Tag Archives: cafe

Can You See Me? I’m Here In The Darkness. (Part 4)

24 Feb

I spent the last two days attending the Blind Cafe and then the 2013 TX Deaf-Blind Symposium. Because of these two events my perception of Oli and some preconceived notions of her abilities/disabilities have completely been swung around and turned on their heads.

Where I have focused a lot of my time on what she cannot do because of or what she will not do because of .I am now seeing exactly what she is capable of and what is possible if I give her the chance. Although I really felt like I had given her lots of opportunities to explore the world and chances to communicate, after talking with blind adults and listening to experts in the field, now I feel like. . . Holy shit! I still have been regarding her learning opportunities in terms of what I see as limitations because of her disabilities.

While I was sitting in the darkness at the cafe a striking realization came to me when the wait staff started answering questions. I hate to say that when I first see a person with a disability, I see a disability. I’m not supposed to see that right? Because my daughter has a disability? But I still do. I don’t like that about me and I really try not to. I realized that one of the things that was so wonderful about listening to the blind adults speak in the cafe was. . . I didn’t see a disability. I couldn’t! And it was great. All I heard were intelligent, funny, nice people speaking. And then I started thinking about what an advantage they have over all of the rest of us. They honestly get to know people in a fast, genuine, real way bypassing all of the visual judgemental nonsense that sighted people have.

Always aspiring to be one of those “good” people who doesn’t judge people by what they look like, what they’re wearing, or how clean they are (although I’ll bet blind people notice that one even quicker than me) I suddenly started thinking of Oli as. . .lucky. I stopped viewing blindness as something I would never want for her and although I still wish she wasn’t, I started looking at all of the good things about blindness. Like seeing people by way of her heart and judging them by the truth in their words and the honesty in their voices.

I had a moment when I was sitting in the dark, listening to the band play, that I was overcome by sadness. Silent tears poured down my face as I sat there thinking about how hard it was. Walking around not knowing where I was going, trying to find my food and not knowing what I was eating because nobody told me. Tasting food that I HATE and not knowing if I had a drink. Wanting to wipe off my hands and not being able to find my napkin. I felt helpless. I felt alone.

But as I sat there crying quietly so no one would know, I started to recognize that feeling. I remember spending a lot of my time feeling that exact same way in the first years of Oli’s life. Lost and alone, crying silently in the dark. I welcomed that feeling like an old friend and greeted her with open arms without even realizing who she is. Who she really is… is my own self pity. My own fear, ignorance, and judgement.

I opened my eyes, dried my tears and sat up straight in my chair.

NO! No more!

I will not allow this twisted friendship to continue! I will not welcome you into my heart! I will not pretend anymore that you will stay for a short visit and then let you live on my couch for years!

You Miss. . . are no longer allowed in my front door.

I am not helpless, weak, alone, unheard, unloved, or in this by myself. More importantly, this is not about me.

This is about Oli and she is none of those things either.

(Thank you for reading about my experience at the Blind Café! If you want to know more about it or want to know if it will be coming to a city near you go to www.theblindcafe.com The End.)

Can You See Me? I’m Here In The Darkness. (Part 2)

23 Feb

As I continued my experience randomly selecting food and taking small fearful bites (you never know when they would sneak in another olive, or infinitely worse, a bit of cilantro) I start listening to the conversations around me. I turn my head to the left and listen.

Perk. No one could see that I was eavesdropping.

They were talking about what brought them here tonight. Most people had just heard about it and thought it would be an interesting thing to try. I speak up and say that I have a blind daughter. They start asking me questions about her and want to know what she has to say about blindness. I explain that Oli has autism and doesn’t talk. A woman across from me and to my left starts to tell me about her friends daughter who is also autistic. We are interrupted by a loud voice behind me.

“Seth’s wife? Seth’s wife?”

“I’m here!” I call out.

Were you wondering where my husband was during my first moments in the café?

Where else?

In the bathroom. Minutes before we followed the waitress behind the curtain and stumbled into the darkness, Seth decides he has to pee.

I guess the line was really long because he hadn’t returned when it was our turn to be seated. I knew he would find me eventually.

I grab his hand, well. . .I try to grab his hand, but really just keep grabbing our waitress Faith’s hand.

“Nope. Your still holding onto Faith.” She tells me as she tries to guide me to Seth’s hand.

“See? Woman hand.” I touch her smooth hand. “Man hand” She laughs as I finally grasp hold of Seth.

“Ahhh. . .very important detail. Smooth soft girlie hands and rough man hands.” I say giggling about my complete ignorance.

I really need to concentrate and let me other senses take over. I am focusing on the blackness with my eyes. Opening them wide and trying to discern any tiny shape, form or different shade of darkness. There was nothing and I am disoriented.

After Seth is seated I turn back to my left and try to speak to the woman about her friends daughter again.

“So your friend’s daughter has autism?” I speak in the direction I had before.

There is no reply.

My voice seems small and gets lost amidst the other conversations. I have no other way to get her attention because I cannot make eye contact with her and don’t know where she is to touch her arm. I don’t even know her name.

All of a sudden I feel very alone and lost. I feel unseen and unnoticed.

Is this what it is like for Oli? She can’t see me and she can’t talk to me.

Does this sweet little girl feel unnoticed, unheard, lost and afraid in her world of darkness?

I slump in my chair as my heart begins to feel unbearably heavy. I sit back as those startling realizations hit me and think about that moment.

I think about how I am feeling at that exact point in time and try to burn it into my brain. I don’t want to forget it because I am learning. I am finally learning a very small part about what it is really like living in Oli’s world.

(Check back later. I have more to tell you!)

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