Hollie shares her experiences growing up with her dad who is deafblind.
Sight and Hearing loss is more common than you think: Let’s talk about it…
We thought he was a spy. My father could move like a cat. despite his size, despite his disability he moved as if stealth were bred into him. My brother and I used to say that deafblindness was his cover, he was actually a secret agent using the disability to mask the truth: he was an James Bond-esque super spy with the skill to silently enter any room at just the right moment to catch villains and children in the act of committing nefarious deeds!
At home, you would be hard pushed to believe that he is deafblind. He walks with confidence, he knows the path, has the place mapped out in his mind. It isn’t until an unexpected object or an unwary wandering dog enters the equation that things become obvious. We learned very quickly not to leave things lying around. To pick up and move a pair of shoes kicked off carelessly in the middle of the floor, a toy discarded underfoot. We learned to move whatever might prove to be a trip hazard without consciously recognising that we were constantly risk assessing the spaces around us.
Dad has mastered the art of tripping it almost seems to be an art form. He can recover from a misstep in such a way that when you witness it happening your brain can’t quite compute what it has seen. You may suddenly wonder why you started thinking about John Cleese and his Ministry of Silly Walks, but the man’s graceful recovery will leave you almost positive that he didn’t stumble, didn’t catch his foot on the curb, didn’t miss the fact that there was one more step.
It is amazing how people can move around in their own world without thinking twice about others. The socialite walking towards you staring at their phone, the old lady in the supermarket plodding slowly across your path, the child careering around in a fantasy world. We step around them, we let the old lady pass, we avoid stepping on the adventuring child. We see them. We hear them and we react. It is not a selfish instinct that drives the old lady when she gives the big hairy deafblind man a dirty look when he accidentally backs into her stepping back from the shelf. It is not lack of consideration that sends the child bouncing off the shins of the giant as he walks down the street. It’s the assumption that the giant will react.
We don’t talk much about it. We don’t really have to. Sometimes he will say things, matter of fact, honest things that at some time I know he must have agonised over, must have brooded on and cursed his fate and fortune. I know I would have. I remember hearing dad give a demonstration at a school I was volunteering in. He said something I will never forget: “One of the most difficult days I faced was the day I looked up at the night sky and realised I couldn’t see the stars anymore.” Now when I marvel at the beauty of the night sky I have to breathe past the sadness that wells up in me when I remember a tiny girl sitting with her daddy and learning the position of Orion’s belt. When he says these things, there is no sense of brooding, unfairness or bitterness. Only acceptance.
I have never met anyone like my father. His ability to overcome any hardship, his quiet strength and sheer bloody minded stubbornness to play the hand he has been dealt. To carry on through adversity and carry others through the storm, guide people facing similar darkness, show them that there is a way through, there is light and warmth to be found if you know how to find it. He is incredible. My father is my role model, an inspiration and a wonderful human being. He may have taken my arm for a guide down the road but his example, his inspiration has guided me through life.