Chapter 5 The Wall

This entry is part of 16 in the series article 92

Chapter 5 The Wall


THE WALL The wall is tall, surrounding all. Towering tall, never to fall? The wall is tall, surrounding all. [Phil Scovell]

“Don’t run,” the teacher barked. “Walk!” We walked [fast walked] but we walked. The fire doors loomed ahead like to bronze eyes from some giant sculpture, closed, slumbering, undisturbed. The noise of hundreds of tennis shoed students squeaked on polished tiles like millions of summer crickets gone mad. Suddenly…twin explosions shattered ear drums as the fire doors banged open; splitting apart to release the super hyped kids heading for the playground. The giant was awakened.

Leaping from the steps, we catapulted into the grassy playing field. Lunch was over and it was time to play. two dozen Indy race cars leaped from the starting line, engines roaring, tires screaming, horns blaring, as the boys played car race. Horses whinnied, hooves pawed the earth, long shiny mains snapping behind slender necks, as the girls played while horse. Someone slapped me on the back, “Your it, Scov,” a voice called out and quickly faded as he ran away. I sprinted toward him, narrowly missing a wild horse whinnying in my path.

Tapping another kid on the arm, I bolted away calling over my shoulder, “You’re it!”

The playground wasn’t anything special but it was large. Perhaps a half acre of green grass. There were two tether ball poles, a baseball and soccer diamonds, chinning bars, a bicycle rack for parking our bikes, and lots of tennis shoe staining, pants staining grass. We moved like fish in deep water; darting, skipping, jumping, only to break surface to bounce over the green surface like flat pebbles on a smooth pond. Kids laughed, yelled, barked like dogs, growled like tractors, and soared like airplanes; arms out stretched. We were free; free that is, for about thirty minutes.

I stopped running, after all, I wasn’t “IT.” My breathing was deep and slow. I loved to run and was on the track team; holding the second highest time in the sixty yard dash. We had just gone to the Drake relays for the first time, and although we hadn’t place, it had been an honor just to go. I scanned the playground. Kids were everywhere. A couple of the teachers stood on the sidewalks up by the building surveying the seen. Balls were arching through the air, bodies crisscrossed the freshly mowed surface of green, a bird perched on the high chain link fence examining the picture below, head cocked; listening to the cacophony. My eyes registered the multi colored clothes warn by the other kids. The long haired girls ran like deer, their light hair flowing behind them like long tailed comets glistening in the velvet of space. Strong athletic boys ages ten to twelve kicked balls across the well manicured lawn and players rotated bases. Everybody was happy.

Feeling the sun on my face for the first time, I looked up. The sky was partly cloudy and a white fluffy caterpillar the size of a long poorly shaped airplane floated in the distance, its plumose texture offering the appearance of a strange bird in flight. “Something is wrong,” I said. I looked again at the white cloud. No,” I thought, “they are there, I think!” I dropped my eyes to the green grass under my feet. “I don’t see ’em there,” I said puzzled. I lifted my eyes again to the sky and studied the white cloud. “What are those things,” I questioned. I allowed my eyes to drift to the blueness of the surrounding sky. “No,” not there, but when I look at the cloud… Yep, I see ’em.” Tiny brown spots, specks actually, were mingled with the milkiness of the floating cloud. “Oh, well,” i thought, and ran off.

“I’m going to write your assignment,” the teacher said clearly, “on the board. Write it down and bring the finished work in tomorrow morning. She began chocking the words on the blackboard; the assignment nearly covering the entire front of the room on the wide blackboard. I watched and began to write. As I turned my eyes downward and focused on the white paper under my hands, I saw the brown specks again. I glanced back to the board. They were gone. Again to my paper. They returned. They looked like small specks of dirt floating in a fish bowl. They moved when I moved, dancing, swirling, bouncing in my vision. I looked up. Next to the blackboard on which the teacher was writing, I saw the bulletin board. Cream colored posters hung with various announcements. Compared to the darkness of the blackboard, the posters were striking. The brown spots danced over their surfaces like tiny gyrating periods. I screwed my eyes shut and opened them again. They were still there.

“Phil?” I snapped to attention at the sound of my name. “Are you getting this down?” I bowed my head and began to scribble.

I rounded the last corner by Pat’s yard and headed up our street. Corky, our little fox terrier, was standing in the middle of our gravel driveway two hundred feet up the road. He was the fastest dog I had ever seen. I often tried racing with him on my bike. He would lope along beside me, his long skinny legs stroking the pavement effortlessly, the sound of his toe nails clicking loudly like a clock tightly wound, and suddenly he would blur; leaving me helplessly behind.

Standing at the large picture window facing south, I spied a rabbit grazing in the empty lot next door to our home. He, the rabbit, was probably less than one hundred feet from the orchard to the east. His nose wiggled as he sniffed, then tasted, the fresh grass. His long ears sampling for sounds of danger. “here Corky,” I whispered. The little white dog with the large brown circle on his back came galloping through the house and skidded to a stop. His ears popped up like TV antenni; sampling, probing, listening; His nose wrinkling, his tongue flicking, and his tail wiggling frantically. “I wish dogs could talk,” I said. “Wanna’ catch a rabbit, Boy?” I questioned, using just the right amount of voice inflection to incite interest. Hoisting his little body to the window, I pointed his nose in the direction of the grazing rabbit and said, “See ’em, Corky?” The dog went wild. I quickly carried the wiggling creature to the front door and dropped him out. Slamming the door, I ran back to the picture window to survey the seen. Corky had just rounded the corner of the house and was darting across the field. The rabbit froze, his nose flicking, sniffing the air. Their eyes locked momentarily as Corky prepared for his attack. The rabbit spun like a top and vanished so quickly, it was difficult to decide if he had ever been there. Corky arrived at an empty spot and immediately darted in the opposite direction, totally confused, running just as fast as he had when chasing the rabbit. I fell, laughing, to the floor. Retrieving my dog from the front yard, I patted his head. “Well, Cork’, I guess you’ll never make a good huntin’ dog but I like ya’ anyways.”

The little white and brown dog didn’t see me coming up the street until I got to the very edge of our yard. He trotted to the corner of the gravel driveway and slowly descended the small hill to the lower side yard. I called to him but he stopped and crouched as though the newly mowed lawn would hide him. “Come on you silly dog,” I coaxed. “You can’t hide like that.” He refused to move. “I’m telling you crazy dog, I can see you in plain sight.” Head down, no movement, frozen. I stepped closer. “What’s a matter with you, ya’ dumb dog?” Another step. He sprang toward me like a wild mountain lion and shot past like a miniature jet launched. “I wish dogs could talk,” I laughed, “I wonder what he’d say about that.” Uncle Harold always said dogs could smile and I think I saw Corky smile that day. “How was school today?” Mom queried. “Ok, I guess. Anythin’ to eat?” I said, yanking on the refrigerator door and illuminating its interior. “Look in the bottom there,” Mom said without looking up from

her sowing machine and pressing the peddle, “there’s some oranges down there.” I loved oranges. Mom bought a case once and I ate most of them myself within a couple of weeks.

Seated at the table in the dinning room and watching Mom sow, I pealed my orange; my nose wrinkling from the pungent scented skin.

“Something funny happened today,” I said dropping a slice of orange into my mouth.

“Funny?” Mom repeated, the sowing machine spinning loudly. “What you mean, funny?” “Well, I mumbled, “it’s kinda’ hard to explain.” “You in trouble at school again? I hope you didn’t get into a fight with that kid…what’s his name,” she hesitated. “Naw, Mom,” I sighed, “nothin’ like that.”

” Well, what then?” she prompted. I stripped away another piece of orange and tossed it through the air; catching it in my mouth. I’d seen Jim Dutton do that just last week; he missed though. “I wonder what squirrels feel like when they hold food in their cheeks?” I pondered, pressing the orange between teeth and cheek, the juice running down the back of my throat.

“Well, ya’ gonna’ tell me,” she said again, raising her head from the sowing machine to stair.

Seeing her stern gaze, I said, “Well, I noticed seeing ’em while on recess today.” “Saw what,” Mom said, her voice rising in pitch. “Oh, just these little tiny brown spots floating around.” “You mean, in your vision?” “Yep,” I grunted. She frowned. “When do you see these [little brown spots,]” she said emphasizing each word individually. “Well,” I said after sucking the juice from another slice of

orange and then swallowing the shriveled skin. “That’s the funny part.” Her sowing machine remained silent, Her chair was pushed back, and she listened intently. “When I look at darker stuff like, oh, like grass or the sky…stuff like that, I don’t see ’em. When I look at the clouds, though, then I see ’em. They ain’t very dark spots, Mom.” “Aren’t,” she corrected. Do you see them any other time?” “Hum, yeah. When I went into the class after bein’ on the

playground. We were writin’ down our homework from the blackboard and when I looked over to the bulletin board, I could seem ’em again on the white posters. I could see ’em on my white notebook paper, too, but not on anythin’ else.” Her frown deepened and her eye lids dropped; making tiny slits. She didn’t say anything but I knew she didn’t like what she’d heard.

“Well,” she finally said, “we’ll see about it later. Go out and play some if you want. Supper won’t be ready for an hour or so.” The next morning we went to see the eye specialist.

“I can hardly see a thing,” I complained. “How long did the doc’ say this would last?”
“Mom honked the car horn at somebody I couldn’t see.

“Don’t take those sunglasses off,” she warned, seeing me trying to push them aside to see why she had honked. “The doctor said your vision would be blurry for a couple of hours but not to remove those sunglasses they gave you until then.

“Man, thinks look all watery,” I reported, sliding the dark glasses back down over my eyes. “The sun is really bright, too.” Well, that’s what happens when they dilate your eyes.” Why they gotta’ do that, Mom?” “They dilate your eyes, you know the center part of your eye

called the pupal…” she hesitated momentarily and when she heard me snort acknowledgement, she continued. “Well, that part of your eye has to be enlarged so they can look in and see what’s going on inside your eye.”

“Oh,” I moaned, my eyes watering from the bright light even with the sunglasses. “Hows come they gotta’ do that?”

“Well, I was a little worried about those brown spots so I wanted them to check you out.” “Am I Ok, then, Mom?” “According to the doctor.” “Are you sure his retinas are all right,” Mom said again. “Mrs. Scovell,” the doctor replied, “I cannot find anything

wrong with your son’s retinas at all. They look perfectly fine with the scope.” “Why is he seeing those brown spots then?” “I don’t think that’s anything to be concerned about Mrs.

Scovell. I’ve prescribed these drops, however, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.” “Will they help?” “Yes, and the spots should go away in a few days. There’s no reason for concern.” Two weeks later I lay on my back after more than six hours of retinal surgery. “Could we talk outside the room Mrs. Scovell,” Dr. Watke, a

retinal specialist said. He took her arm and led her from the room. “We’ll be right back son,” he said over his shoulder. I lifted my head from the scope where my chin had been resting and shook my head in acknowledgement.

“Your son has retinal detachment in his left eye Mrs. Scovell. We need to do surgery immediately.”

Mom leaned back against the wall; The weight of the past few months pressing heavily against her. Dad had died just six months earlier. Mom had gotten a job working in a flower shop downtown; her first job since she had been a teenager. She was involved at church, of course, but it just wasn’t the same any more without him. Saundra, my oldest sister, was in Bible college in Omaha, Nebraska and had been trying to encourage Mom to come and work for the college as a counselor. Mom had been to talk with Dr. Nettleton, now the new school president, and he promised her a job. She hated the idea of leaving Des Moines, because it was like leaving everything and everyone she had known. Now with her back literally against the wall, she sighed heavily and said, “I’ve got to go back home and get things ready. Can we come back next week Doctor?”

“Mrs Scovell, Noreen,” he urged, “Philip is in bad shape. His retina is literally falling apart as we stand her talking. This is an emergency. I need to get him into surgery. I’d rush him in right now if you’d stay and admit him.” “It’s really that bad?” Mom asked. “That bad,” he confirmed. “Ok,” she sighed again. “I’ll be back first thing in the morning.” Driving the hundred and ten miles back to Des Moines, Mom told me I needed eye surgery. How they do that kinda’ thing, Mom?” “Well, your dad had the same kind of surgery. Remember?” “yeah, I guess so. I remember coming up during Christmas

last year to see Dad in this here hospital. I need my eye fixed like Dad’s?” “Yes.” She was beginning to cry now. “I’m going to put some drops in your eyes, Philip. You’ve

had it done before, right?” I stared up into the face of the young doctor. “Sure,” I admitted. “Ok, then; here we go.” The cool droplets touched my open

eyes; causing me to blink rapidly. “I’ll be back shortly. It takes a little time for your eyes to dilate.”

He returned as he promised, and showed me a round magnifying glass. “Phil, I’m going to use this to look into your eye. He began pulling on a device which he strapped to the top of his head. It had a light attachment which hung just over the edge of his forehead. “I know it’ll be uncomfortable for you; shining this light into your eye and all, but I have to draw a picture of the inside of your eye before your surgery tomorrow.” “Why ya’ gotta’ do that?” I inquired. “Well, we use the picture during the surgery to make sure we

are where we should be inside your eye. Don’t worry,” he added hastily, “you’ll be asleep and won’t feel a thing. He bent over my small body and the light sliced into my dilated eye like an exploding sun.

Two hours later I was helped from the gurney on which I had been laying. Everything appeared dark and in shadow, although the lights were all brilliantly lighted. Everything had a blue and deep purplish hew; like seeing through liquid purple.

“Here Philip,” the nurse said, “use this special soap and wash around your entire left side of your face. She had just shaved off my eyebrow and clipped my eyelashes. “Why we gotta’ do all this?” I said quizzically. “Well, we’ve got to make good and sure everything is perfectly clean before surgery early tomorrow morning.” “How they do this surgery? I heard they have to take my eye out.” Hearing the apprehension in my voice, she said, “Hey, you’ll be asleep when they do that.” “Asleep?” “Yep,” she said, helping me scrub my face with the funny

smelling cleanser. “We’ll come and give you a shot real early tomorrow morning and by the time we come and get you a couple hours later for the surgery, you’ll be good and sleepy. You’ll hardly know a thing.” She was wrong, of course, but she had tried.

I was in a ward of nearly sixty men. Not a kid in the place. Everybody there, of course, had something wrong with his eyes. I was sleepy, sort of, when they came to get me for the surgery but I wasn’t looking forward to the whole thing. They put me to sleep with an IV after rolling me into the surgical room. The rush of sodium pentothal rolled over me as a heavy steam roller, squashing me thin as paper, and pounding me into the ground. I fell through thick darkness; the roaring of water thundering in my dream as I plunged down…down…down into the dreamless void.

“I think we did pretty well, Mrs. Scovell,” the retinal specialist said. “Please,” Mom said, “call me Noreen.” “Ok, Noreen. Anyway, I think we did pretty well,” he

repeated. “I’m not completely satisfied with what we saw but we’ll know more in a few days when we take the bandages off.”

I lay on my back, sand packed sleeves rolled along side my head keeping me from movement. I tried rolling over. “You can’t roll over like that,” a nurse said, her voice sounding far away. “You’ve got to stay on your back.” “I feel sick,” I mumble, my voice sounding strangely. “What,” she said. I answered by vomiting. I continued to do so time and time again after each operation over the next six months. “How are you feeling, son,” Mom coaxed. “Not too hot,” I confessed dreamily. “Does anything hurt?” “No, not really.” I gingerly felt my face. A huge eye

patch puffed out over the entire left side of my head made of thick tape. “Has come I gotta’ lay on my back, Mom? I hate laying on my back,” I protested.

“I know, Philip, but the doctor says your retina is in its normal position when your flat on your back and you gotta stay that way till he says otherwise.”

I groaned. The thick sand filled rolls pressed firmly against my head; restricting movement.

“We’re going to take off this big bandage today, Phil,” the doctor said quietly. “It’s stuck down pretty good to your skin but I’m going to be real careful taking it off. You let me know if I’m hurting you in any way, ok?”
The patch came away, pulling ferociously at my facial skin. The gauze was pulled away slowly. The doctor dabbed some antiseptic smelling liquid around my eyelid and the eye lids then were tenderly forced open. Light was blurry and I saw nothing but shapes and shadows.

“I’ll be back each day to check how things are going,” the doctor said. “Don’t worry about not being able to see much this first time. It always takes some time for an eye to recover.” This same scenario would be repeated again and again with the same results. Sight dwindling until there was none.

“Mrs. Scovell,” the doctor began, “we want to take a look in your son’s other eye this time and do some exploratory surgery.”

“Why?” Mom questioned, worry in her tone. “Do you think his other eye might be bad, too?”

“We’re just not sure. That’s the reason for the exploratory. He won’t feel any different, of course, except when he comes out of his third surgery on his left eye, both his eyes will be covered. I’ll talk to him about it if you like.” “Yes, I think you should but I’ll tell him, too.” “He’s doing remarkably well, Mrs. Scovell, I mean,” the doctor hesitated, “in handling everything.” “Yes, he seems to be doing well” she responded perfunctorily. We descended the high stone stairway to the floor of the

park. The deep valley was cut low into the tall hills on either side. So steep they were that i found it impossible to climb their sides even on hands and knees. The ground was covered with a blanket of millions of brown acorns. It was August. We had just moved to Omaha. Mom had a job with the Bible college and Ruth and I would be starting school in a couple of weeks. I wasn’t looking forward to going to a new school. I didn’t know anybody in Omaha. “Would I like it?” I wondered kicking acorns as I walked and hands jammed into pockets. Dad had been dead nine months and I had been through surgery three, or was it four, times. The stone sidewalk sloped slowly down through the trees perched high up on the hills on either side. “Kinda’ pretty,” I thought. “I wonder how long it’ll take to make some friends here?”

The sidewalk ended, emptying at a pond. “All right!” i said, my voice nearly cracking. Kids and adults stood about the pond fishing, tossing pebbles, picnicking, and just strolling. Our house was just four blocks from the park and this beautiful pond, and a big one at that. I knew I was going to like this place now. Picking up a rock, I heaved it far out across the water. I never dreamed in less than three months, I would not be able to see the beauty of the park or the pond ever again. The rock smacked the water and sent up a tiny geyser of spray.

“Now Philip,” the doctor said, “can you see this light?” I said I could but it wasn’t very bright. “How about now?” The light moved.

“Yeah,” I see it,” I confirmed, “it moved to the left. The light died. “Can you see it now, Phil?” “Yes,” I replied but not very good,” with some concern touching my voice. The light faded completely. “How about this?” “Nope,” I said, “nothin’ now.” “I’m sorry Mrs. Scovell,” the retinal specialist said with a

sigh, “there’s absolutely nothing more we can do. He has some light perception but not much.” “Will any of his vision clear up?” Mom said. “No,” he replied carefully, “there’s no chance. In fact, he

will eventually get cataracts which will impede even what little light perception he currently has.” Waving his hand silently, he motioned to the door and they stepped beyond my hearing. He continued, “He may even get glaucoma, in which case, the eyes will have to be removed.” “Removed!” she said with alarm. “Yes,” he confirmed, “but they make artificial eyes today and

you can’t even tell they are prosthesis. Don’t worry about that right now, however. The best thing for you to do is to get Philip into a school, a school for the blind, I mean.”

“Oh, yes,” Mom said, her voice halting, “I guess that would be the best.”

“Check with the services for the blind in Nebraska to find out where the state school for the blind is there and they’ll help you make arrangements to get your son enrolled.”

I screwed my eyes tightly shut as we walked from the darkened hospital building into the dazzling Iowa sunshine. “The sun hurts my eyes,” I complained, holding my mother’s arm tightly as we walked to the car.

“We’ll get you some sun glasses,” she said softly; I couldn’t see the tears touching her cheeks, “just as soon as we can get to a drugstore.”

My newly developing sensory web registered the new sounds and feelings all around me. I felt the hard sidewalk beneath my shoes, I heard the swish as others passed, walking the opposite direction. Birds chirped nearby…”I wondered if they’re in the trees or on the buildings.” Cars hummed passed, and something which sounded like a bicycle whizzed by. “What was that?” I said a little too quickly. “Someone on a bicycle road by,” Mom confirmed. “Oh,” I responded, “I thought so.” The gravel crunched loudly beneath our feet as we stepped into the parking lot. “Here’s the car Honey,” Mom said placing my hand on the door

handle. I felt it’s firmness, my fingers curled around it, feeling for the button to press. It was warm from direct sunlight. “I’ll go around and unlock the door.” I listened as the keys rattled and the correct one was inserted. The engine fired and I slid in.

“How do these fit?” Mom asked, adjusting the sunglasses on my nose.” “OK,” I guess.” “Well,” Mom said a little flustered, “are they ok or not?” “Yeah,” I confirmed, “they’ll do fine.” I could hear the

exhaustion in her voice. I knew something was wrong and I knew what that something was, but I refused to consider it. I was gonna’ get my sight back again. Sure! There wasn’t anythin’ to worry about.

“Let’s head home,” she said, her words knifing through my thoughts. “OK,” I agreed, “but can we stop and eat? I’m starved!” “here’s your sandwich,” she said placing the hot burger in my

hand, “and a napkin.” I felt the paper and its design but didn’t care what the design might be. We ate in silence, the car closed up. It was November 13, 1964, and November in Iowa was generally chill and windy.

“Dad died a year ago today,” I said, realizing the significance, my voice mouthing the words perfunctorily, and wishing I hadn’t spoken them.

“I know.” Mom’s voice was low, barely audible. Her plain response carried the weight of hundreds of hours of suffering, loneliness, and grief from the past twelve months. I felt the hot tears burn my eyes, my blind eyes, as I sat in the car. I knew what the doctor had said. I knew I was afraid. The car became a tomb for mourners.

“We’re on the edge of Des Moines,” Mom said, the turn signals clicking rhythmically. “I want to stop at Betty and Carl’s before heading back to Omaha.”

“Ok,” I said. “What ya’ wanna do there? It’s pretty late, ain’t it?” “Don’t say ain’t,” she corrected. “It isn’t that late. “It’s dark; I can tell that” I protested. “Well, we won’t be there long. I just want to see them. I

don’t know when we’ll be back this way again. We’ll be home probably by eleven or so.”

I heard the gravel crunch under the wheels as we entered Betty and Carl’s driveway. The car rose sharply like an escalator as the car mounted their steep driveway. I had spent many happy hours roller skating down their steep driveway with Craig over the years. Their front yard was perfect for sledding during winters. It was always so green, I recalled, as the car jerked to a stop. “Let’s go in,” Mom said. “They’ve got someone here it looks like because there was a car parked at the bottom of their drive.” Slamming my door, I took my mother’s arm. We climbed the front steps and knocked.

“Well, Noreen,” Betty Falk’s cheerful voice rang out, “come on in, come on in.”

“I didn’t know you were having company,” Mom said, “but I just had to see you before leaving town.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. Besides, you know these folks anyway.”
Familiar voices from Grandview Baptist Church could be heard exchanging greetings. “Here’s the couch Philip,” Mom said. I sat. My mind drifted as I heard the adults visiting. I thought about the Falk’s home. I could clearly see every room. “Funny,” I thought, “how I can remember so many things so clearly like that. I wish we could get home though. I haven’t been home for over a month. I want to get on my bike and ride for awhile.”

Suddenly I was jerked back to the present like a tetherball. “Mom’s crying,” I thought; “why?” I listened as she sobbed and explained to her friends what the results of my final retinal surgery had been. “The doctor says he’ll never see again,” she sobbed. It was like I wasn’t there. I felt far away; out in space alone. “How could what she said be true?” I wondered. “I’ll see again. Sure! Just like always. I’ll go home and in a couple of weeks the bandage will come off and I’ll see again. Sure, Mom, you’ll see. I’ll be able to see just like normal again. Don’t worry.”

“There’s one more place I wanna’ stop,” Mom announced upon returning to the car. “Oh, Mom,” I argued,”I wanna’ get home. It’s late.” “I know it,” she replied apologetically while blowing her nose, “but I want to see Bessie McDuffey.” “Oh,” i said cheerfully, “that’s different.” I loved to

visit Bessie and Frank McDuffey. Frank, of course, was dead now but I remember going to their farm many times to visit. They sure were nice people and they liked kids. Besides, Bessie always had dogs with which to play.

“Hello Noreen! Come on in and sit. Oh, and ya’ brung Philip with ya’. I’m so glad to see both ya'”

“Well, Bessie,” Mom said with a sigh, “it’s late and we need to get back to Omaha.”

“I’m sorry to see ya’ leave so soon Noreen,” Bessie said as we walked out to her front yard, the screen door banging behind us.” A little dog barked nearby. “What was that?” I said enthusiastically. “Oh, that’s just a little dog friend of mine. Wanna’ see ’em?” “Sure,” I said, “let’s see ‘im.” Bessie brought her little

dog over to me and held him up for me to pet. “Oh,” I said, “he kinda’ looks like old Corky.” “Ya’, Mom confirmed, “he kinda’ does.” “How is old Corky,” Bessie asked. “Oh,” I said, “Corky ran away one day when we let him out after movin’ to Omaha. We aint never seen him since.” “Haven’t,” Mom corrected. “So what ya’ got for a dog then?” Bessie inquired. “We aint…haven’t got a dog now,” I confessed. “No Dog? What kinda’ mother you got who don’t let ya’ have a

dog?” Bessie said laughing. Ya’ gonna’ let him get a dog Noreen?” she said firmly. “You have any he can take home with him now Bessie?” “Well,” she said, “I’m sorry, I just don’t have any pups any

more. Wish I did ‘cuz’ I’d sure get ya’ one right now if I did. But say, why not take this here old dog. He’s getting kinda old. In fact,” she said triumphantly, “this here dog was Corky’s father now that I think of it.”

“Really,” I said with astonishment. “This here dog was Cork’s dad?”

“You bet,” Bessie confirmed. “You’re sure welcome to take him home right now if ya’ wanna’.”

“Can I Mom? Can we take him with us,” I squeaked; completely forgetting my blindness.

“I don’t know why not,” she replied. “Does he ride well Bessie.”

“Oh, sure. He gets along fine in the car…no problem there.”

Walking to the car, I slid in and held out my hands. “Let me have him Bessie.” He fit perfectly into my hands and as I stroked his back I said, “Hey Bessie?” “Yes, Honey” “What’s his name? I forgot to ask ya’ his name.” “Oh, that’s right. I forgot to tell ya’ his name didn’t I? His name is Bingo and he’s a fox terrier just like Corky.” “We’re home Philip,” Mom said with a yawn. I had felt the

car slow and then stop but didn’t want to wake up. Bingo was asleep next to me on the seat; my hand resting lightly on his back. “Come on,” she urged, “pick up your dog and lets go in.” It was after midnight when we mounted the stone steps and then up unto the front porch. The house was quiet. “Do you need some help finding your room?”

“No,” i half whisper, “Bingo and I can make it alone.” I climbed the winding wooden stairs, listening to their creaking, and found the door to my tiny room and placed my new dog on the bed. “This is my room,” I announced in a whisper. “Tomorra’ I’ll show ya’ around.”

The next day was a new experience. I had never traversed our new home in Omaha without sight. I could remember every room, every step down the winding rickety stairway, the basement, the yard, and even the houses and buildings surrounding our home. I explored the house, slowly at first, but eventually moving through it with confidence.

Feeling my way, I moved toward the basement and finding the door to the stairs, I descended the steep stairs to the cool basement below. It wasn’t much but neither had been our basement in Des Moines. I had my own private room down here and I moved slowly; feeling for the latch on the door. There it was! The door creaked open and I passed through. It had been an old coal room and was small. There was a board stretched across the length of the room; probably not more than six feet. I had dusted out the little room and set up my model cars. This was where I had built my most recent models. I explored the wooden surface; my fingers probing cautiously for the models. There was the shoe box I had used to place the cars inside one-by-one for spray painting. I had seen that suggested in a model building magazine once and had tried it for the first time on my latest model. There was my glue; cap screwed on tightly. “Well,” I thought, “at least my sister hadn’t fiddled with that again.” My fingers touched a can of spray paint. It felt cool. I picked it up and shook it. It rattled. “I wonder if the other cans are here?” Feeling; I found them and discovered all three were there. I even found the other paints I used with a brush for the tiny model parts.

Searching further I eventually located the models. Touching one, I picked it up and explored it carefully. It was the open rail quarter miler I realized. It seemed as though I could almost see it. I suddenly remembered that this room had no window and I had forgotten to turn on the light. “Well,” I mused, “don’t need it anyway.” I allowed my fingers to touch the car and its many parts cautiously; not wanting to break any of its fragile parts. I had spent many hours working on the model. Actually, the model was three cars in one. I had purchased the car from a nearby store and after bringing it home, I was elated to discover that the builder could either make one big car or three smaller ones. I opted to construct three. This time I would do it differently though. Before I had always constructed models haphazardly; gluing and snapping parts together without hardly even glancing at the instructions. This time I was careful to read over all the instructions before even removing the model from its carton. I examined the decals and decided which I would use and which I would save. I extracted each level of parts and looked them over before replacing them in the box. Laying the instruction sheet down, I picked up the box and carefully examined the colorful picture on the cover. “Yes,” I thought, “I’m going to build this model just like what I see on the box.”

When I had finished, I had allowed the three cars to dry in the coal room for a couple of days. My upstairs bedroom had a book shelve for a head board which made an excellent place for my display of recent masterpieces. I arranged them on the headboard and sat on the bed to examine them. They were perfect. I had painted each white plastic part carefully before assembly both inside and out. I had even painted the interior. Their pale red bodies, jet black tires and shiny chrome engine parts made them miniatures of the real thing.

Suddenly the room felt cold and damp. “What’s wrong,” I wondered. The plastic in my hands felt suddenly meaningless and amorphous. I slowly replaced it on the shelf. I left the little room. Somehow it didn’t seem like I belonged any more.

Retracing my steps, I climbed the stairs to the kitchen. “What you doing down there Philip?” Mom called. I could hear dishes rattling.
“Oh, nothing much. I’m just kind of lookin’ around.” “Well, we’re going to eat lunch pretty soon so don’t go too far off,” she instructed.
“I won’t,” I agreed. “I think I’m gonna go outdoors and look around.”
“Be careful out there,” she said; a little too much concern in her voice.” I didn’t answer.

I was standing next to the outside door at the top of the stairs and tripping the latch, I pushed the door open. I stepped out and closed the door behind me. I could hear the traffic on Levenworth below. Although the house we lived in was terribly small, it was situated in the neatest place or so I thought as a kid. We were at the top of a tall hill. There were perhaps two dozen stairs leading from street level to our front yard and another three steps to the front porch. It was a nightmare trying to move all our furniture in. My sister and I had to take our bikes out through the back of the house and down a neighbor’s driveway just to get to street level. The hill in front, however, was perfect for wintertime fun.

I knew I was standing at the roof level of a small shopette which lay just on the other side of our fence. Although I could no longer see it with my eyes, I could smell it. A bar and restaurant was the establishment closest to our house. There were tall bushes just over the fence, a small concrete walkway and then the roof of the building. Before going blind, I had climbed through those bushes often playing army; climbing over the roof and peering down to the parking lot below. I stood now, seeing the surroundings in my mind’s eye. I moved forward cautiously till my fingers encountered our fence. I could picture exactly where I was and began moving down the fence to the back of the house. I made a complete reconnoiter of the house ending back at the side door. “Philip,” Mom called, “it’s time for lunch.” Pulling the door to, I entered the tiny kitchen and felt for the doorway into the dinning room. “How’d you do outside?” Mom asked. “Oh,” I muttered, my mouth full of a toasted cheese sandwich,

“pretty good. It’s almost like I can still see,” I announced confidently.

“You and ruth want to go up to the Bible college with me in a little bit?” mom asked. “What fer?” my sister and I both said in unison. “Oh, no reason in particular. Just thought you’d like something to do today.” “Naw,” I said. “I’d kinda like to stick ’round home and check things out Mom if that’s ok.” “Well,” she said hesitantly, “I guess that would be all

right. Ruth,” she said picking up our plates, “would you mind staying around in case your brother needs something?” “Nope,” was her only response. “Mom,” I protested, “I don’t need anybody hangin’ ’round me. I can take care of my self you know.” I spent the rest of my day exploring the house and the yard.

I even traced the sidewalk leading to the steps and walked down to the sidewalk below a few times getting used to the feel of the terrain. I had little trouble finding my way about my own yard and home. “soon,” I thought, “I’ll be gettin’ my sight back and won’t have to worry about all this though.” “What’d you and Ruth do while I was gone?” “Oh, nothin’ really. I had her walk me down to the corner and back just to see what it was like,” I confessed. “Well?” Mom inquired. “Well what?” I said. “How was it?” “Oh,” I said, understanding, “it was ok I guess.” “Hey,” Mom,” I asked, “could we all go down to that park

where the pond is tomorrow? That’s a real neat park and I’d kind of like to go.”

“Well, I don’t know why not. We don’t have anything else going on since it’s Saturday. Let’s go late in the morning and I’ll take some sandwiches and we can eat down there. How’s that sound?” “Great!” I said with enthusiasm. Holding my Mom’s arm, we made our way to the park. “What

street is this Mom?” I asked. “How far is it? How much further is it? What was that noise? Haven’t we gone far enough yet? Shouldn’t we be there by now?”

“Calm down, Philip. We’re just entering the park now,” my mother soothed.

“Let’s go down to the pond first,” I said pushing her arm, “I wanna toss some rocks into the water.”

“Hey,” I said excitedly, “I can smell the water. We must almost be there.”

“that’s right,” Mom said with disbelief, “we are almost there but I don’t smell anything.”

“Well, I do,” I replied, sniffing the air. “It’s water all right. Let’s hurry up.”

We stood at the edge of the pond and I listened to all the sounds. I heard someone’s reel spin and the sinker striking the water with a tiny crack. He reversed the reel and tightened the line. “Hey,” I said, “I should of brought my fishin’ rod down with me…I never thought of that. I wonder if there’s many fish in this place?”

“Well,” Mom said, “maybe you can come down here sometime and try fishing.”

I could hear children laughing, swings creaking nearby, birds singing, and people walking by. “Hey, Ruthy, help me find some rocks and we’ll toss a few into the pond.” “Okay,” she said agreeably. I felt about my feet and found a couple of small stones. I

tossed them high into the air and heard the splash. “It sounded like it went quite a ways,” I said, confidence framing my words.

“Yeah,” my little eight year old sister said, “It went about half way over.”

We spent the afternoon walking through the park, riding the swings, negotiating the jungle gym, climbing the tall slides, tossing rocks into the pond, and rocking on the titter-todders.

Retracing the few blocks to our home, Mom said, “How’d you enjoy the park Philip?”

“Oh,” I yawned, “I really liked it. I always thought it was a pretty neat place anyway. I’ll have to come down here this winter and ice skate.”

“Ice skate?” Mom said;her voice forming a question mark. “Do you think you can still ice skate?”

“Sure,” I said, “why not? I wanna get my bike out pretty soon, too,” but Mom thought it wise to remain silent.

Pulling on my pajamas, I called Bingo. He came lumbering into my bedroom and I lifted him to the bed. “My bed’s kind of small Bingo,” I said, “but it’s big enough for us both.” Sliding beneath the covers, I thought of the next day. I hadn’t been to church before under these conditions. I was worried about getting around. I knew the church building well and could get around it by myself but I wouldn’t want to try and do that yet. How would I get to my class? What would I do during class if the teacher asked me to read a Bible verse? How would I get back to the auditorium for the main service? I pulled Bingo closer and stroked his head. “If you were bigger Bingo, you could be one of those guide dogs I’ve heard about. You’d lead me around wouldn’t you boy?” I stopped petting my new dog and lay on my back listening to the sounds about me. A car past on the street far below. Ruth was whining about Mom brushing her hair. Saundra was listening to her radio in her bedroom. Kay would be home from her job at the hospital before long. Though I was fearful about Sunday school, I knew it was only temporary. “I was gonna get my sight back before long. Sure!” Tears began to trickle from the corners of my eyes.

Sunday school worked out because I decided to stay with Mom instead of going to my own class. Dick Arant had spoken to me but the other kids had stayed away it seemed. Several adults had spoken, asking how I was, but otherwise I was anxious to get home to familiar surroundings.

“Hey, Mom,” I said that afternoon, “you remember that book you was readin’ me when I was layin’ on my back in the hospital?” “Oh,” she said, “you mean the Hey BC book?” “Yeah,” I agreed, “that’s the one. Where is it?” “I don’t know. Why?” “Oh, no special reason. I’d like to have it. Can I?” “Well,” I guess so,” she said putting down her needle and thread. “Let me get it for you.” I listened to her move about the room, turning papers, moving

objects and then returning to the table where she had been sowing. “Here it is Philip but I still don’t understand why you want it.” “Oh, I just kinda want it. Thanks.” Climbing the winding steps, I found my room and closed the

door behind me. trailing the corners of my bed, I rounded the room till I came to the only window in my room. The November Sun was streaming in brightly. I sat on the edge of my bed and listened closely to make sure no one was coming. Holding the book up to my face, I opened my eyes wide and stared. I could see red and black colors on the face of the book but they were watery and the light from the window hurt my eyes. Mom had read from this book by the hour to me and I had often laughed at the stories of the little prehistoric man known as Hey BC. I often lay on my back in the hospital during those four weeks wishing I could read it myself. I was a poor reader and hated reading out loud in school. Though I stumbled over even the easiest of words, I Now wanted to read more than ever. I held the book closer and squinted attempting to distinguish letters on the cover. I couldn’t see anything except the blurry red and black. I closed my eyes, shutting out the harsh light, and held the book with both hands. “I’d see again,” I mused, “I’d see again and when I did, I’d read this little paperback book. I’d read it for myself…I’d see again.”

“Hey, Ruth said, her voice high and excited, “It’s snowing outside.” “Really,” I said, “let’s go out and see. Walking down the steps, my sister and I walked into the open

air. The snow was falling in big flakes and the wind gusty. “Hey,” I exclaimed, “it really is snowing. Man, I hope it’s a big storm Ruthy cuz then we can play on this here big hill.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, “it’d make a pretty neat place to play wouldn’t it.”

“Hey you kids,” Mom said from the door, “get back in here. You don’t even have a coat on.”

Returning to the warmth of the house I said, “Mom, it’s gonna be a big one…I can tell.” “Well, maybe,” she agreed, “but I hope not.” “Oh, yeah,” I said, “it’s gonna be a big one and Ruthy and I

are gonna play out on that big hill of ours in the front. We can play king on the mountain and build a snow fort and have a snowball fight and we can get our sled out, you do know where our sled is don’t you, and we can build a big huge snowman, and we can roll a big old snow ball, and…”

“Well, I don’t know about that Philip,” she said, “that’s a mighty steep hill out there and it empties right out on the street.”

Hearing the worry in her voice I said, “Oh, yeah, well, we’ll moved down the yard a ways where the hill is smaller and it won’t be no problem at all.”

“Maybe,” Mom said again, “we’ll have to see how much snow there’s going to be.” My little sister and I went to bed that night praying the snow would continue to fall.

“Did it snow a lot?” I questioned first thing that next morning.

“Yes,” Mom affirmed with a sigh, “I’m afraid it did snow several inches.”

“Oh, great…that’s just great. When we getta go out and play,” I said demandingly.

“Well,” let’s eat some breakfast and then we’ll get your clothes ready and you and Ruth can go out for awhile.”

My sister and I spent most of the day playing in the fresh snow. We came in several times to warm, drink hot chocolate, and change into warm clothes. It all was a new experience for me and I tried everything as though testing myself to see if it was all the same. I had to keep my eyes closed tightly much of the time because the bright light reflecting off the newly fallen snow felt like needles penetrating my watery vision.

“Mom, Ruthy and I are gonna play a little longer on the hill.”

“It’s getting dark though Philip,” my mother said hesitantly. “I really don’t like you playing out there in the dark. Besides, it’s really getting cold out there.”

“ah, Mom,” I said, “It ain’t that cold and besides, our clothes are warm. You can turn on the porch light and there’s street lights out there, too…I remember seein’ ’em. Let us play some more…please?” “Well, all right. I guess you can for awhile.” Pulling on gloves and boots again, Ruth and I bounded out the

door. “Let’s go down in front of our neighbor’s house,” I suggested, “cuz their hill ain’t as steep as ours and we can play king of the mountain. We ain’t done that yet today.” “Okay,” Ruth agreed guiding me across the yard. We played on the hill for several minutes, sliding down and

then attempting to climb up again. “It’s too steep still,” I said to my sister. I can’t climb back up cuz I keep sliding down.” We decided to play near the steps so that when we wanted to return to the top of the hill, we only needed to walk up the stairs to achieve the top. “Hello,” a girl said. “Whose that?” I questioned. “My names Jenny,” she said. I live a block up the street in the green house.” “Oh, well, that’s good,” I said a little hesitantly, not wanting anyone to intrude. “What’s your name?” “I’m Ruthy and this here is my older brother Philip,” my sister said before I could answer. “Oh, that’s nice,” the new comer said. “Can I play with you guys?” “Well, I guess so,” I replied, “we’re plain’ king on the mountain.” “How is that played?” she wanted to know. “Well,” I said clearing my throat, “one person stands at the

top of the hill and tries to push the other people back down the hill when they come up. Who is ever standing at the top at the last is the king and we just keep doing that over and over again.” “That sounds fun,” she said, “let’s do it.” We played for some time in the gathering darkness; the porch

and street lights our only illumination. It was getting cold and the snow felt icy. Our clothes and gloves were getting damp. I would roll to the bottom of the hill and then feel my way along the sidewalk till my out stretched arm came in contact with the hand rail of the steps. Sometimes, when I was too far down the sidewalk, my sister would guide me to the rail and I would once again ascend alone. The little neighborhood girl took part in the game and often showed me the rail herself. Our laughter drifted across the snow covered yards as we played; our breath condensing in the frozen winter air.

Finally, rolling to the bottom of the hill once again, I got to my feet and felt for the rail. It wasn’t there. I walked several more feet and still couldn’t find it. “Hey,” I said, “where’s the rail…am I going the right direction?”

The new friend my sister and I had made came near and as she breathed heavily through her scarf, she said, “What’s matter with you? Why we got to always show you where that rail is?”

“The world suddenly began to loose its spin; slowing on its axes. The frigid air seized my body in a death grip and my heart stopped. I could feel the blood pumping in my ears. “She doesn’t know, I thought, she doesn’t know I’m blind.” “Well,” she prodded. “Cuz I’m blind,” I said sharply, my voice sounding like a

pistol crack in the cold air. Hot tears spilled from my eyes. Ruth was crying now, too, and she guided me down the frozen empty street to our house. We mounted the stairs, crossed the snowy sidewalk to our porch, and stumbled into the house; our sobbing clearly heard.

“What’s the matter,” Mom said apprehensively as she helped us pull off our frozen clothes. “Did you get hurt out there?”

“No, No,” I said barely able to speak. “Ruth?” Mom questioned, “what happen?”

“He,” she began haltingly, “he…” and sobbed loudly; unable to continue.

I sat in my mothers lap in the living room crying uncontrollably attempting to explain what had happened. Eventually I was able to tell my mother that I suddenly realized I was blind and that I was never going to see again. The wall had closed in around me. She held me close, rocking and silently crying with me till I fell asleep, wondering how her little boy, her only son, would adjust to his blindness; wondering how she would adjust herself.


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