23 December 2011

Aunt Helen and Uncle Alva

Sound and Vision

Writing about my Aunt Nellie, who was deaf (see post below), I got to thinking about my Aunt Helen, who was blind. 

Aside: More often than not, when I tell someone I have blind relatives and deaf relatives, the person asks, "Are they the same relatives? Ha ha!" (And I think... Ha ha? Really?)

Not my Aunt Helen, but like how I
remember her when she was young.
(I love this photo.)

Most people termed blind aren't totally blind. Aunt Helen had "light perception," as in, on/off. Uncle Alva (such an unfortunate given name), had "object vision." He could distinguish an object and sometimes identify it, depending on proximity, distinctiveness, and familiarity. 

So functionally, Aunt Helen and her husband were blind. How do I know the details of their disabilities?  Where I'm from, everyone speaks comfortably about congenital disability like it's totally normal. And in Appalachia it is a lot more normal, in the sense of common.

Anyway, Helen and Alva weren't too private about it all. Helen, in particular, could wax on about her burdens if she wanted you to go get her something.

Gainfully Employed

Not my Uncle Alva; he was cuter.  I'd say this is some other Federationist capitalizing on Randolph-Sheppard.
My Uncle Alva had a nifty little business for himself. He had benefited from the 1936 Randolph-Sheppard Act. It provided blind people with opportunities to run (as owners) the newsstands, smoke shops, etc., in government buildings. 

Alva had the newsstand inside the Federal Court Building in Toledo for decades. He sold candy, too, and when my dad would take me down there, Alva would always slip me some.

Uncle Alva was, like, famous down at the courthouse. There were dozens of framed pictures hanging on the marble walls around his shop, of him with governors, white-collar criminals, fallen Mafia figures....

My Blind Spot

Once, when I was a teenager, Aunt Helen was visiting from Toledo, and she wanted to go in to my Aunt Jeanette's house, a 20-minute drive away.

V-8, sweet.
I'd just gotten my first car, a Chevy Chevelle—that's right, a Chevy Chevelle!— and I offered to drive. Dad, Aunt Helen, and some of my fungible little cousins (I had 57 at last count) piled in the Chevy, with Aunt Helen and the "chilluns" in the back.

My dad had been giving me pointers on driving. So as I checked the right lane in my mirror and then turned to do a visual check, looking just past Aunt Helen's shoulder... I brightly called out, Hey, I found the blind spot back there! 

Now, if I hadn't been a teenager, I doubt I would have suffered such chagrin. And I realize now that Aunt Helen most likely didn't notice. She was back there thinking about how to manipulate me now that she knew I could drive her around.

"Light Perception Only" geddit? geddit?

So evening of the same day, Aunt Helen asks me to help her find her nightgown. And I say, Sure, what color is it? And she says, I don't know. 

And I was like, "Shoot me now."


No comments:

Post a Comment