The Diamond Bracelet Adventure

About 2 months after my mother died in 22014, I got a call from the assisted living home. “Now what?” I thought. It can’t be another problem with Mom, because she’s gone.” But they had just discovered an envelope in the office safe with my mother’s name on it, and inside the envelope was a diamond ring. This was strange, because I don’t remember that ring, but there it was with her name on it, so I went and got it.

I don’t particularly care to wear a ring, unless it’s a wedding ring, so I decided to have it made into a bracelet. I took it to a jewelry designer, who made a very simple silver bracelet with the diamond setting .

When I went to my daughter’s for Christmas, I took the bracelet with me, because I had planned to wear it to church, but I didn’t want to wear it while traveling, for fear of losing it, and I didn’t want to pack it in my suitcase, so I kept it in my purse.

On the way home, as I got off the plane, the flight attendant said to me, “Did you lose a bracelet? There’s one on your seat.” “No,” I said. “I wasn’t wearing a bracelet.” Then in the next breath, I said, “Wait a minute. Let me see that bracelet.” Yes, there it was, the diamond bracelet, almost lost once again. I call this a God moment. Had she not been looking at the seat that I had just vacated, and had I not changed my mind immediately and asked to see that bracelet, my mother’s diamond would be gone forever. Obviously, I need a safer place to carry a valuable piece of jewelry. I had been into my purse a dozen times, fishing out my phone and treats for Dora, Kleenex, cough drops, and any number of things, and I never touched that bracelet. How it jumped out of my purse and landed on the seat, I’ll never know, but I’m glad it’s now back on my wrist where it belongs. It’s a kind of anniversary surprise, because I picked up that bracelet from the jeweler exactly one year ago today.

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Cantata

When the holidays are filled with commercials about loving families who all get together and bestow lavish gifts of diamonds and fancy cars, it can get pretty depressing. When you think that you don’t belong in a society where big family gatherings are the norm, and being alone is somehow un-American, you have 2 choices. You can wallow in self-pity, or you can find something meaningful to do for somebody even less fortunate than you. Yes, you’ve all heard this many times, but let me tell you about an experience I had this past weekend that not only filled my heart with joy, but also strengthened my faith in the Christmas story.

I was one of 68 singers in my church’s annual cantata. It’s a lot of work for me to do that. First, I have to have someone come over and dictate the words to 9 songs, so I can transcribe them into braille, being careful to insert page numbers, because the director skips around at rehearsal, from one piece to another, and tells us to turn to measure such and such on page such and such, never mentioning the name of the song or the word we are to start on. Then, if I can manage it, I have a friend come over and sing the alto part with me, along with the CD we’re given to practice with. This year, no one was available, so I had to rely on just listening very hard to the CD. During rehearsals, I recorded the whole practice, hoping to catch just the altos, so I can learn that part. I must have spent 100 hours practicing at home. Yet by the time we performed on Saturday, I still didn’t feel confident about the alto part. After praying about it, I realized that I didn’t have to know this thing perfectly. So what if I didn’t come in exactly on time. As long as I didn’t sing out whenever everybody else was silent, and as long as I did sing out when I was confident about my part, then it should be a good experience. I had been ready to quit several times. But then my friend Kathy reminded me of the joy I felt when I sang at last year’s concert. She was right. I did feel joy.

So I ironed my white blouse, gathered up my brailled music, and took my place in the second row beside Kathy. We had been moved several times because one person or another couldn’t see the director, but Kathy insisted that we were a unit. She was the one who tapped my leg when it was time to stand up and again when it was time to sit down, which wasn’t always at the beginning or ending of a piece. In fact, when we first rehearsed with the standups and the sit-downs, Kathy wasn’t sitting next to me, and the people on each side of me did not think to let me know when the director signaled us to stand. There I sat, while everybody was standing, and I was angry and embarrassed. Did they think I was going to sit through the whole cantata. No, they just didn’t think. But after Kathy and I got ourselves together, things began to fall into place. And speaking of falling, there was the issue of climbing 2 sets of stairs to the choir loft. I wouldn’t trust anybody else to help me with that.

The bottom line is that it was thrilling, and singing made the Christmas story much more meaningful and believable.

If you can carry a tune, I recommend that you volunteer to sing in a cantata. It’s worth every frustration and worry. When you’ve sung the last note, and the choir and orchestra bring the whole thing to a crescendo, your heart will burst with joy.

Disability Day

Today, December 3 is International Persons with a Disability Day. I’d rather talk about our abilities.

The word disabled does a great disservice to those of us who have vision loss. It sounds like we’re broken, like a disabled car. While we may be able to recite a long list of things we can’t do, such as drive or make eye contact, there are many gifts we can be grateful for, that still remain as part of who we are.

My abilities, like many active blind people, include dancing, cycling, skiing, and swimming. But you don’t have to be a super athlete with mysterious talents in negating blindness and You don’t have to be a mountain climber or a pole vaulter to say you have abilities. Consider some simple everyday tasks, functions, and yes, talents that you might be overlooking.

Although I had to struggle with mastering the computer, I write every single day. Writing is a talent I did not have to give up with my vision loss.

I love singing. I sing with my church choir. It takes a lot more work for me to do that than my sighted friends, because I have to transcribe the words of the anthems into braille and learn the music by rote, but it’s a talent I didn’t have to give up.

I studied dance when I was young and hoped to be a ballerina someday, but with the onset of RP, that dream was not going to become reality. But I didn’t have to give up dancing. I enrolled in private ballroom dance lessons, so I could use that talent with the help of a dance partner.

Over the years, I have developed organizational skills for my personal life. Arranging for rides, making appointments, and budgeting my time are all abilities that allow me to live independently.

I’m not a great cook, but back when my family was young, I did the cooking at my house, the meal planning, and the grocery shopping. While I’m not fond of wrapping Christmas presents, and that’s putting it mildly, I am able to do it none the less. My gifts wouldn’t win any prizes, but they do the job.

I like to knit. I make simple things like scarves and dish cloths. It’s very relaxing to me, and it’s easily done by feel.

I clean my house, do my own laundry, rake leaves, and shovel snow. I walk every day with my very athletic and enthusiastic Seeing Eye ® dog.

When people I meet along my life’s path exclaim that they think I’m amazing for having these abilities, they often say, “I can’t even do that, and I can see.” That really pushes my hot button. What makes them think that being able to see is a prerequisite for living a full life? As a visually impaired person, I have more abilities than disabilities. It’s just that blindness is the big one, and the biggest disability of all is to get people to see beyond it.