I do remember a time before my dad went blind, but being so young it’s cloudy and vague. I remember him showing me how to plant pumpkins in our backyard by using the end of the hoe to make the hole and than dropping the seeds in and covering them up. The rest are less specific.
Mostly though, my memories of my dad are from the time after he went blind (just after I turned 4). He taught me how to do a lot of things over the course of my life. I helped him tear off shingles and re-roof the house. He taught me to garden, how to put siding on a garage, how to change a tire and how to tune up my car. What I’ll always remember most fondly though, was him teaching me to read.
I can hear you say, “Huh? How does a blind man teach his daughter how to read?” Simple. I learned letter sounds and that from school, but I really learned reading from my dad. Every night I’d grab my books and go sit on his lap. I’d attempt to read and if I ran across a word I didn’t know he’d say “Sound it out, Heather.” I usually could figure it out from that, but if I was really stuck he’d have me spell it and he’d tell me what the word was.
I never stopped reading to him. I progressed from books like “In a People House” to the “Little House on the Prairie” series and I moved from his lap to the chair beside him, but that was about all. Once I got to the harder books then it was more a question of what an unfamiliar word meant, but he still helped me.
And I helped him, though I didn’t appreciate how much when I was a kid. I read him several of the “Little House” books while he was in the hospital recovering from amputations, first of his toe, then his foot and finally six inches below the knee. All I knew at the time was that I wasn’t supposed to be in his room (I wasn’t 12), but the nurses made an exception for me due to the length of his stay and the fact that I knew how to be quiet and conduct myself well. What I knew at the time was that it was a way I got to spend time with my dad (I was definitely a “daddy’s girl”) doing something I enjoyed. Looking back it must’ve been comforting to him as well and a way to break the monotony of life in the hospital.
When I was in high school, my dad went back to college and I read his textbooks to him and recorded them at the same time in case he wanted to go back over some material. The running question was who’d graduate first, me or my dad? Truth was, we graduated at the same time, the only difference being the actual graduation dates, so I considered it a draw.
After I went to college, I heard about a volunteer opportunity reading books and magazines onto tape for the blind at the Nebraska Library Commission. To be a volunteer narrator you had to audition by reading something onto tape and then they’d let you know if you were good enough to do the job. I was nervous at my audition, but only at first. The setting was unfamiliar, but the task wasn’t. I’d had a lot of experience reading to my dad, so that part was easy. I was selected and served as a volunteer narrator there for a few years until I graduated and moved to Colorado.
I enjoy reading things out loud now, so when the idea came to read my newly written book chapter by chapter as podcasts, I jumped at the idea. This hasn’t come to fruition yet, my book is still with the copy-editor, but once I have a finalized version ready, I intend to try the podcast idea and will post it on my website, so stay tuned.
All I can say is, thanks Dad for this gift of narration you’ve given me.