Hi, I am Butch and I have been totally blind for the last 20 years.
As Ray Charles once said, “I treat blindness as a mere inconvenience.” I led a productive life before blindness, I lead a productive life now and I plan to continue doing this. I am trying new things every day. I have dreams and I work at making them come true. I am here to tell you that you do not need sight to have a vision. This is my story.
Life before blindness
My life in the Navy:
My dream as a child was to become a telephone man, like my father. I joined the Navy in 1952 and became an Interior Communications Electrician on a destroyer. I wanted to travel to other countries and this gave me the wonderful opportunity to see the world at large and its beauty. In fact, I made a trip around the world and when I came back I got married and started my family. Isn’t it romantic?
My jobs and hobbies
Once out of the Navy, I, my wife and 2 small children moved from Cleveland, OH to California, where I started an ascending career with General Telephone Company. I was quickly promoted to foreman then manager and enjoyed my life in the telephone industry. My interest in communications and gadgets evolved alongside the changes in technology.
I was also an avid bicyclist. I participated in many 100 and 200 mile rides (called centuries and double centuries) and I held the unofficial national record for distance covered in 24 hours. I did a bike-athon for the American Heart Association and covered 402.16 miles in 24 hours. I biked from Canada to Mexico with a group of friends in 2 weeks – we played hard and we had fun.
Life with blindness
One morning I woke up and realized that I couldn’t see out of my right eye. Doctors told me this was the effect of a retinal vein occlusion, and there was nothing they could do. I was 35 and not prepared to give up, so I continued working, biking, even started riding motor cycles. After retirement, I started a successful bicycle business. Life was good, but in a different way.
My wife and I moved to Florida in 1986, and in 1990, as I was having breakfast, the vision in my left eye went totally black. I was devastated, distraught for a few weeks. Two years later, my wife passed away and I realized that I had to find a way to continue the active life I was used to. So I went back to school.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind
Think about how your entire daily life is based on your sight. Our brain receives about 80% of its information through our eyes. You need to see to comb your hair, shop for groceries or pay your bills. Well, not exactly. You can do all of those things if you are visually impaired too, you just do them differently. The Louisiana Center for the Blind teaches people who have lost their sight how to regain their independence. I spent 6 months on their campus learning the skills needed to be able to live by myself; how to read and communicate, how to cook, how to type, and very importantly, independent mobility skills. You learn which technology is best for you. But most of all you learn that everything is “Attitude, Attitude, Attitude.” Will you rely completely on another person to help you live or will you participate in life fully? It’s up to you.
Dealing with life’s challenges and visual impairment
Three things worked for me in dealing with life’s challenges:
- My faith: I started going to church after I lost my sight. I am a Prayer Chaplain now and I find significance and support in my faith. I feel I can go forward in my life.
- My upbringing: my parents taught me to be responsible and do what is expected of me.
- My training: the independent life skills training I had at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
- My daily schedule:
- I wake up at 3:30am
- I like the mornings and my kitty’s purring after she gets her food
- I exercise for 4 hours in preparation of the Vision Walk
- I have my breakfast followed by my daily church study
- I do any housework needed and I telephone friends
- I walk 4-7 miles
- I listen to talking books. My favorite topics are westerns, biographies, astronomy, and history
- I practice my clarinet and saxophone
- I eat supper and watch TV, then go to bed early. I lead a busy, productive life.