He’s never asked for much in life. Food on his table. A roof over head. A ride to church on Sunday mornings. And a decent radio so he can sit on his porch and listen to gospel music or Clemson Tigers football.
It doesn’t take a lot to make my brother happy. Any win by the Tigers will do it. A phone call from his sisters. Or recalling a memory, like the Christmas he got a cap pistol; the summer we went to the beach; or the day he got on a bus without telling his family what he was up to and rode for 12 hours to meet and marry the love of his life.
He’s had some interesting adventures, loves to talk about them, is thankful for what he’s got and seldom complains. But lately he’s been thinking he needs a little something ... more. Something to do. Some place to go. Somebody to talk to.
Joe is blind, has been all his life. He suffered damage during birth that impairs his walking and his vision and his thinking. Parts of his brain work fine. Other parts, not so much.
Our mother used to say Joe would never have survived birth had he not been so stubborn.
Maybe so. But without that stubbornness and an unwavering faith in God, I doubt he could have survived his life.
There were all those months when he was confined, as a little boy, to a bed in a hospital ward, recovering from surgeries that made him cry out in pain, but failed to strengthen his legs.
There were all those years he boarded at a school for the blind learning to read Braille and fight bullies and find his way in a dark world with a white cane.
There was all the grief and loneliness and heartache he endured when he lost, one by one, his mother, his wife and his stepfather, all to cancer, and his younger brother to a stroke.
And for a while now, there has been his growing frustration of wanting, and failing, to find work -- anything he can do to give him purpose and get him out in the world and make him feel a little more useful.
Yesterday he left me this message: “Sister, this is your brother calling. I’ve got some good news I want to share with you, so call me back. What it is, OK, I’ll just tell you. I got approved for a program at a seniors center. Call me back and I’ll tell you more.”
So I called him back and he told me plenty. What it is, he said, is a program where senior citizens can socialize Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
“They picked me up yesterday at my apartment in a bus, took me to the center, gave me a snack, fed me lunch and took me home. And it was all free!”
“What did you do there?”
“Well,” he said, “there was a big crowd of people and they congregated in groups to visit with each other. They wouldn’t let me keep my walker at my chair, so mostly I just sat there. But I talked to a few people, and they were very nice.”
“You sat there for four hours?”
“No, Sister, we did lots of stuff. We had a kind of dip and chips for a snack, and a big sandwich for lunch. I think it was pork. And we played Bingo.”
“You played Bingo?”
“Well, they didn’t have Braille Bingo cards so somebody put the markers on the card for me. And I won some razor blades!”
“Good for you! But don’t you use disposable razors?”
“Yeah, I don’t like blades. I almost gave ‘em back, but it seemed rude to pass up a prize, so I kept ‘em. It was fun to win.”
Joe doesn’t know the name of the program, who sponsors it or how he got approved for it. But he knows this: It’s a good thing to do. A good place to be. And good people to talk to.
“I just thank the good Lord for it,” he said.
So do I.
Some people see life is as a long road of bad luck. Joe looks down that same road and sees good things coming his way. It’s a choice, and sometimes a hard one, but he makes it every day.
His birthday is soon. He can celebrate with the seniors. I’m sending him a Braille Bingo set.
– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394 Henderson NV 89077 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.