Believing is seeing.
You are my best birthday present from my teacher, Sarah. She says you are very special because there are very few of you. Of course, next to no one will be able to read you and I won’t even need a key! Not that I have any secrets to lock away. I am only twelve.
Let me start right off with a fact. I am blind. I cannot see anything. People tell me it is ‘dark’ or ‘black.” That means nothing to me. I see nothing. I can hear alright, and talk. Oh, and trip and fall. I’m the queen of tripping. I’m the king, however of falling. I know how to fall: tuck my shoulder and roll. I learned that after I fell and hurt my arm a time or two. I’ve learned how to read Braille, but it is a frustrating process (to read that is) because I cannot picture many of the things I read about.
I remember the time I asked my grandmother what a ‘tree’ was. She took my hand and bent my arm at my elbow with my fingers pointed up. She told me my arm was like a tree’s trunk and that my fingers were like its branches. Then she mentioned leaves and I was totally lost. So she took me outside and we went for a walk to the one tree on our farm. I felt the trunk but the leaves were out of our reach. She picked up some leaves that were on the ground and let me feel them too. At least then I had an idea of what a tree was, although my skin was softer than the bark, or skin of the tree.
Grandmother often would try to explain what things were in terms of what I did know. A pool was like our bathtub, only bigger. A lake was a big pool. The ocean was a big lake, only it was salty. I learned about many things in terms of something else.
I think having a Braille diary is fun. I like to put down the thoughts in my head. But my hands are tired now.
Today Grandfather said I was pretty in the new grown up dress Grandmother made for me as a birthday present. I am me. Do people look different? I didn’t know. To me people are their words or their touches, their kindnesses or cruelties. I know my hair is long and Grandmother says it is brown like molasses.
Grandfather ‘looks’ like the wheat he grows: Dry, and bristly before it goes in the grinder. Grandmother is soft and silken like the wheat is when it gets ground into flour.
Then there is Sarah. She looks like an apple, or at least her cheeks do. She comes and teaches me Braille. She brings me heavy Braille books. One was a play by Shakespeare called King Lear. He was blind too. Sometimes she brings me clothes from the Ladies Exchange. Last time she came, she brought me a sweater. She said it was black. I just know it is gentle and soft and I feel safe wearing it. Sarah said it looks like part of a school uniform.
Sometimes, I wish I could go to school like other kids do, but we tried that once. That’s when I learned that laughter can be cruel and that voices can be harsh.
She and grandmother have taught me how to tell my clothes apart by feel. I know which feels go together. Otherwise, Grandmother says, “I look like a rag-a-muffin”. I laughed because I like that word, but I guess one shouldn’t look like whatever a rag-a-muffin is.
I know my way around our farmhouse; at least, most of the time I do. Sometimes Grandfather moves a chair or leaves his shoes in the hallway. I find them when I trip over them. As I said, I’m good at falling. I know my way to the barns. Grandfather has a rope strung from the back porch to the main barn. He says it is to find the barn in a blizzard when it snows so hard he can’t see his hand in front of his face. I think that’s funny.
We live outside of town It is fun when we cross the bridge. The stream always sounds so different depending upon the weather. We had rain a few days ago. Today the water was singing.
We walked there today because Grandmother and Sarah wanted me to try to buy something at the store. We have been going over the different kinds of money. I wish paper money felt different for the different denominations. I don’t like having to trust people to give me the right amount back, so I make sure I have a lot of ones. I can count the coins. I don’t have a cane, I tap-step when I’m not sure where I am.
I really don’t like town much. My name is Wendy, not ‘blind girl’ or ‘BlindyWendy said fast, all together like one word. I said that I could see too, but that I saw with my fingers. They just laughed more. But they are right. I can’t actually see because, even with my fingers, I only see a part of most things, not the whole of it like I can with something small. Grandfather says that he thinks I sometimes see more with my fingers than sighted people do with two eyes.
The wind was blowing a bit on our walk home. I like the sound of the breeze in the wheat. It means we are almost home.
I do all the dusting in the front room now. I take all of Grandmother’s knicker-knacks off the shelves and dust each one. I put them on a tray and then dust the shelf. I don’t always put them back in the same place. They can move because I won’t trip over them! Grandmother used to put pennies on the shelf. If I found all of them, then I had done a good job. She says she doesn’t need to do that anymore.
I can take care of my room (I’m very neat) and I’m learning how to cook. I know how to make Grandfather’s favorite meals because Grandmother says cooking for him is one of the most important things she does so that he can do what he has to do. She says it’s a circle with everything feeding into it to make life go round.
There is so much I want to know how to do. My grandparents can’t be my eyes forever.
Grandfather let me help him in the barn today. I like helping him with the cows. He let me milk Sassy. He laughs when I squirt the milk to the cats. He says my aim is perfect. I can hear the cats purring. It’s easy!
He also let me climb into the hayloft. The hay is scratchy and pokey but it smells so good. I like lying in the hay in the sun. I fell asleep up there and Grandfather had to come looking for me.
Tonight I made dinner all by myself with grandmother just watching me. We had a roast, potatoes and green beans and fresh milk from the barn. Grandfather said it was good, but I think I left it in a little too long. I thought it dry. Grandmother says she will teach me how to make gravy next. Maybe that will help. I hope so.
Today Grandmother fell in the kitchen. I came quickly when she called because she sounded different. She sounded like I did when I broke my arm. She said she couldn’t get off the floor and to go get grandfather. But he was outside; in the barn or perhaps, all the way out in his fields. I never went out there alone.
She said to check the barn and if he wasn’t there to go right from the barn and follow the track. I wish we had a phone, then I could have called someone for help. But there was just me.
Grandfather wasn’t in the barn. My voice sounded hollow when I yelled to him there. So I turned right and started walking. Every so often I called to Grandfather. I guess I got off the straight, because I tumbled down into some water. I was in the ditch by the side of the path to the fields. I got twisted around and didn’t know which side of the ditch to crawl out of. So I guessed, climbed out and walked some more, calling to grandfather.
This time, he heard me and came running. I told him about Grandmother. He told me to just stay put and he’d come back for me. Then he ran back to the house. I tried to follow the sound of his feet, but I guess he took a shortcut. I found another hill and realized it was going down, so I stopped and sat down. I knew Grandfather would find me after he took care of Grandmother.
I was sitting at the edge of a hill. I could feel the sun on my face, warm and gentle. I could hear the tree. A breeze was blowing and I could hear the branches scraping together. It sounded a little like when Grandfather shaves off his prickly beard with his straight razor. To me, if was as if the branches of the tree were scratching at the sky. It must be a really big tree. I wondered if it could scratch a hole in heaven.
Grandmother calls it the star-catching tree because on autumn evenings, she likes to walk to the tree and look at the branches and the sky. She says it is as if the stars get tangled up in the branches like my hair does if I don’t brush it. Grandmother always says that it seems to make the world seem smaller to her and that when she was younger, like me, that it always made her feel safe.
The breeze got cooler and the ground around me was getting wet. Grandfather still hadn’t come back for me. But I wasn’t scared. I thought of Grandmother’s star tree and of how she described stars to me. Heaven’s eyes she called them. She said God needed lots of eyes to see what was going on down here so he could watch out for us. I always thought it was a good thing that God wasn’t blind.
I was still sitting by the star tree when a neighbor from across the back field came. He said he’d had trouble finding me. I asked him if the stars were out and he said yes.
The neighbor said he had trouble seeing in the dark. I told him to get me pointed the right way and I’d get us home. When we were back at the house, there were more people there. Grandfather told me that my Grandmother had gone to God.
I think I heard Grandmother on her way. I think she lead me to the star tree and that it did, indeed, scratch a hole in the sky for her. It was her way of saying "Goodbye." Grandfather and I will be fine together. I will learn how to do the things my grandmother did so I can take care of Grandfather. I can see, I just don’t need light to do it. And because I don’t need the light, I will be able to see the whole of things right through them.