Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Looking Back

I met someone when I was eight years old. He was the first blind person I had ever encountered.

I'd seen him at church every Sunday.

I knew instinctively that he was blind because he had a stick that he tapped before him and because everyone led him around by the arm. It intrigued me, as it would intrigue any young child, and I'd often wanted to ask him what it was like. A bit macabre, I suppose, but it was in the honest vein of innocent youth.

I got my chance one warm, spring Sunday. He happened to be standing near the front steps of Enon Baptist Church in Hollins, Va. That was where I went as a child. Your Gammy ferried my Sister and I there every weekend... religiously. :)

It took a little time, but eventually I worked up the courage to go over and say "Hi".

"Michael, isn't it?" He replied to my "Hi".

"How'd you know?" I asked.

"I thought I saw you running around." He smiled.

"But you're blind" I blurted out rather mindlessly and, looking back, rather rudely.

"That's true" He replied, "But it's never stopped me from seeing what I see."

He had a wide grin. I remember that.

"What's it like not being able to see?" I asked, with the purest of intentions.

"I can see everything!" He chuckled.

"How?" I asked.

"Look at the road. Down there, at the end of the parking lot. Look at that road and tell me what you see." He smirked.

I looked down at the road, which was nothing more than a road, and replied "Uh, it's a road".

"Alright" He chuckled, "And what else do you see?".

"Just a road." I replied, rather honestly.

"Are there no cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles?" He quizzed, around the time I heard the motorcycle slipping past.

"Well, yea." I answered.

"Do you see anything else?" He asked.

"Not really" I replied.

He was rather intriguing to an eight year old boy, and frankly, a bit annoying in his persistence.

"There aren't many clouds today." He said. "Do you know how I know?"

"How?" I asked. Knowing full well that he was right.

"Because the sun is warm on my forehead and I'd imagine it sits high in the sky. That tells me two things. One: There are shadows stretching across that road that you did not See. And Two: I'd imagine the rain earlier this morning is throwing reflections right back at you, if you can find the puddles." He charmed.

He was right. When I looked at the road again, I didn't only see a road. I saw the asphalt. I saw the yellow lines snaking down its center. I saw the glimmer of sunlight bouncing off of the shallow puddles of water. I saw the long shadows of the scattered trees stretching with all their might across it. I saw the vehicles glancing by and the colors each held. I saw the people in those vehicles, their faces briefly bright, then blurred.

"Wow" I recall whispering.

"And you thought I was the one who was blind!" He chirped.

I've never forgotten him. I never will. His name is Henry Boitnott. Guess what he does for a living?

He tunes pianos.

Look at what's looking back at you.

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