  We still know each other quite well 
and talk several times a year by various means.  In the third grade we
met a new blind kid who had moved from Colorado and his name is Ralph Black.  
Thus was formed the triad known as the robot club and three men who will
remain friends for life.  Just to give you an example of something we did, when 
John Glen was scheduled to blast of into space and achieve orbit around
Earth for the first time, we refused to go to school unless we were allowed to 
listen to this event on the radio.  Our principle MRS. Woods finally worked
out a compromise with our parents that she would listen for us and ring the 
school bells three times when he accomplished his goal.
As I have told you, when I was 11, I lost my remaining sight.  When I was ten, 
I began having very bad headaches.  Upon consulting with my eye doctor, a
very nice man named Olnic we learned that the Glaucoma I had been born with was 
taking its projected toll on me.  For a year, we tried various methods
for reducing the pressure in my left eye to no avail.  In my 11th year, it was 
decided that the eye must be removed.  I forgot to mention that because
the three of us were very smart we all skipped the third grade.  In any case, 
because this happened they said it wouldn't matter to my education, I could
afford the down time.  For Christmas my 11th year on Earth, I got my eye 
removed.  We lived in a house on Golden street then and our neighbors on the 
right
had two twin girls named Sandra and Sherry.  My brother Greg and I played four 
square with them every day after school and they became, yes you guessed
it, our girl friends.  Neither set of parents had a problem with these 
relationships.  Our relationships were actually formed within the first few days
of us moving their and that was when I was ten.  If this all gets a little 
confusing, I'm sorry.  I am writing free form and just telling it in the best
order I can.  Anyway, Sandra and Sherry had an older brother named James who 
had been sent to Viet Nam.  Even as kids we talked about the war and how we
felt about it with each other.  I was against it and because her brother was in 
it, Sandra supported the war.  Oh yeah, Sandra was my girl friend.  We
were transported to school in taxies at that time and one day I arrived home to 
find the following.  Sandra had a habit of meeting my cab and as we drove
down our street I was watching for her, she was not their this day.  What I do 
remember seeing very clearly was a white car with an olive green emblem
on its side parked sideways in the street and two police cars parked at angles 
to it.  As the cab pulled up to let me out, Sandra burst out her front door,
her mouth open in a scream that I will remember to this very day.  I jumped out 
and Sandra smacked into me full force and stuck their for the next four
days.  I mean, she would not let go of me!  If anyone even suggested that she 
let go or go home she became hysterical so they just let us alone. 
I had one of those old talking book machines, you know, the black ones covered 
in that texturised vinyl.  They weighed about 50 pounds and really sounded
pretty good.  I had a record of the Ballad of the Green beret and before this 
happened Sandra made me play it for her every day after we finished our four
square game, before she went home to supper.  Her Mom brought her things over 
to my house and Sandra stayed with me.  Sandra knew things, she was very
smart and she understood things I had never heard of but was about to learn.  
How do I say this without it sounding strange or perverse for two ten year
olds.  In her grief, I guess Sandra needed me very much.  I don't know what she 
intended but we experimented with physical contact during those four days.
 We both had bikes and two of those days we rode up into the wash that ran 
behind our houses and laid naked in the warm sun on a big rock that would become
known to us as the screaming rock.  We packed lunches and left early in the 
morning and stayed all day, screaming together.  You may ask why I'm telling
you this and the answer is because, the very next year Sandra and I would need 
to visit this rock again, for me this time.
After the removal of my left eye I became very depressed.  I just couldn't see 
how, (lol) I was going to get along without my sight, little though it might
be.  My doctor suggested a therapist, the school suggested a councilor, Mom 
sent for Sandra.  Sandra, having adjusted to the loss of her brother the 
previous
year took things quickly in hand.  She began teaching me the things I would 
need to know to function in my newly darkened world.  How to dress myself,
eat and yes, how to use the bathroom without sight.  If anyone dared trespass 
into her school room, my bedroom, she flew at them in a rage.  She made it
very clear that no one must disturb what she was doing.  Over the next two 
weeks, Sandra helped me in her own special way.  Loving at times, yelling at
me when she thought I was not performing to the standard she thought me capable 
of and even hitting me when I refused to cooperate.  "Damnit Dana, there's 
light where you are too!"  Gradually, my fear
lessened and my life began to take on some order again.  We visited the 
screaming rock and other favorite places many times, both on foot and on our 
bikes.
 I think it was the bike riding that impressed me the most.  Sandra figured out 
that if she attached a playing card with a close pin to the spokes of the
back wheel of her bike it would make a flapping sound that I could hear and 
follow.  I quickly discovered she was right and rejoiced to feel the wind on
my face again.  My trust in Sandra was complete and I would never doubt her 
again.  During the two years we knew each other, we had every kind of contact
two intense, advanced young adult children can have.  Through out our 
relationship both sets of parents had the good sense to stay out of the way and 
leave
us to make peace with ourselves, each other and our God.  In my 12th year, we 
moved miles away to Fontana and I never saw Sandra again.  Neither me or
my Mom can remember their last name, making it almost impossible to ever find 
her.  I guess maybe I still have hope that we might meet once again in this
life and share the memory of our bitter sweet experiences.  I had already 
learned the necessary skills to get along in school so adjustment their was no
problem.  Even though she didn't know what it was called, Sandra had taught me 
both sensory awareness as well as orientation and mobility.  I only needed
to spend the summer learning my way around Arrow View Junior High School and I 
was ready to begin a new chapter in my life.
To Be continued when ever you ask for more.
Dana

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