LIFE IS STILL AN ADVENTURE
Blog written by Jane, the daughter of Michael who is a board member of Deafblind Scotland.
I’m not a fan of the obvious. For many reasons, but really only one that applies to this post. When thinking about this title in relation to my 77 year old, deafblind father it would be too easy to talk about some of the many amazing things he has done. Like rowing the Union Canal, abseiling (more than once) walking Ben Nevis (aged 71), or completing a triathlon (aged 74…..he started easy with the Ben!) or trekking and wild camping across Scotland. But these things have been written and talked about lots and even has Dad asked me about writing this blog, that was the idea that came to his mind.
The trouble with going with the obvious is that it can limit our horizon and our own narrative; who we think we are and what we can offer. We focus on past triumphs/adventures and forget to incorporate the newer or less obvious stories.
Sometimes we don’t do this because we don’t see it; it takes someone else to point it out or see it for us. So I guess this is a little gift to Dad, and a reminder to myself (and you perhaps?) not to limit ourselves, venture out of our comfort zone, and explore our own “Undiscovered Country”.
The things I mentioned above were all things that Dad accomplished after the loss of my mother. And this was a big loss for Dad, huge in fact. Apart from having 35 years of companionship and family life, Mum was essentially Dad’s carer; she helped him navigate his life and interact with the world around him. I want to say to Dad that I know how hard that adaptation has been and that he still feels that loss acutely. I recognise that.
The thing is though, that sometimes adventures start from a sad place, or a scary place, or an unfamiliar, unexpected place. We say “hell no! I didn’t sign up for this!” And Dad really didn’t want this ‘adventure’. He wouldn’t even call it an adventure, but he has grown so much through this. Dad always said that Mum had done most of the parenting (and always downgraded his own parenting) but do you know who was there when I came out and said that I was gay? Yep, my evangelical, Presbyterian, deafblind dad! What’s the relevance of being deafblind in that story – well Dad wasn’t exposed to the growing media representation gay and lesbian folk and the gradual “normalising” of non-binary sexuality and identity. I mean, I’d been married and this came as a bit of shock to him, poor lamb. But he stepped up. Gave me a hug, parented and accepted me and broadened his experience and understanding of a life outwith his own. This came with a lot of challenges. There were (and still are) some heated exchanges!
Dad has also had to interact socially without the support of mum, and we all know how much easier having someone to “go with” makes social occasions. Well, when you add being deafblind into that equation, well wow! And I know it doesn’t touch the sides of his loneliness, but the determination and sheer will to engage in social activities is representative of a true adventurous and indomitable spirit. (Yes, Dad I’m talking about you). He’s begun teaching Braille at the new resource centre and I LOVE that he’s got a second kind of career at 75+. When he told me he’d signed up for the drama group at the same centre you could have knocked me down with a feather! MY FATHER??? Drama???? Talk about the adventure of redefining yourself!
Dad may not think that he has made lemonade out of the lemons life handed him, but from my perspective he’s doing a pretty fine job. And I have learned to embrace challenges and not back down from things in my own indomitable and adventurous way. So I would encourage Dad and us all to keep on keeping on. It’s all we can do.
Sometimes the adventure is outside and tangible, sometimes it’s having the courage to face our inner demons and seek light for our shadows. Adventures aren’t always fun or easy or nice but they are worthwhile. And they can be funny too….remember that trek? Well, I’ve got three things to say; outdoor toileting, biodegradable (read thin!!!) loo roll and wind………….
I have a visual impairment. I can’t see, I can hear a bit. But without hearing aids I can’t hear. When I put my hearing aids on, I can hear everything. My new adventure is I love coming out to Tollcross Park, or it could be any park.
Before I lost my sight I never bothered listening to the sound. Since I lost my sight I love listening to the sounds. I come to the park in Tollcross and I love to sit nearby the burn, hear the stream, the ripple of water running through. And every kind of bird, especially the woodpecker. I love hearing the woodpecker hammering the tree. I just love coming out here, it’s an adventure for me. It’s relaxing listening to all the different kinds of sounds.
I also like to come out with the help of a guide, they describe the flowers, and what’s growing in the area, it’s interesting. I have an image in my head, what they are like. But especially the sound, I never bothered before, but now I really appreciate the sound. I just love it.
So bring your picnic! Wear your hearing aids and get out!
Hi, my name is Bob Nolan and I am the chairperson of Deafblind Scotland and I myself am deafblind. I’ve been deaf since birth, my blindness was something that became more and more a problem in my teens. I have also noticed recently is that as my sight has continued to deteriorate, so has my ability to ‘hear’ or follow conversation. That wasn’t something I was expecting. I rely very heavily on lipreading, but as my sight is worsening, particularly in low light, I’m really struggling to lipread. By not being able to lipread I am missing out on a lot of things that earlier in my life I was able to follow. That has been a surprise to me, and unexpected.
But, as with everything else, you find ways round it and you get over things. In terms of my life, I am someone who is outgoing, and likes to get out there and do things.
Over the years I have done tandem challenges with my wife and friends, for Deafblind Scotland. Raising money and also raising awareness that being deaf and blind does not mean that you cannot live an active and full life.
Helen Keller, who is probably the most famous deafblind person of all, famously said “Life is an adventure, or nothing at all” I love that. That’s how I like to live my life.
I am a member of a hill walking group, I walk with Guides, and I get out there regularly. I go swimming in our local pool, which is an open air pool, even in winter.
I love that I can walk to my local station and get anywhere in the UK on my own. Part of that is down to a red and white cane. The red and white cane tells people that the carrier is both blind, as in the white, and also deaf, that’s what the red stripe signifies. It’s important people know that. If you want to offer help, which I’m sure most people do, it’s possible that the person won’t hear you offer of help. Bear that in mind. Interestingly, I’ve travelled all over the world for Shell, and this red and white cane has opened so many doors If nothing else, people have seen me have stopped and hesitated, come over and said “Can I help you”, that’s been in India, Malaysia, Egypt, Nigeria, America, Norway, Holland, it doesn’t matter, that’s what I love. It’s given me the ability to travel independently for years, otherwise people might have expected me to have either a guide or a guide dog.
Coming back to my favourite quote from Helen Keller “Life is an adventure, or nothing at all” That’s how I like to live my life. I hope that by doing the different things like riding tandems long distances, or climbing mountains, that I will inspire other deafblind people to go out and do things themselves.
Get out there and enjoy what the world has to offer.
I’m going to do the 3 Peaks challenge soon. We will climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in a week. Inbetween cycle on a tandem, hopefully with a lot of support from deafblind friends and community.
My advice to everyone else? Life is an adventure, make the most of it, get out there and enjoy it.