The new falcon herald logo.
General Articles

Rollie’s vision

Two million light years away floats the Andromeda Galaxy, far across empty space from our home, the Milky Way.†On a dark prairie night, with sharp eyes and knowing where to look, Andromeda is an oval of light. The light that delicately caresses your retinas traveled over 2 million years to get to your eyes.This far-off light coming from the 2-million-year-ago past is the combined output of 400 billion mighty suns.†The Andromeda Galaxy is twice the size of our own Milky Way and the farthest object humans can see with the naked eye.†Itís breathtaking to see and think about, unless you are blind.†Part of my retirement job occasionally involves driving a small school bus with young students aboard to the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.†I don’t know sign language (except for the kind people use in traffic), which makes it harder to talk with the deaf kids. But the blind kids talk just fine and behind their sightless eyes live healthy young minds eager for knowledge and companionship.††Rollie talks all the time and asks endless questions.†Strapped down in his wheelchair in the back of the bus, he’s hard to understand through the din of a noisy old bus, but I do my best.†The fact that he wants his window open on all but the coldest days also does not help with the noise level on the bus.†Rollie enjoys hearing traffic.†”What was that?” Rollie asks. “A semi, Rollie,” I reply.†”What kind of semi?†What was it hauling?†Who is near us?†What is in front of us?”†I describe the world to Rollie as best I can to someone who has never seen a semi-truck or anything else.†He knows the trucks are big, loud and rumbly and that they do heavy work.†He loves them, or the idea of them.†Rollie also hates going to school, so other than being blind and in a wheelchair he’s a typical 9-year-old boy.†From the back of the little bus: “Do I smell Burger King?”†I tell him,†”Yes, Rollie, yes you do.”†”Will it be windy at my house when we get there, Mr. Tom?”†asks Rollie. He likes the wind and in a way we are on equal footing with regard to the wind.†Neither of us can see it.†I tell him, no, it won’t be windy at his house.†”But it’s windy on the bus, Mr. Tom. How do you know it’s not windy at my house?”†I tell him that it’s windy on the bus because his window is open and we’re going 55 miles per hour!†I know it’s not windy outside because the trees are not moving.†”Oh, OK.”†And then: “What does ‘miles per hour’ mean?”†And so we drive on, chatting.†Later he crows,†”We just turned [it is a sharp turn] onto Highway 94!”†I smile at his sensitive observational ability. “Yes, we sure did, buddy boy!”†Rollie wonders about color because he doesn’t really know what it is.†”What are the cars and trucks like all around us, Mr. Tom?”†I describe the traffic and then say that the cars and trucks are all different colors.†”What colors are they, Mr. Tom?”†I tell Rollie that they’re blue, red, green, white, gray, brown, purple Ö†I realize that these words, other than being different from one another, have no real meaning for Rollie.†He plays along politely, but really doesn’t grasp color.†Rollie, I think, plays along often, not wanting to annoy people with his questions within questions.†I have an idea.†The next day I bring some things on the bus.†Before we leave for school, when Rollie is in the wheelchair lift, I hand him a plastic bag with a few ice cubes in it.†”This is blue, Rollie.”†Then I grab a fist-sized round stone I’ve placed on the bus dash, where it has been warmed by the sun and the defrost blower.†”This is red, Rollie.”†I crush some sage that I’ve brought and let him smell it:†”Gray, Rollie.”†And crushed lush green grass is, of course, “green.”†I watch his face.†He doesn’t know that he’s giving me an “aha” expression of†”I get it!”†He wants to hold the “blue.”†He wants to know what color everything is ñ his jacket, his wheelchair, the cup holder, his hair …†I’m kinda choked up now, but I hide my feelings. “We must drive now, Rollie.†You and the other kids mustn’t be late for school.”I always respond to him if I can hear him way in the back over the roar of the bus rattles and the wind from his open window.†Rollie is unusually polite for a 9 year old.†He knows he exasperates most people with his questions.†But Rollie peppers me with questions constantly and politely because I respond with no exasperation, but with kindness.†Rollie is so very tuned in to the gentle kindness in a voice.†The tone of his voice tells me he’s straining to balance and hold back his curiosity against the possibility I’ll become annoyed and lose patience with him.†He needn’t worry, I’m there for the entire trip after all.I have another idea and over a weekend I create a “tactile box” for Rollie.†I fill the box with interesting shapes and textures for him to examine on his rides to and from school.†He likes the pine cone best. “Pine cones have teeth, Mr. Tom!†Why do pine cones have teeth?”†ìWell, the rough ‘teeth’ prevent animals from eating the pine tree seeds nestled deep inside the cone,î I tell him.†”Oh,” and then, “What’s a seed?”††Rollie asks to hold different things from the tactile box.†I have him guess what they are, what they’re made of.†There are round washers, an old but cleaned disc brake pad.†We talk about how things work.†Rollie’s busy mind has dreamed up imaginary friends.†(I can relate.†In life I’ve had a few friends that turned out to be imaginary.)††”Oh no,î Rollie exclaims, ìCliff broke the pine cone!†Cliff’ crushed it!”†Of course, I smile and I see Rollie crush the pine cone with his hands.†He can’t see what he’s doing and so he figures no one else can, either.†”No worries Rollie,” I tell him, ìWe’ll get you another pine cone, but if Cliff doesn’t behave, he won’t be allowed to ride the bus!î†Rollie is worried about the pine cone.†He doesn’t realize that beautiful, elaborately and delicately shaped pine cones are common.†His worry over the pine cone has me thinking about all the wonderfully complex things in nature that we sighted folks simply accept as a matter of course.†I smile and appreciate that Rollie’s and my relationship on the bus has nothing to do with patience, with “putting up with him.”†Rollie, by simply being himself, allows me to be in the moment with him with no sense of time, just in the moment with an eager, inquisitive mind.†We are all teachers and learners in this life, even blind little boys and school bus drivers.†In his driveway; at home at last.†There is a tiny bit of breeze.†I wheel Rollie onto the deployed wheelchair lift.†”You were wrong Mr. Tom, it is windy at my house!”†ìYes, I was wrong,î I agree.†The bus is parked and idling, I lower Rollie down on the wheelchair lift.†His mom is there to meet us.†”See you Monday, Mr. Tom!” Rollie declares.†Before I can speak, Rollie continues in a tumble of words,†”Don’t say bye Mr. Tom, I don’t like that.†Please don’t say good bye.”†”Okay Rollie, I’ll see you Monday.”†”Have a good weekend, Mr. Tom.”††”I sure will, and thanks.†You too, buddy boy.†See you soon.”I wave to his mom and buckle myself back into the driver’s seat.†Thank you for the lesson Rollie, I’m thinking, for helping me see many things in a new way.†I’ll see you Monday, for sure.Tom

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers