Blind Sight 3: Forever Blind
I couldn’t believe it and yet here I sat, all decked out in a cap and gown. If you had told me I would be here four years ago, I never would have believed it. And now I was graduating from the Savannah Institute for The Blind with honors nonetheless. Before I get too carried away, let me start over.
After going completely blind at the tender age of fourteen, I completed the rest of my high school education at The Southport School for The Blind in Iowa. We had learned reading, writing, math and history in all the general education classes as well as continuing to build on all the life skills taught to us by our individual teachers. Since my original teacher, Keith, had left to start another blind school in Denver, Colorado, I was transferred to Deanna Kinney.
In making decisions about my education, my personal life changed as well. My roommate and best friend, Glory, had decided she wanted to continue her education abroad. She signed up to go and study in Italy for a year. Oh, how I envied her. Benjamin Jump and I had become good friends. Deanna was also his teacher. We had been dating the last three years. But Ben decided to go to college in California and I was going to Georgia. We both decided a long distance relationship wouldn’t be fair to either one of us. So we broke up. It was sad, but I knew it was probably for the best.
I had chosen to attend the Savannah School since I wanted to be a teacher for the blind. I have heard Savannah is a beautiful town, but since looks are the least of my worries, I went with the school that offered the best education program.
The first two years I lived on campus in the dormitories. Each door had a Braille nameplate on it. To use the bathroom you had to type in a code. Once I had memorized it, I just had to find the correct buttons that were also in Braille. If you punched in the wrong code, the keypad would beep letting you know you needed to try again. Once I got used to punching in the code, I didn’t even think about it.
My freshman roommate was sort of a partier. She and her sighted friends liked to go to clubs downtown. I could always tell when she had come back from a club because I could smell the smoke on her clothes.
Each room had a set of bunk beds. I found out by running my hand up the smooth metal beam that went up above my head and then across. I asked my roommate if she would mind sleeping on the top bunk. I could just imagine myself falling out of bed. But every morning for a week, I would sit up and bang my head on the metal bar across the bottom of the upper bed.
There was also a dining room. It was like eating at a restaurant. They gave you a Braille menu and you ordered what you wanted to eat. I could also choose to eat in the dining room or order it to go and eat back in my room. I had an ID card I just handed the waiter, who then ran it through a machine.
Classes here were much different. We didn’t have individual teachers and that meant no one on one attention. Most of the homework and tests were oral, but occasionally we had a paper to write. Most of the time I was allowed to use my Braillewriter. But sometimes they made us use the Braille computers.
Junior year, we were allowed to live off campus in an apartment. Four other girls and I decided we wanted to get an apartment together. I wasn’t sure at first, but Dad said it would be a good experience for me to get used to living on my own. There was also a sighted person who would come by once or twice a week and make sure we had everything we needed and were doing okay.
I was pretty lucky I could complete my internship right there at the school. I picked out the classes I wanted to teach. For the whole second semester the students taught our education classes.
I joined the Reporter magazine, a Braille magazine. With my Braillewriter, I was able to interview people and write articles. This worked well for most stories I covered except for one, which turned out to be a disaster. I had tried to cover a fashion show. That's when I discovered my limits as a blind reporter.
On the last day one of my teachers asked me to stay a few minutes after class because she wanted to talk to me.
“Every year the teachers are asked to recommend students, who they feel have excelled in excellence. This year I have recommended you. There is a blind school out in Baltimore that is looking to recruit teachers. Would you be interested in taking the certification exam? You would be able to start teaching right away.”
“Of course!” I exclaimed.
I had planned on being a teacher some day, just not so soon. I didn’t say anything about it to anyone, not even Dad or Rita, our housekeeper. I didn’t want them to get their hopes up and then have me not pass the test. My teacher had told me the oral exam would cover all subjects and be given on the day before graduation.
I arrived at the classroom early. As I waited, I started to recite what I had memorized just to make sure I wouldn’t forget it and choke as soon as I went in. I was scheduled at 11:00am. I felt my Braille watch.
Then the door opened and someone asked, “Michelle Maxwell?”
“Yes,” I replied. Ringlet, my seeing eye dog, led me inside.
“Are you ready, Miss Maxwell?”
“Yes.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Not being able to see the members of the school board didn’t help me be less nervous.
Geography was the first subject they quizzed me on. I did not make a single mistake. I had always been good in geography even when I could see the maps. Next, came grammar. I had to tell the different kind of nouns, whether they were plural or singular, how they related to the subject or verb. They made sure any sentence given would also include: adjectives, adverbs, a participle phrase plus intransitive and transitive verbs.
Mental arithmetic was even harder. They gave me addition, subtraction, multiplication, short division and fractions.
Then it was on to history. The history tests were always the longest and had the most questions. I started with Christopher Columbus and the school board finally stopped me when I got to the part where the first wagon wheels rolled into Kansas I thanked them and they said if I passed I would receive a teaching certificate in the mail.
Graduation for the education department wasn’t until 3:30pm. After lunch, Rita did my hair and made sure the collar on my gown was straight and the tassel on my hat was in the correct place. I stood there and smiled as I listened to the click of Dad’s camera.
Ringlet led me to the front of the auditorium, which was in a building called Swasey Chapel. Rita said it was a beautiful building like it really mattered. She told me it was white with gold trim.
Unfortunately, it was not equipped with air conditioning and it felt like it was 100 degrees outside. Ringlet led me up on stage. Even though I wasn’t the valedictorian or even the salutatorian, they had asked me to give the commencement speech. Even though I couldn’t see the faces of my classmates, I knew hundreds of blind eyes and thousands of sighted eyes would be staring at me.
The president of the school spoke first and then the assistant dean said some words. Then they announced my name. Ringlet led me over to the podium. I took a deep breath and my fingers started to move.
“Parents, teachers, fellow graduates:
“When I was asked to give this speech, I thought of a lot of things I could say about being blind. All the obstacles we have overcome and how we are not that different from sighted people. But I’m not. If being blind has taught me anything, it’s to be grateful for the gifts God has given you, even something like blindness. In the beginning, I couldn’t understand it, but going blind was a blessing in itself. I know where and what my purpose is. I can go on and share my knowledge and experiences with other blind children. It has been a long and winding road, but we are here. We made it!”
Dad took me down a couple of days before the start of the school term so I could have a little time to adjust and get used to the new building. Ringlet needed time to adjust as well. Most of the trip was silent. There was really nothing to say. I was on my way to teach school. Only a couple of weeks before, I had been a college graduate and now here I was a certified teacher. The letter had come a week and a half after coming home. Dad and Rita were both proud of me for scoring on the second level. I sent my resume and a copy of my certificate to Baltimore and they accepted me two weeks ago.
“Well, Micki, you’re a school teacher now,” Dad said. “We knew you would be, didn’t we? But we didn’t expect it to be so soon.”
“Do you really think I can…teach school?”
“Of course you can, but you have to remember one thing.”
“You are so quick. You tend to speak first and think afterward. Now you must do your thinking first and speak afterward. If you remember to do that, you will not have any trouble. You must have confidence in yourself. That’s the only way to make other folks have confidence in you.”
I nodded and felt a little better.
I had only met Mr. Brewer, the head master of the Maryland School, once. Each school has a sighted head master that is also a certified teacher. He is there incase we need help with a sight related problem. He can also take over a class if need be. All I knew was Mr. Brewer had a dry paper thin voice. My room was upstairs while the classroom I would be teaching in was downstairs. Mr. Brewer didn’t tell me how many steps there were or how my room was set up. For the first few days, I had to feel my way around as well as having Ringlet lead me.
There were five students in my class. My footsteps sounded loud as Ringlet led me to the front of the room. I ran my hand along the desk. It was very smooth and felt like it had some sort of a gloss finish on it. I carefully pulled out the chair and sat down. I heard Ringlet lie down beside the desk.
“Good morning,” I said. I ran my fingers over the Braille roster. “When I call your name please say ‘here’ so I can get to know the sound of your voice. I am also blind. I will need you to tell me how old you are and what level of learning you are at. Sarah Aston?”
Sarah was seven years old and from the sound of her voice I knew she would be sweet. She had finished the first reader and was learning subtraction. Next, there was a little boy named Patrick. Pat was nine and had finished the second reader and had reached short division. The next two students were Joshua Roman and Whitney Sterling. They were both eleven. Whitney was quick to answer she and Josh were both in the fourth reader. They had passed the middle of the spelling book and in math they were working on fractions. The last pupil was Clarence Westman. He was twelve and was also at the same level of learning as Josh and Whitney. He had a way of speaking that sounded almost saucy. I hoped he wouldn’t cause me too much trouble.
I taught reading and math for the first half of the day. After lunch, I would teach history, writing and spelling. I figured it was best to have them come forward and recite their spelling lessons. When I didn’t hear any footsteps I just said, “Walk toward my voice.” And each day the footsteps got more steady and quicker. By the end of the week I was able to tell them apart not only by their voices, but by their footsteps as well.
Sarah was alone in her class. I let her spell slowly and if she made a mistake, she might try again. She spelled every word in her lesson. Pat was slower, but I gave him time to think and try. He did as well.
Then Whitney, Josh and Clarence recited their spelling lesson. Whitney made no mistakes, but Josh missed five words and Clarence missed three.
“You may take your seat, Whitney,” I said and heard her walk away. “Josh and Clarence, I want you to write the words you missed three times each using your Braillewriters. The rest of you may read silently.”
The next day went smoothly, although Clarence talked instead of studying.
“Why aren‘t you studying?” I asked.
“I already know my lessons.” He was a quick learner.
I felt like Clarence was testing me. He wanted to see how far he could push me before I punished him.
The next week everything that could go wrong went wrong. Pat did not know one word of his spelling lesson. He said Sarah would not give him the spelling book.
“Sarah,” I said with a warning tone in my voice.
The next thing I heard, Sarah and Pat were fighting. I went to Pat’s seat and gave him the speller.
“Learn that lesson. You may recite it to me after school.”
Next day, Sarah did not know her lesson.
“I could not learn it, Miss Maxwell. You gave Pat the speller.”
“Well, you and Pat must share the spelling book. You will have to hold it open in two places since you do not study the same lesson.” I replied.
I heard them struggling and complaining and neither one of them learned their spelling.
Clarence only knew half of his history lesson. When I asked him when the first settlement was made in Virginia, he replied, “Oh, I didn’t study that part.”
“Why?” I asked trying to keep my voice calm.
“The lesson was too long.”
I took a couple of slow breaths. There was no point in getting angry with him.
“It is too bad you did not learn this. It will make your next lesson so much longer, for we must not keep Josh and Whitney back.”
The next day, Clarence did not know his history at all.
“It’s no use trying to learn such long lessons,” he said.
I kept on asking him questions hoping he would eventually get tired and feel guilty of answering, “I don’t know.” But he didn’t.
When the third math class did not know the lesson and could not solve the problems I gave them, I started to get angry. I was angry with them and with myself. Maybe I was not doing a good enough job of teaching them.
“You may all repeat this lesson tomorrow.”
Friday was dull and listless. Sarah and Pat were far behind in spelling. Whitney could not decipher a simple compound sentence or add fractions and Clarence was learning no history. My Braille watch had never moved so slowly. After I had dismissed the class, I couldn’t contain my feelings any longer.
“Oh, I don’t know what to do!”
“Bad day?” I heard a new and unfamiliar voice.
“One of many,” I replied and told this person about the whole miserable week.
“I wish I could tell you it gets easier. I have been here almost a year and sometimes it feels like I have never taught a day in my life. My name is Kevin Kincade, but people just call me Cade.”
“I’m Micki Maxwell. But what can I do? I must do something. What Clarence needs is good old fashion discipline.”
“You might not get far with Clarence, even if you could punish him in the way he deserves. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
“You’re telling me.”
“My advice is to be patient. If I were you, I’d give way to Clarence and not pay attention to him. It’s attention he wants, that is why he is acting up. Be pleasant and nice to him, but put your attention on the others. Clarence will come around. Well, I have some papers to grade.”
I heard something skim across the floor. Then I heard a bump and Cade said, “Wall there.”
“Are you using a cane?” I asked.
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Well, I thought I was going to be the only blind teacher here. I just assumed you were sighted.”
“Funny, I assumed the same thing about you.”
“I guess we were both wrong.”
“Sure sounds that way.”
In a way I felt better knowing Cade was also blind. He was dealing with the same obstacles and challenges I was not only with teaching, but also with every day life.
Monday started out as glumly as Friday had ended. But I was determined to make this work.
Throughout the day, I heard Clarence fidget and drop his books. I remembered Cade’s advice and paid him no attention. Poor Whitney did not know her grammar lesson at all. I could hear how confused she was about compound sentences.
“You must take this lesson over again, Whitney. I know grammar is hard. If you like, we can go through the lesson together.”
“I would like that,” Whitney replied.
I worked with Whitney until she could decipher a complex compound sentence all by herself.
A couple days later, I received a surprise visitor. His name was Mr. Harris and he was from the school board. He was here to evaluate my teaching ability and me. I knew this happened at least twice a year, but we never knew when they would show up or what they would want to see.
“I would like to see mental arithmetic from a student in your highest math class,” Mr. Harris said. “I want them to divide six numbers by two numbers.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied.
Before I had a chance to call on a student, I heard Clarence say, “I’ll do it.” I was surprised he had spoken up, but I said, “Very well. Divide 347,264 by 16.”
While I was listening to Clarence I also heard a soft scratching noise. Mr. Harris was doing his own figuring to the problem.
“The answer is 21,704.”
“That is correct,” Mr. Harris replied and I breathed a sigh of relief. “May I speak to you outside for a minute, Miss Maxwell?”
“I am very pleased with the progress you are making. I can’t remember the last time the Westman boy volunteered for anything. Keep up the good work.”
After class was over I asked Clarence if I could speak with him.
“I just wanted to say I was very pleased with your performance today.”
“Oh,” Clarence sighed. “It was nothing. Figuring has always come easy to me.”
“I wasn’t talking about that. I was surprised you volunteered. You made me look very good in front of Mr. Harris.”
“Well, you are good, Miss Maxwell. I would never do anything to get you in trouble with your boss.”
After that things seemed to go more smoothly. Cade and I were spending more time together as well. We often worked on our lesson plans together. When we had free time, we would take walks around the school, hold hands and talk. We tried to have dinner together at least once or twice a week. Sometimes, we would eat with the students and other times we would wait and eat by ourselves. He told me he had been in a serious accident when he was seventeen and that had caused him to loose his sight.
When we had school picnics and while the children were playing, we would find a quiet spot to sit or hold hands and just enjoy each other’s company. Once in a while Cade would surprise me by packing some of my favorite foods. He gave me roses for Valentine’s Day. I found myself falling for Cade, but I was too shy to ask him how he felt about me.
It took a few months for Cade to work up the courage to officially ask me out. Our first date was a blind social. There were sighted and blind people there. Cade said these were held almost every other month and it was a good way to meet people. Cade and I also enjoyed getting to know each other better outside of school. On our second date, we held a bake sale to raise money for the blind school. We also attend lots of activities in the blind community. When we wanted to be more affectionate, we would put our fingers on each other’s lips so we could feel each other’s words.
“Micki?” I heard Cade’s voice one day after I had dismissed my class. I was gathering all the papers and books together.
“Hi. I have something to tell you or rather something to ask you.”
I waited. “Well?”
“We have joined up with another blind school and with the number of students increasing, the school board has decided to transfer me to another school…and I want you to come with me. The new school is in Trenton…”
“You’re kidding. I’m originally from Morristown. It would almost be like going home again. I have missed my family so much. It would be so nice having a school so close to home.”
“Then I take it you’ll come.”
“Of course I will.”
I had to take another certification test. The test turned out to be a written one this time. I was glad I didn’t have to recite anything. They gave me one test paper on every subject. Surprisingly, it was a lot harder than I remembered and I was tired by lunchtime. I was hoping for a third level certificate this time. I ended up getting another second level certificate.
The rest of the school term seemed to fly by. On the last day I dismissed my class, but not without saying: “You all have made good use of the opportunity you had to come to school. I hope you can get more schooling either here or elsewhere. An education is worth striving for.”
Even though I would be with Cade again it was still hard to say good-bye to him.
“I miss you already,” he said. “A month has never seemed so long before.”
“I know. I am excited about the Trenton school…and you.” I reached up and placed my hand on the side of his face. “I want to hold your face in my heart, Kevin Kincade.”
I felt Cade’s hand lift my chin and his gave me soft gentle kiss.
Dad and Rita were thrilled to learn I would be teaching a lot closer to home.
Cade would be arriving at the school before me. I was looking forward to going to the Trenton school just knowing Cade would be there, too. I wrote him a Braille letter to let him know when to expect me.
Dad drove me down to Trenton. Mr. Ames was the new head master. He sounded a lot friendlier than Mr. Brewer. When I heard his voice, I knew I liked him.
“So you must be Micki. Cade has told me a lot about you.”
“All good I hope.”
“Nothing, but the best. I’m sure he will be happy to know you are here. He’s in the classroom. Why don’t you go and say hello before you settle in.”
“You’re clapping your hands,“ a child answered as Ringlet led me down the hallway.
Then I heard Cade’s familiar voice.
“Good. Now the next sound I am going to give you, some of you might be able to do and some of you can‘t.”
Click, click, I heard. I knew what that sound was.
“You’re snapping your fingers,” I said.
“Right…Micki. You‘re here.” Cade came over and placed his hands on the side of my face. Then I felt his lips gently touch mine.
“That sounds like kissing!” one of the kids exclaimed and the rest of them giggled.
Dad cleared his throat.
“Oh, hello, sir.” Cade replied.
“Cade,” Dad replied.
“Would you like to stay and have some dinner with us?”
“Thank you, but I really should be on my way. Good-bye, Micki.” Dad gave me a quick hug.
“Bye, Dad.” I listened to him leave.
Cade took my hand and led me into the classroom. “Everyone this is your new teacher, Miss Maxwell. I expect you to give her the same attention and respect you give me.”
“I am very happy to be here,” I replied.
There were more students in this class then there had been in Maryland. I was glad I had Cade there to help me. While he was teaching, I could grade papers or vice versa. Even though there are a few Clarence’s in every class, most of the kids were good, quick and eager to learn. Most of the kids here came from foster homes or were underprivileged. They all loved Ringlet and gave her as much petting and attention as she could take. I always made sure they never petted or played with her until they were done with their assignments.
Cade paced back and forth in the hallway.
“Micki, you and I have known each other for over a year now. It has taken me that long to get up the nerve to say what I'm going say. You know how much I love you. We could have a perfect life together. Our interests are the same, we teach together. What I'm trying to say is: will you be my wife?” He took a deep breath and knocked on the door he was standing next to.
“Come in,” I replied.
“It’s me, Micki.”
“Oh, hi, Cade.”
“Look I have something important to tell you. I was wondering…uh, hoping…well, you see…I have to go to the post office.”
Cade left before I even had a chance to respond.
“Come on, Kincade. Just go in there and ask her.” Cade knocked on the door again.
“Come in? Cade, what’s going on?”
“There is something I want to ask you.”
“I hope it’s more important than you telling me you have to go to the post office.”
“The school's getting too crowded and I think you should move out of your room.”
“And go where?”
“Into my room.”
“Cade, that's not funny!”
“It’s not supposed to be funny, it's supposed to be a proposal.”
“That's the most ridiculous proposal I've ever heard.”
“I should have gone to the post office.”
“Maybe we should both go to the post office. I want to send a letter to Dad and Rita and tell them we're getting married!”
I was nervous about meeting Cade’s parents for the very first time. Since his family lived in New York they would drive down and meet up with Dad and Rita in Morristown. Then they would all ride down together. Cade and I could just wait in front of the blind school.
“Do you think they will like me?” I asked.
“Of course, Micki. They’ll love you.”
“I hope so.”
I swallowed hard when I heard the familiar sound of Dad’s car motor pull up to the curb. I hugged Dad and Rita. I also heard a lot of new voices.
An older female voice said, “My baby’s getting married.” I guessed it to be Cade’s mother.
“Ava?” said a little girl’s voice.
“No, silly. Kevin,” responded a boy’s voice. It was strange to hear Cade referred to by his first name.
“I’m never going to get married,” the little girl’s voice continued.
“It makes Mommy sad.”
“She isn’t sad.”
“Then why is she crying?”
“Because she’s happy.”
“I’m never going to understand grown ups.”
Cade reached over and took my hand.
“Everyone, this is my fiancée, Micki Maxwell. Micki, this is my father Xavier, but everyone just calls him X.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir.”
“Pleasure I’m sure and that’s Papa X to you.” He took my hand and kissed it. “Well, son, I am glad to say your blindness hasn’t hindered your judgment. She is a lovely young lady.”
“This is my mother, Anne,” Cade continued. When she took my extended hand, I thought it felt a little like a cold fish. I wasn’t quite sure what she thought of me.
“Now, I have five siblings. Callie, Peter, Chad, Lydia and Ava’s the baby. We’re your regular Brady bunch. Micki is blind like me, so for the first few days you’ll have to tell her who you are until she has a chance to get used to your voice.”
I felt a tug on my skirt.
“I’m Lydia,” I heard. “If you marry my brother are you going to be my aunt?”
“No. I’ll be your sister-in-law, which is like a big sister.”
“You know, I’m an only child. I’ve always wanted a little sister and now I’ll have two.”
I heard Lydia giggle and I knew she must have been smiling.
“I’m Ava. What was your name?”
“Oh, like Mickey Mouse!’
“Almost. It’s short for Michelle.”
“That’s my middle name.”
“Then it should be easy for you to remember.”
Then Dad announced he was going to take everyone out for dinner to celebrate. He asked where the fanciest restaurant in Trenton was.
“Are you sure that is the best place to take children?” asked Anne. I’m not sure if she was referring to Cade and me or her younger children.
“Please?” I said. “We never get taken out to eat.”
Dad took my arm and helped guide me to the restaurant. I had my other arm looped through Cade’s while he guided us with his cane. Once we arrived at the restaurant, Dad pulled out a chair for me and I sat down. X was the first to order.
“I think I will have a nice big steak, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, a side of mushrooms, and a piece of peach pie for dessert. How does that sound to you, Micki?” he asked even though I had a Braille menu.
“Xavier, don’t be a glutton,” Anne disapproved of his order.
“We are here to celebrate, aren’t we?”
“That’s right,” Dad answered. “Make that two of them.”
“You know you are going to regret this later, “ Rita said.
After dinner Cade’s family went to check into the hotel and Dad, Rita, Cade and I went back to the school to visit some more.
“So was Micki a trouble maker growing up?” Cade asked.
“Cade!” I replied even though I knew he was just teasing.
“Oh, she caused her share of problems,” Dad replied. “She was the fastest runner. She was always wandering off somewhere. I remember one time when she was about three years old. It was the dead of winter. The snow was at least two feet deep. Her mother thought she was outside with me and I thought Micki was inside with her. We had no idea where she could be. I checked the woods and her mother checked the meadow. About a half hour later, we came back home and there she was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor eating strawberry preserves just as happy as she could be.”
I had forgotten all about that
Cade laughed. “You were a bad one, weren’t you Micki? Micki?”
“What? I guess my mind was wandering. I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll go to my room.”
“Are you okay?” asked Rita.
“Yeah. Just all the excitement, I guess.”
“I’m kind of tired myself.” I heard Dad stand up. “We will see you tomorrow after school. Get some sleep.” He kissed me on the forehead.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Cade asked me after Dad and Rita left.
“I’m fine, really.”
Ringlet led me upstairs to my room. As I walked, I kept hearing Dad’s voice going through my head. She was the fastest runner…She was always wandering off somewhere…we had no idea where she could be. I hadn’t even considered something like this before.
The next day Dad said he was going to talk to the preacher about the ceremony so Rita stayed at the school to help me. Even though I am perfectly capable of doing things on my own, I know Rita can’t help it. She was so used to doing everything for me after I went blind.
“Here, Micki, I brought you something.” I felt her hold something up against me. “It’s my wedding dress. I always planned for my daughter to wear this dress. But God decided I would have three boys instead. Micki, you are the closest thing I have to a daughter. Would you do me the honor and wear my dress?”
“Oh, Rita. The honor would be all mine.”
I must have sounded surprised because she said,“ What did you expect to get married in?”
“I was just going to wear my semi-formal dress.” I felt tears start to well up in my eyes.
“Micki, what’s wrong?” By the time Rita had her arms around me I was bawling my eyes out. “It is pre-wedding jitters? That’s normal.”
“It’s kind of hard to explain.”
“Have you talked to Cade about it?”
“No. I don’t want to hurt him.”
“When you are considering spending the rest of your life with someone, you have to be willing to talk about everything, even the hurtful things.”
“You’re right. I’ll talk to Cade tonight.”
That night I heard a knock on my door. When I didn‘t answer, the door opened and Cade’s voice asked, “Micki?”
“Were you asleep?”
“No. Cade, we need to talk.”
“You're not having second thoughts about marrying me already, are you? Why, Micki Maxwell, you'd have to be blind not to want to marry a guy like me!”
“There are so many things to consider. Things we never thought about. I refuse to be a burden to you. How normal of a life could we have together?”
“If anyone knows about leading a normal life, it’s you.”
“If one of us were sighted. You have to admit with both of us being blind, it’s pretty unlikely.”
“Micki, every single day since I've gone blind, I've worried about how I'd handle what might come up. But I know what I'm afraid of.... it’s not out there! It's inside me. And if there's something I have to do, I get it done because I try!”
“Well, I can't. You didn't know I was in the room, did you?”
“ Well, no, but I don’t understand what that has to do with anything.”
“It means if we had a child, and that child got lost or wandered away--”
“Hey, hey, slow down! We're not even married yet, and you're already talking about children?”
“Don't you want children?”
“Of course I do. But what's gotten into you? We have more than twenty kids at this school already. We handle them just fine.”
“They're blind, too. They're not going to just wander away.”
“ Well, we'll just face those problems when they come.”
“No, we have to face them now. Our kids would be unselfconscious of our impairment because they wouldn’t know any better. What would happen when they started school? Because of us, the other children would make fun of them. They would call their parents freaks. Our kids would be ashamed of us and resent us for being different. One way or another, our blindness would influence their development. It could change our children’s personality.”
“You know, this is really funny! All any parent hopes for when they have a baby is that it will be healthy. And we can't have a baby because we might have a healthy one? Maybe.... maybe we should just hope for a blind baby. Then we can take care of it and not have to worry about it!”
“Look, Cade. I do love you, but I can’t marry you.”
For the next few days things became unbearably uncomfortable. Cade and I were pleasant to each other during school and when we heard each other in the hallways. But our conversations sounded like we were talking to strangers. We didn’t talk about the wedding or what had happened the other night.
We took the kids on a picnic. I had learned there was a lake nearby and thought the kids might enjoy going there. I sat on one of the picnic tables with Ringlet at my feet. Mr. Ames was grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. I could smell them and listen to them sizzle. I also tried to keep an ear on the kids I could hear splashing in the water. I warned them to stay near the edge and in the shallow water. I knew Cade was there somewhere, but I didn’t feel like asking Mr. Ames where he was.
After lunch, I let Ringlet lead me to the water’s edge so I could let it run over my bare feet. All of a sudden, I felt a strong gust of wind. My hair blew across my face and my clothes clung to my body. Each gust was followed by a stronger one.
“Looks like we are going to have a wind storm,” Mr. Ames said. “We had better get the children back to the school.”
I made sure all the children were in a single file line holding hands with the person in front of them. Mr. Ames would be at the front of the line, I would be in the middle and Cade would bring up the rear. I did a head count to make sure we had everyone and then took my spot in the middle of the line. When we reached the school, the wind was becoming stronger. Once everyone was inside, I did a roll call just to make sure all the children had gotten here safely. Everyone answered, ‘here’ until I got to Faye Goodsby.
“Faye?” I asked again, but still heard nothing.
“Everyone okay?” Mr. Ames asked.
“I think so, but I don’t hear Faye.”
“I don’t see her either.”
My biggest fear was coming true. A child was lost. I could hear the wind howling outside.
“I’ll go out and look for her,” Mr. Ames said and then I heard a loud thump.
“Mr. Ames?” I asked.
“The door hit me in the head. I’m bleeding.”
“Then I’m going. “I left before he could stop me.
“Where’s Micki?” I heard Cade’s voice behind me.
“She went to go find Faye,” Mr. Ames answered.
“Darn, fool.” I heard Cade run out after me. “Micki? Where are you?”
I was feeling my way down the steps when someone grabbed my arm.
“What do you think you are doing?” Cade asked.
“The children are my responsibility. We have to find Faye. So let go of me.”
“They are my responsibility, too. I’m going with you. Give me your hand. The last thing I need is another lost person.”
“Fine,” I said.
Cade took hold of my hand and held onto it tightly. Once we had felt our way down the steps, we reached out so we could touch the side of the building to help guide us. The wind was whipping around us and would fling us against the side of the building every few seconds. The only contact I had was Cade’s hand, which I must never let go. The dust hurt my eyes. All the while we kept calling Faye’s name.
“Faye? Faye, where are you?” I called.
“Stay where you are,” Cade said. “Yell so we can hear you.”
“We are never going to find her,” I wailed.
“No, we won’t.”
“That is the difference between you and me. If I have to do something, I do it. I don’t give up.”
“Wait,” I said.
“I thought I heard something.”
“I don’t hear anything.”
“Shut up and let me listen. There,” I said, “I heard it again. It’s coming from that way.” I pointed in front of me, which was pointless. I felt the corner of the building. We had come around to the backside. I knew there was a storage shed, around ten paces from our current position. As we approached the shed, the sound got louder.
“That’s her! “I exclaimed. “It has to be.”
I put my free hand out in front of me as I counted ten paces. When I felt the wooden door, I fumbled with the latch. Cade pushed me aside and I heard him yank open the door. He didn’t even bother with the latch. Then I heard Faye’s voice loud and clear.
“I’m here! I’m here! I’m here! I’m here!” she kept crying over and over again.
I got down on the ground and crawled until I could feel her hands. I felt her arms wrap tightly around my neck while still crying, “I’m here.”
“It’s all right, honey. It‘s okay.” I untangled her arms.
“I was…so scared,” she gasped. “I…didn’t think…anyone would ever…find me.”
“Did you really think we would leave you out here? We needed to find you and we did. Can you stop crying? I want to ask you something. Faye, would you like to be the flower girl at my wedding?”
“I’d like that. Oh boy, would I like that.”
The only guests were going to be the children, Cade’s family, Dad and Rita. I asked Ava and Lydia to be flower girls along with Faye. I asked Callie to be my maid of honor. Peter was the best man. I had the children pick some wildflowers, which would serve as my bouquet. Cade and I set the date for April. The preacher was really nice and said he wouldn’t use the word ‘obey’ in the ceremony.
When Dad started walking me down the aisle, I whispered, “Not too fast.” When Dad stopped moving, he raised the veil and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“Who presents this woman to be married to this man?” the preacher asked.
“I do,” Dad replied.
Then I felt Cade’s hand. And so we were married.
“It is my great pleasure to introduce for the first time Mr. and Mrs. Kincade.”
Light and Dark
It had been a long day. The kids were getting restless and were complaining about their lessons instead of studying them. I was trying to keep calm, but it was hard especially when I would ask a question and they answered it with an answer they knew was wrong. We weren’t accomplishing anything this way.
“We all know San Francisco and San Diego are large cities in California, but who knows the capital?”
I didn’t hear anyone respond. “Anyone? I know we all are hot and tired, but I have an idea for our next writing project I think you will all enjoy. We have been studying essays, short stories and poetry. I want you all to write one of the three genres. For the younger students it can be as long or as short as you wish, but for the older students it has to be at least 200 words minimum.”
They all groaned.
“I will grade them and then choose a winner in each category and an over all winner. Those people will get a special reward.”
“What kind of reward?” Scotty wanted to know.
“I am not sure yet so I want you all to do your best and…” I stopped abruptly. I noticed something was different. Was it real or just an illusion? I blinked my eyes.
“Uh, yes, Faye?”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine. Uh, class dismissed. Try and remember as much as you can.”
After all the kids left, I slowly walked over to where I knew there was a window. I put my hands on the glass. I could actually tell there was a bright white light before my eyes. And just as quickly as it was there, it was gone and I was left again in darkness. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but something had definitely happened.
The next time I noticed it was when I was getting ready to announce the winner of the over all writing contest a couple weeks later.
“The over all winner is Bridget Cooper. Would you read your poem aloud so the rest of the class can hear it?”
Even though her poem was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard, I wasn’t fully listening to it. I was looking in the direction of the window again.
“Mrs. Kincade? Are you sure nothing’s wrong?” Bridget asked me when she was done reading.
“Oh yes, I’m sure. I want all of you to read silently for the next half hour.”
As I listened to the children open their books, I walked over to the window. This time the light lasted longer than it had before. The closer I stood the stronger it was. It was the brightest light I had ever seen. I pressed my face up against the glass like I couldn’t get enough.
That nigh, I tried to break the news to Cade very carefully. I wasn’t sure how he would take it.
“I thought about going to Morristown for a couple of days,” I said. “Can you manage without me?”
“I’m sure I can. Do you want me to go with you?”
“No. I am going home to see a doctor. That‘s all.” I tried to make it sound like it was no big deal.
“Are you sick or something? Do you think you’re…”?
“No, it’s not that. I am not going to see a medical doctor. I am going to see an eye doctor.”
“Um, there may be a slim chance and it would be nothing short of a miracle that I might be able to see again. I would have to get some tests done first…” I went on and explained to Cade what happened.
“I wish you would have told me about it.”
“So what do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think. It’s such a big surprise.”
“Just think what this could mean for us. If I get my sight back, I could go out and get a regular teaching job or maybe even an administrative position that pays more money. I could get the blind school whatever it needs. Books, furniture. We wouldn’t have to live at the school anymore. We could have a house of our own.”
Later that night I rolled over, but didn’t feel Cade beside me.
“I’m right here.”
“Can’t sleep?” I got out of bed and walked over and placed my hands on his face. “Just think I’ll be able to see your face for the first time.”
“You might be disappointed.”
“I can see it now, but to really see it. With my eyes. Oh, Cade. We are going to be so happy…happier than we have ever been.”
Dad came bright and early the next morning to pick me up. He made an appointment for me with Dr. Flood. The original doctor who had first diagnosed me was out of town at a convention. Dr. Flood was her associate.
I was a little nervous about seeing Dr. Flood. Dad said Dr. Cross wouldn’t leave us to anyone who wasn’t the best. After about ten minutes, I was called back. Ringlet led me down the hallway and into an examining room. Dr. Flood said he wanted to do a regular eye exam first.
Well,” said Dr. Flood. “As far as eye health goes, you are in very good shape. Now without moving your head, I want you to look up like you are trying to see the ceiling. Now look down like you are trying to see the floor. No, don‘t move your head.”
“I never realized how hard it is.”
“Well, blind people don‘t have to make eye movements so like any muscles that aren‘t used they tend to grow weak. Now bring your eyes back up like you are trying to look straight at me. Then move them to the right. Does the light have any color?”
“No, just white.”
“Is it steady or does it come and go?”
“It flashes on and off, but the closer I get the more steady it becomes. Can you tell anything?” I asked anxiously.
“Unfortunately not at this moment. I would like you and your father to stay over for a couple more days. I want to run some more tests.”
“That’s a good sign, isn’t it Dad?”
“I would think so.”
“He must have seen some improvement otherwise he wouldn’t want to see me again.”
Meanwhile, back in Trenton, Callie found Cade in the school chapel. She and Peter had come to visit Cade and me for a couple of weeks.
“Can I join you?”
“Have a seat.” Cade answered.
“I just received an e-mail from Micki’s father. He said they have to stay over and the doctor wants to run some more tests. That’s wonderful news.”
“Well, don’t sound so excited. I wouldn’t want you to break a sweat or anything. What is it?” Callie placed her hand on her brother’s shoulder.
“I can’t talk about it.”
“Everything’s going to be all right.”
“Ever since Micki told me she was going to see, I’ve been afraid. I should be happy for her, but I’m not.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I have tried to be happy for her, but I can’t help it. I don’t know if I want her to see again. I am flat out scared. I feel like I am loosing her to a…to a world I can’t see.”
“Now you listen to me, Kevin Kincade. Micki loves you. Being blind together isn’t your strength. It’s your love.”
“If she can see, she’ll be doing things and going places. I would just be a burden to her.”
“It’s true your lives would change. There would be some adjustments, but not in the way you think. If anything, Micki would be able to give more to you. Kevin, she‘d be lost without you.”
“But she would be able to see.”
“Please, Callie. I just want to be alone right now.”
Callie sat on the front porch of the school. She couldn’t help, but be excited. Ever since she had learned I might regain my sight, she had been so sure it would happen. The rest of the family had high hopes, but Callie’s had been the highest. She and I had become very close after the wedding. She was like the sister I never had.
“You know, Pete, I was thinking. When Micki does get her sight back, then she and Kevin are going to need a place to live. A place of their own. There is an old shack just outside of town. It’s not so run down it couldn’t be fixed up. All it needs is some work and maybe a coat of paint. It’s also close to the school so it would be perfect for them.”
“Don‘t you think we should wait and see what the doctor says first?” Peter asked.
“She’s going to be fine.”
“We could fix it up for them as a surprise.”
“Well, we better get to work. We don’t have a lot of time.”
Callie and Peter went to the paint store to see if they could find some paint for a cheap price.
“Well,” said the paint storeowner, “we don’t have any paint on sale right now. But I do have a couple of cans left over from last winter. I was saving them for a special occasion, but now they are too old to sell. I could let you have them for half price.”
“What colors?” Peter asked.
“Pink and purple.”
“We’ll take them!” Callie exclaimed.
“Are you sure, Callie?”
“Oh, come on. Micki hasn’t seen color in so long, she’s bound to love anything.”
“I guess you’re right,” Peter replied.
“It’s so bright it actually hurts my eyes to look at it.” Callie opened the lid.
“I still think you’re making a mistake about Micki being able to see again. What if the doctor says she is going to stay blind?”
“Stop talking like that.”
“I just don’t want you to get your hopes up.”
“What time is it now?” I asked.
“Five minutes later than the last time you asked,” Dad replied. Then I heard the door to my examining room open and I heard Dad say, “Good afternoon, Dr. Flood.”
“Are we sitting near a window?” I asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Flood replied.
“I can feel the heat of the sun. The light has never been brighter.”
The first thing Dr. Flood had me do was walk toward the window and tell him when I could see the light.
“Okay,” he said. “I am going to shine some reflected sunlight directly into your eyes. It’s going to be bright and I want you to tell me if you can see it. Can you see it?”
“How about now?”
“Okay, now I am going to take the light off you. Can you still see it?”
“What about now?”
“No. Nothing now.”
“All right, Michelle. I want to talk to your father. I want you to wait out in the waiting room.”
When Dad called me back in the examining room, I asked, “Well, Dr. Flood? Do I need more tests?”
“The doctor went into his office for a minute,” Dad replied.
“What did he say? How long before I can see again?”
“You aren’t going to see again. The doctor confirmed it.”
“What do you mean? I could see the light.”
“ The doctor said what you were experiencing was a rare, but not unheard of phenomenon. It doesn’t have anything to do with actual light. It was not the light you were responding to, it was the heat. The heat suggested a light so your mind produced it.”
“But the light,” I protested. “I saw the light.”
“Do you remember when the doctor asked if you could see the light the second time? The light was reflecting off the wall. I saw it. It wasn’t shining into your eyes, but you could still feel the heat. When the doctor said he took the light off you, it was shining directly into your eyes. All he had to do was suggest the idea of light for your mind to produce an image.”
“You believe me, don’t you, Dad? I can see the light.”
“I wish I could, Micki. But I am afraid the doctor is right.”
“He’s wrong. I know he’s wrong. I want to see Dr. Cross. We’ll wait until she comes back.”
“Micki…” Dad began.
I started stumbling my way toward the window. When I got there, I fisted my hands and put them on the glass.
“I can see the light! I can see the light!” I had started to cry.
Dad walked over, turned me around and wrapped his arms around me. I tried to fight, but ended up with my face against his shoulder, sobbing, for I knew he was telling me the truth.
“Rita packed us some bologna sandwiches,” he said on the drive back.
“There’s some PB and J. You always loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when you were little.”
“I am not hungry.”
“I was afraid something like this would happen. Remember when you tried out for the school play? You were so sure you had gotten a part and when you didn’t, you thought the world was coming to an end.”
“That’s not the same. I don’t think I can face Cade again. I know how much this is going to hurt him.”
“Well, I think the first thing you ought to do is start being honest with yourself and stop pretending it's Cade you feel sorry for.”
“You're not feeling sorry for Cade. You're feeling sorry for yourself. I can't say I blame you, but quit lying to yourself about it.”
“I'm not! It is Cade.”
“It's Cade, huh? All right, if you had a choice and only one of you could see again, who would you pick?”
“I.... I…” I stammered.
“Oh, come on, Micki, you'd pick yourself and you know it! And you wouldn't be doing it for Cade! Just say it once. "I wanted to see again for me." Say it.”
“I…I wanted to see again…for me,” I gulped. “I wanted to see again for me. Oh my God. I wanted to see again for me!”
When Dad pulled up in front of the blind school, I heard a lot of noise.
“Hi, Mrs. Kincade!”
“Cade?” I asked.
“I’m here. The children wanted to be here to welcome you back,“ Cade said. “There’s punch and cake inside.”
“It’s good to be home. There is no need to talk about what happened. I am no worse off than I was before. I am no better, but no worse.”
“Hi, Peter. Where’s Callie?”
“She was so let down by the news she didn’t want to be here, but I think I know where she is.”
“Will you take me?”
When we stopped, Peter opened a door. “Callie?” I called.
“Oh, Micki!” I felt her throw her arms around me.
“Hey, now. What's this all about?”
“I was so sure you were going to see again. I was just so sure.”
“I know. I was, too.”
“But I wanted you to see again so bad. I wanted you to be able to do all the things you planned to!”
“All right, now! That's enough. Listen, I'm the one who's blind here. And you better get used to it, because that's the way it's going to be. Callie, before I went blind, I wanted to teach. Well, I'm a teacher. I have a wonderful family. I still do, plus a wonderful husband and a sister-in-law I love very, very much. Is that fresh pain I smell? Isn’t this that old run down shack just outside of town?“
“Well, who on Earth would want to fix up a place like this?”
“Oh, well...Peter and I thought it would make a neat clubhouse…for the kids.”
“Oh. What colors did you use?”
“Pink and purple.”
“You know, Callie.... I’m kind of glad I can't see it.”
The Sound of Children
In the middle of April, right after Cade and my first anniversary, I started to feel strange. On Sundays we usually had our big meal at noon. All of a sudden I couldn’t smell the food. And I was hungry for it, too. The next day, I couldn’t smell coffee and I loved the smell of coffee.
I wondered what was going on with me. I immediately thought, maybe I’m expecting. I wasn’t trying to get pregnant, but I wasn’t using birth control either. We had been up visiting Cade‘s parents that weekend so I talked to Callie right away. I hadn’t said anything to Cade. I was too shy to tell him what I suspected. I wasn’t sure how he would react. Callie bought me a home pregnancy test and sure enough, I was expecting.
A couple nights later, I planned to tell Cade over a special dinner I had made. When I heard him come in, I felt my Braille watch. It had been over two hours and this upset me after I had gone to the trouble of making him his favorite dish, barbequed spare ribs.
“I just thought a husband and wife should eat together sometimes.”
I went to bed without telling him about the baby.
The next morning, I was still upset with him. I felt sick and somehow we got into a silly argument. I don’t remember what it was about, but my hormones must have been making me crazy because I suddenly blurted out, “I’m pregnant. I’m feeling bad and you don’t even care!”
“Is it true?”
I could hear the shock in his voice. I nodded even though he couldn’t see me. Even though I am fully aware of my blindness, I still catch myself giving sighted responses once in a while.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” He sounded so excited. He put his arms around me, held me close and kissed me.
Callie drove down and we all three went to the hospital. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t too small to have a baby. They ran a series of tests and I learned my due date was November 20th.
“We are going to have a baby,” Cade kept saying.
Callie was excited, too. “I am going to be an aunt!”
They were all so sure about me having a baby. Even Dad thought it was a good idea. He told me my mother had been twenty-three when she had me. He said it was better to have children when you are young and have energy. He would attach a bell to the cradle so if the baby moved, the bell would ring and wake up Cade and me.
Everyone wanted to know if it was going to be a boy or a girl. I wanted a boy. Cade said he didn’t care, but deep down I knew he really wanted a little girl. Callie gave me a book of baby names all in Braille. I immediately felt for my own name. Michelle meant who is like God. Kevin meant handsome.
I liked Conner or Brent for a boy and thought April was a pretty name for a girl. But the baby would be born in November and that was not the name of a person. Kevin Kincade Junior? Maybe if it happened to be a boy. Callie said the baby was not going to be named after her. She never liked being called Calista. Lydia’s favorite name for a girl was Gwendolyn because the name meant fair. And she said if she was to have a niece, she wanted one that would play fair.
“Cade?” I asked one night after we both had gone to bed. “Cade, are you awake?” I touched his shoulder.
“Are you awake?”
“No. What do you want?”
“I know this may sound crazy, but I want to go on a picnic.”
“In the middle of the night?”
“But I’m hungry. And there’s a piece of cold chicken down in the fridge just calling my name.”
“Fine. You can have it for breakfast in a few hours.”
“But I’m hungry now. Please, Cade? For me…for our baby?”
I heard him sigh and felt him get up.
“Thank you, honey.”
“Don’t mention it.”
One day I was outside helping Scotty plant roses. We like all of the children to have extra curricular activities outside of the classroom.
“You know my mama had a baby,” he said.
“Of course she did,” I replied. “That’s why she’s your mama.”
“No, I mean she had another baby. My sister, Mary.”
“I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“Yeah. But Mama couldn’t keep both of us. That’s why I came here. She ran away with my sister and never came back.”
“Oh, Scotty. I’m so sorry.”
“Are you going to leave me, too, Mrs. Kincade? After you have the baby?”
“Of course not, Scotty.”
“Just wait. You’ll see. When you have your baby, you will forget all about me.”
“You know you are very special to me. I have a school full of children. One won‘t make much of a difference.”
“I promise.” All of sudden, I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my stomach. “Ow!”
“Mrs. Kincade? Are you okay?”
“I…don’t know. It’s hurts.”
I literally drug myself inside and up the stairs. With each step, the pain seemed to get worse.
“Mr. Ames?” I called when I had reached the top of the stairs. “Mr. Ames?”
“Micki? What is it?” I heard him come quickly down the hall.
“I…I think something’s wrong. I’m afraid…so afraid that I’m loosing the baby.”
“You’re shaking. Here lie down.” He took me into a room. “ I’m going to call an ambulance.”
It felt like steel nails were clawing at my stomach. I took deep breaths as the pain tightened and grew sharper. Pain gripped me and I doubled over. Ringlet licked the side of my face. She pawed at me and whined. I felt wetness between my legs. I didn’t need a sighted person to tell me I was bleeding.
Cade sat in the lobby of Mercy Hospital. It had been almost an hour since they had brought me in and no one had come to tell him anything. He knew the news was bad if they delayed it as long as possible. What if they couldn’t stop the bleeding? Then he heard Mr. Ames’ voice.
“Micki--where is she?”
“She’s in a room down the hall. She has been there for about an hour.”
Cade tried to clear his throat, ignoring the burning pain in his chest. “Can I see her?”
“Not yet. They’re going to watch her for the next twenty- four hours. It all happened so fast and she’s still loosing blood. They aren’t sure why. They are getting her ready for surgery.”
Two hours later, Cade heard a different voice.
“Are you Mr. Kincade?” The person sat down beside him and placed their hand on his shoulder. “I’m Dr. Gibson. It’s done. She’s stable.”
Cade breathed a sigh of relief.
“She’s going to be okay?”
“She’ll need some rest, but she should fully recover.”
“And the baby?”
“It wasn’t her time,” Dr. Gibson replied gently. “I’m sorry. If it‘s any consolation, it‘s better it happened now instead of later.”
“Can I see her?”
“You have three minutes, no more. We have given her something to help her sleep, so she may nod off.”
“Take me to her.”
I was discharged the next day. The doctor told Mr. Ames and Cade he was going to give me some sleeping pills at least for the first couple of nights. He also told Cade to listen for signs that I might be suffering from some form of depression.
I woke a while later and felt very disorientated.
“I’m here, Micki.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re at the school. Don’t you remember?”
“I know I had severe pain…but now we’re both fine.”
“My baby and me.”
“Micki, you were bleeding and Mr. Ames took you to the hospital. The baby…the baby didn’t make it.”
“You’re lying. Haven’t I suffered enough?”
“What are you talking about?”
“First, I loose my mother. Then I loose my sight. And now you want me to believe that I lost my baby? I can never see the trees, or the sky, or see my baby's first smile. And then to find out you're never going to have that baby.... How much more do I have to take? Dear God, how much more do I have to take?”
“You weren’t the only one who lost a child. I lost one, too. We’ll try again, Micki. As soon as the doctors say it’s okay. We’ll have another baby.” He cupped my face in his hands, but I pushed them away. I tried to get out of bed.
“You need to rest.”
“I don’t want to rest. I want my baby!” I got up and blindly felt my way toward the window. “I want my baby! I want my baby!” I screamed over and over again.
I thrust my hands through the window. Broken glass cut into my hands, but I didn’t feel the pain. I felt Cade take hold of my shoulders and pull me back and then I fainted.
“How is she?” Dad asked.
“Same,” Cade replied. “She’s in denial. She thinks the baby is still alive and we are all lying to her. She put her hands through the window last night.”
“Oh, no,” Rita whispered. “Can we see her?”
“You can try, but I doubt she’ll hear what you have to say.”
I heard the door open and Rita’s voice say, “Come on, Micki. It’s time to get up.” I felt her try and pull down the comforter. I reached down with a bandaged hand and pulled it back up. Then I started to hum Brahms Lullaby. I have heard babies can hear things while they are still in the womb. I hummed it to my baby every night.
“All she does is lay there and hum that lullaby over and over,” Cade replied. “She doesn’t respond to anything.”
“You go and get some sleep, Cade. I’ll sit with her,” Rita said.
“We’ll take turns. She went through the same kind of thing when she first went blind. She came out of it then so hopefully she’ll come out of this, too. Don’t worry, Cade. We will get her through this.”
Three days past and I was still trapped in a dark haze of denial. I didn’t eat; I didn’t sleep. I just hummed that lullaby. Rita fixed me all my favorite foods. Dad read me some poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, my favorite poet. But nothing did any good. Cade’s family even came down to see me.
The door to my room opened.
“Micki?” Callie said. Her voice sounded timid.
“I, um, brought you something.” I felt her place a small square box on my lap. “Aren’t you going to open it?”
When I didn’t respond, she said, “Well, that’s okay. I’ll open it. I know you‘ll like it.” I heard her tear off the paper. “It’s a music box. Here, I’ll play it for you. Now you listen…” I heard her wind it up and Brahms Lullaby started playing. “I know it’s your favorite. Do you like it? Please, say you like it, Micki.”
I raised my head and my eyes widened.
“My baby! My baby!”
I heard someone rush into the room and felt Rita wrap her arms around me and I kept calling, “My baby!”
“Micki, I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I heard Callie run out of the room and Dad said, “I’m going to get the doctor.”
I woke up.
“Micki. How do you feel?”
“I lost my baby. I had a miscarriage.”
“It was the music. I heard the music. It made me remember.”
“You were pretty out of it. Could you eat something?”
“I think so.”
“I’ll be right back.”
I sat there and fingered the coverlet.
“Scotty?” When I didn’t hear him answer, I said, “It’s okay. You can come in.”
He came over and crawled up on the bed beside me.
“Mr. Kincade told us you’re not going to have a baby. We’re all real sorry.”
“Thank you, Scotty, but I really don't feel much like talking right now.”
“That's okay. You can just listen. I know how much you wanted a baby. And then I got to thinking. Since I don't have a family of my own, maybe I could be your little boy. I know I'm not a baby any more, but you can't see me. You could pretend I am. Remember when I told you about my sister? I know my mama didn't want me. Well, ever since I came here, I've been wishing you were my mama. And I thought since we both need someone so bad, we could just pretend.”
“I'd be less trouble than a real baby. I promise I'll try real hard to be what you want. You wouldn't be sorry.”
“Scotty?” Cade said. “Don’t you have some homework to do?”
Scotty slid off the bed. Cade sat a tray across my lap.
“You know, I was thinking,” Cade said. “Maybe we should take a trip somewhere. Get away for a while. You could rest and fully recover. Mr. Ames could take over the classes. We can do whatever you want.”
“I want to teach. I want to think of someone other than myself. Why would I want to go somewhere when everything I need is right here? I have the school. My family. You…” I heard the children laughing downstairs. “And I have the sound…. The sound of my children.”
“Well, that’s another hundred percent for Faye in math,” Cade said as we were grading papers. “I am really happy with the progress the kids are making.”
“Well, that’s because you are such a good teacher,” I replied.
“You know you are not so bad yourself.”
“Thank you, teacher.” I leaned forward so I could kiss him.
“Looks, like I am interrupting.”
“Oh, hi, Mr. Ames,” Cade answered. “I didn’t hear you come down the hallway.”
“I have a letter here for you, Cade,” Mr. Ames said.
“It’s addressed to Mr. Kevin Kincade of The Trenton School for The Blind. With your permission, I’ll read it.”
“Please, go ahead.”
I listened to Mr. Ames tear open the envelope and waited while he read the letter to himself.
“Is it good news?” I asked.
“It’s great news,” Mr. Ames replied. “Cade, you have been chosen by the National Association of The Blind to be presented with the Louis Braille Award.”
“The Louis Braille Award? I can’t believe it.”
“Oh, Cade. I am so proud of you.” I wrapped my arms around him.
“You are one out of three people who were chosen to accept this and the first blind person as well,” Mr. Ames continued. “They want you to come to Pennsylvania and address the convention. They are willing to pay for it and everything.”
That night I laid in bed, but my eyes were open. I rolled over, but I didn’t feel Cade’s body.
“I’m here. Did I wake you?”
“I couldn’t sleep either.”
“I’m worried about this speech. I hate giving speeches.”
“But you’re a teacher. You give speeches all the time.”
“It’s not the same. I’m used to talking to students. There are going to be all these bigwigs at the convention…professors, newspaper reporters…”
“And they are all coming to hear you,” I tried to reassure him.
“But what am I going to talk about?”
“Well, you are the first person who’s blind to get this award. You should probably say something about that. It’s important. You didn’t sit by and let people take care of you.”
“I don’t want them to think I am special just because I am blind.”
“It’s not just your blindness. It could be anything. I remember when I got my first pair of glasses and everyone called me Four Eyes. I thought that was the worst thing in the world. But I didn’t let it control my life. I dealt with it and came out all the stronger.”
“That’s a great idea. So great in fact, I think you should give the speech.”
“Good night, Cade.”
We had to get up early the next morning to be at the bus depot by 10:00am. Dad and Rita took us down and waited to see us off. Dad told the bus driver we were blind and he said he would make sure we got there and everything. Since Cade has his cane, I decided to leave Ringlet at the blind school this round. Soon after we had pulled out of the depot, I heard a new voice off to my left.
“Hello. Since we are traveling together, we should probably introduce ourselves. I’m Mrs. Sherman. Leslie Sherman.”
“I’m Cade and this is my wife, Micki.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Leslie. We are going to Pennsylvania. Where are you heading?”
“Ohio. I’m going to meet my husband. He got transferred out there a month ago. It will be nice to be together again. Especially since we are expecting our first child pretty soon.”
“When is your due date?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s soon. Are you excited?”
“I’ll just be happy when the baby comes. Do you have any children?”
“We have twenty,” Cade answered.
“We’re school teachers,” I explained. “We hope to have one of our own.”
I felt the bus turn onto a rocky gravel road and a bumpy one at that. Then we stopped.
“What’s wrong?” asked Leslie.
“The axel on one of the wheels is worn down. I’m going to have to pull off at the next town and get it fixed.”
“Will we still make it to the convention on time?” Cade asked.
“It shouldn’t put a crimp in our schedule,” the driver replied.
We started moving again. All of a sudden, I felt the bus hit something big and hard. The bus jerked and we were falling and rolling all over the place. I heard Leslie scream. I was flung against the window and hit the back of the seat in front of me as the bus kept rolling. My arm struck the metal legs of one of the seats that sent pain shooting up my arm.
When the bus stopped, I carefully felt my way into a sitting position. My hand found Leslie’s face and could feel her breath on my hand. I crawled up and over the seats.
“I’m here. I’m down here.”
I kept crawling toward the sound of his voice. When I felt an opening, I placed my hands on both sides and hoisted myself up and onto the side of the bus.
“Cade,” I called again.
It sounded like his voice was below me. I sat down and pushed myself down and over the edge. I fell onto the ground. I got up and walked until I felt something touch my foot. I knelt down and felt Cade’s arm. I ran my hand up his arm to his face.
“Are you okay?”
“I can’t feel my legs. They must be pinned underneath the bus. I think they’re broken. Is Leslie all right?”
“And the driver?”
“Driver? Driver?” I didn’t hear anything. “Mister?” Still nothing. “Maybe he’s unconscious.”
The phone rang in Dad’s office at the Morristown Power and Light Company.
“MPL,” Dad answered.
“Oh, Mr. Maxwell. I am glad I caught you. This is Mr. Ames.”
Oh, hello, Mr. Ames. What can I do for you?”
“I just received a call from the convention director down in Pennsylvania. The bus is over due. It hasn’t shown up yet. I wanted to make sure they got off okay.”
“Yes, they did,” Dad answered. “They were having a problem with one of the tires. They probably stopped somewhere to get it fixed. After I get off, I’ll drive down and have a look.”
“Sounds good,” Mr. Ames replied. “Good-bye.”
The sun was hotter now. The day was turning out to be a scorcher. I ran my hand along the side of the bus on my way back to Cade. I had found my satchel by the sense of touch. I had packed two bottles of water in there. They weren’t cold, but Cade needed water. I unscrewed the cap and lifted his head so he could drink.
“They are never going to find us,” Cade mumbled.
“Sure they will.”
“Micki, be realistic. It would take a miracle. We are off the main route and they don’t know which way we went.”
“Leslie? Are you okay?” I asked.
“I need help. My water just broke. I can’t move!”
“Cade, I’m going for help.”
“Micki, you can’t.”
“I’m the only one who can. The driver said we were heading south. I can feel the sun on my face. It’s in the west. I’ll head north, back to the main road. You would do anything to get out of making that speech, wouldn’t you? But isn’t this a little drastic?” I reached down and placed his hand on the bottle of water, kissed him and then got to my feet.
I felt something rough and hard that went above my head. It must have been some kind of rocky cliff or hill. I was going to have to climb it. I dug my hands into the rocks and pulled and crawled my way up. The rocks were rough and the dry grass was prickly. I wiped my arm across my forehead and reached up and felt for the next place I could put my hand. I raised my foot to position it. When I pushed off, my foot slipped on the rocks and I fell backwards. I hit my head on another rock and was knocked unconscious.
I felt heat on my face. I didn’t know how long I had been lying there. I started to sit up when I smelled smoke. It had to be a fire. I started screaming. I didn’t know what else to do.
“Oh, God! Help me! Somebody help me!”
All of a sudden, I heard, “Micki! Micki!”
“Dad! Help me, Dad!” I felt him pick me up and pull me out of the flames.
Back at the school, I sat downstairs with Dad. I was waiting for the doctor to finish treating Cade. I heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
“How is he?” I asked.
“He’s got a couple of fractures and needs rest, but he’s going to be just fine. If he had been under the bus any longer, he would have lost his leg. He‘s a pretty lucky guy.”
“A bouncing baby boy. Mother and child are doing fine.”
“It’s a double miracle. Can I go to him?” I asked.
I opened the door to the bedroom. “Cade?”
“I’m okay,” he replied. He sounded drowsy. “How are you?”
“I’ve got a pretty nasty bump on my head, but the doctor says I’m fine.”
“ In fact, I’m great.”
“It seems we had another passenger on board.”
“The doctor confirmed it. I was carrying a stow-a-way.”
“Wait a minute. Do you mean…are you saying…”?
“Yes. We are going to have another baby. The doctor said the crash didn’t hurt it at all.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“Neither did I. Talk about a day for miracles.”