Every now and again, life throws you some introspection, some minor way of making you look at your childhood and thank God, your parents, teachers, the neighbor down the street, or plain dumb luck that you were shown or taught something at an early age that made your adult life so much easier. As a very young child, you remember thinking – as all children think – that everyone’s parents taught them how to cook four-course dinners, name all the birds in the sky, or (in my case) use hand tools and identify the size of drill bits by touch.
Last night, Ben and I put together a bookshelf. Leaving aside the really annoying fact that the delivery company left an 8-foot tall box leaning up against our house, making it impossible to move it inside single-handedly from my 6-foot-wide porch, I was thrilled that our music room would soon have an additional book case. As everyone knows, braille books take up an insane amount of room, and Ben’s huge collection of paperbacks are relatively scattered, with no set place to go. So last night, we were putting our new shelf together with screws and nails, and (obviously) a screwdriver and hammer. I had been struggling tightening a screw, so I opened the top of the screwdriver and grabbed the #3 Robertson bit… it worked like a charm! Ben asked me how I know what we needed, and how I could tell the #2 from the #4, or a Robertson from a Phillips by touch. I told him that my father taught me the basics as a child, and other friends along the way have had me set up stage sets and other things, and when I first moved out on my own I did most of my minor home repairs myself.
As a child, I thought it was perfectly normal to go down into my father’s workshop in the basement (and later the garage) and hand him tools while he was working. But it was a rude awakening when I was about seven or eight, and I told someone to hand me the hammer so I could fix something or other. The reaction was just priceless: “Um… no! You can get hurt!” No amount of begging, pleading, telling them I’d fixed things before would make them relent. I can’t remember the general outcome, or even what I wanted the hammer for in the first place, but I remember feeling so dejected; my father believed in my abilities, but no matter what, to this neighbour, I was still viewed as the blind kid who dared to want to wield a hammer.
Fast forward several years, and I had moved in to my own apartment in Edmonton. My kitchen cabinets were loose, and I just grabbed a screwdriver and within five minutes they were good as new. The empowering feeling is almost indescribable even now, more than ten years later. When Ben and I bought this house, I took delivery of a new bedroom set, and put it all together, with the exception of the bed. Little things come apart, and I can put them together again… and there are few better feelings of accomplishment in the world than simply being able to get them done. This was all made possible because I was the daughter of someone who not only believed that I could learn about tools and perform these tasks, but that I should, whether or not I could see what I was doing.
I know that this blog has blind subscribers, and I know there are parents of blind children who read this blog; I may be preaching to the choir here. Those who are blind, don’t let anyone clip your wings. If your family does not believe in your abilities, I am so sorry… but don’t give anyone the power to tell you that you cannot do something before you try and succeed, fall on your face, or somewhere in the middle. For parents, relatives, or friends of blind children (or even adults), please resist the temptation to jump in and do for them something that they may really want to do for themselves. Would you deny a sighted family member an opportunity to make mistakes? For most, the answer is no. So if you have the skills, show them. Give them the opportunity to fly. I may never use a table saw, and that’s OK… but pass me that screwdriver… this table leg is wobbly.
I love your dad! And I know you do, too. Great Post!
LikeLiked by 2 people
My dad is the awesome! 🙂 He’s probably reading this… so, HIIIIII! And thank you 🙂
I learnt from an early age to do my own laundry. my mother marked the washing machine for me so I could use it as it was an old turn the dials job nothing like today’s vmachines where they’re all electronic when my mother bought our first front load washing machine I knew how to do laundry as all I had to do was turn the selector nob 4 times for a quick wash. cooking on the other hand I did learn to use the microwave as had that braille labelled and once I moved out of my parent’s house I gradually learnt to use the stove although the gas stove had to come out as it was deemed unsafe to use gas. whether gas stoves are dangerous for a blind person to use in general or it was this particular stove I’m guessing it was the lattor as the gas ignition system didn’t work properly and had to be lit with either a bbq lighter or a box of matches so out went the gas cooktop and in went a portable induction cooktop and electric oven
Awesome! I think the more skills of independence one has, the better equipped one is to go out into the world and enjoy as full a life as possible.
I don’t find gas stoves particularly problematic (I have one myself and I LOVE it), but when you’re using matches and barbecue lighters… I wouldn’t do it!b
Of course I read your blogs. I recall your first winter in the frozen wasteland when you came home for Christmas and asked for a screwdriver for a present so you could tighten the handles on your kitchen cabinets.
I’m impressed that after ten years you still have all the bits. Not many people can make the same claim.