Essays Offer Glimpse of Life as Blind Parent #Thursday Book Feature

Daddy Won’t Let Mom Drive the Car: True Tales of Parenting in the Dark

By Jo Elizabeth Pinto

Copyright 2019.

 

In this collection of short pieces, the author describes what it’s like to be a blind parent to a sighted child. The title was inspired by her daughter’s response when a teacher asked her what it’s like to have a blind mother.

She talks about little cooking mistakes she made like using apple sauce instead of spaghetti sauce. She explains how she educated her daughter’s classmates and others about her blindness. She discusses cooking, gardening, and doing art projects with her daughter and provides recipes and craft ideas. She reflects on school violence after her daughter endured lock-down drills in elementary school and actually became involved in “the real thing.”

Even though I’m not a parent, I enjoyed reading this book because it brought back memories from when I was a visually impaired child and when I was a visually impaired adult married to my totally blind husband Bill. The author’s cooking disasters reminded me of the time Bill, before his strokes, put what he thought were muffins in the oven, and they turned out to be fully cooked sausages. The scene where the author fell and her daughter chastised a  passer-by for laughing instead of stopping to help reminded me of how my younger brother, when we were kids, said to other children, “Stop staring at my sister.”

As a caregiver to my late husband, I could relate to her feelings of inadequacy and fear of being turned in for neglect or abuse. I loved the last piece in which she explains how she accidentally put garlic instead of sprinkles on her daughter’s ice cream sundae. It was a great way to end the collection with humor.

Some people, especially those in the social work industry, are under the misconception that blind people cannot be parents. As a result, blind parents have been forced to fight for their children after giving birth. This book should be required reading for anyone training in social work and other professions that require working with disabled people on a regular basis.

In fact, everybody should read this book. You never know when you will encounter a blind parent. Before you shove them aside in a grocery store, laugh at them because they’ve fallen on the ice, or call the Department of Family Services because you think they can’t cope, read this book and realize that blind parents are no different from sighted ones.

 

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Song Lyric Sunday: Ooh Baby Baby

According to newpicauthor, who is now hosting Song Lyric Sunday, this week’s theme is “cry.” I think the song I’m featuring was recorded by someone else first, but Linda Ronstadt’s version was popular when I was in high school, so that’s the version I’m including. May you shed no tears today.

Ooo Baby Baby–Linda Ronstadt

Lyrics Courtesy of Google

 

Ooh la, la, la, la.
I did you wrong, my heart went out to play
And in the game I lost you, what a price to pay!
I’m cryin’, ooh baby baby ooh baby baby
Mistakes I know I’ve made a few,
But I’m only human; you’ve made mistakes too!
I’m cryin’, ooh baby baby ooh baby baby
Ooh baby baby
Ooh baby baby I’m just about at the end of my rope.
But I can’t stop tryin’, I can’t give up hope
’cause I feel someday I’ll hold you near,
Whisper I still love you
Until that day is here ooh I’m cryin’.
Ooh baby baby ooh baby baby
Songwriters: Smokey Robinson / Warren Moore / William Robinson Jr.
Ooo Baby Baby lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

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My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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How Mother Influenced My Writing

The year is 1975. We’re living in Sheridan, Wyoming. At the age of thirteen, I insert a piece of paper into the typewriter and turn it on. Its hum fills the living room and mingles with the whine of the electric mixer in the adjacent kitchen. While Mother prepares cake frosting, I type the assignment for my seventh grade creative writing class. When I’m done, I remove the sheet from the typewriter and carry it into the kitchen where Mother has just finished decorating the cake. With my limited vision, I admire her handywork while she scans my story.

The prompt is to write about someone who walks by a door in a wall that is usually closed but now open. Out of curiosity, my character steps through the open doorway. It is dark, and all of a sudden, a green monster jumps out. That is as far as Mother gets before saying, “Oh, you don’t want a green monster here. Let’s see…”

She strolls back into the living room, sits down at the typewriter, and inserts a clean sheet of paper. She verbalizes what she is typing since I can’t read print that small. When she’s done, my ugly story of a little girl attacked by a green monster and then waking up in  her own bed is transformed into a wondrous tale of a child who discovers a new world after walking through an open door in a wall. Why didn’t I think of that? A day or so later, the teacher hands me back this story with an A+.

***

Fast forward a year later. In the eighth grade, I’m assigned to write an essay about cancer for Science. We’ve moved to a bigger house with a study upstairs where I can work in peace and quiet. This time, I sit and listen while Mother reads me the research material from the public library and types the essay, again verbalizing each word or phrase as it appears on the page.

As the deadline looms, she keeps me home from school one day so “we” can finish it. This is great fun, I think, as I listen to her read and type. Fascinated by the topic, I realize that Mother could get cancer if she doesn’t stop smoking. When I point this out to her, she says, “Oh hush. I’m trying to write this for you.” I receive another A+.

***

Fast forward to high school. As a junior, I’m taking another creative writing class. Too busy teaching English and communications and directing plays at Sheridan College, Mother leaves me to my own devices until one night when I can’t think of anything to write. “Let’s see,” she says, sitting down at the typewriter.00

A while later, she has produced a thought provoking tale about an old man in New York City and how badly others treat him. “This is better than anything you’ve written before,” says my teacher.

***

Two years later, as a freshman at Sheridan College, I’m taking an English class from one of Mother’s colleagues where I’m assigned to write a paper on Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.” This time, I’m determined to do it myself. With the help of the college’s work study program, I find a student willing to accompany me to the library and read material on tape. When I get home, I type the paper which mostly consists of a description of the story, some background information on Shirley Jackson, and what reviewers say about her work. When I finish, I show it to Mother. “Well, it’s nice, but I think we can do better,” she says.

She sits down at the typewriter, inserts a blank sheet of paper, and in a matter of hours, my basic English 101 paper is transformed into a scholarly essay. Her colleague loves it. From that moment on, I don’t even try to write papers myself.

***

Fast forward another two years. I’ve gone away to school, to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, where Mother doesn’t know any of the faculty. Late one night, I’m sitting in my dorm room, staring at a blank sheet of paper in my own electric typewriter. I’m supposed to write a paper about Duke Ellington for a jazz appreciation class. After listening to material another student recorded and making notes in Braille, I haven’t a clue where to start. Mother’s not here, and the paper must be turned in the next day. What do I do?

Then it comes to me. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” I type it in quotation marks and then continue. Duke Ellington’s life, his music, dates of publication and performances, his style, my impressions, all flow out of my fingers. It’s as if Mother was writing this paper, but she’s not. She’s 150 miles away, snug in her bed with Dad. The paper comes back a couple of days later with an A+.

I mail it home to my parents. Dad, a jazz enthusiast, gives it a rave review. Mother says nothing. I don’t care. I can write my own papers and still get good grades.

***

Fast forward again. In 1999, Mother has been diagnosed with cancer. On a hot summer day, I sit at my Mac computer in my air conditioned apartment. For the past ten years, I’ve been living independently and working as an activities assistant in a nursing home. I’ve just been bitten by the writing bug.

I’m crafting a piece that I’ll send to a contest. It’s a personal essay about how one of my sixth grade teachers who threatened me with an eighteen-inch ruler saw the error of his ways and wrote me years later to apologize. I know better than to show this to Mother. Instead, after proofreading it a million times, printing it, then reading it again with my closed-circuit television magnification system to be sure there are no mistakes, I mail it off. Six months later, Mother’s gone. My essay wins second place in the contest and is published a year later in SageScript, Sheridan College’s literary journal, with a note dedicating it in loving memory of my mother, Joan H. Johnson.

***

Looking back, I realize that in her own way, Mother was teaching me how to write. While she wrote my papers, I couldn’t go outside or listen to music in my room. I had to sit quietly and listen so that when I grew up and she was no longer around, I could do my own writing. She also wanted to be a writer, but family and other obligations kept her from pursuing her dream. Now that I’ve published three books and am working on a fourth, she can live that dream vicariously through me.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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