Monday, May 04, 2009

More About Me

I have just been flitting around the blogosphere, like I do some Monday nights, stopping in at some of my favorites. Odd, but a few of them tonight had a theme of physical misfortune. These kind of posts are always very affecting, and they really seem to bring the commenters out to care and to share. You go girls!

So, I have decided to tell a little of my own story.

A story I haven't told here before.

I was born a healthy child into a prosperous, gracious household. My father was a distiguished military veteran. My mother hailed from a long line of Virginia planters. No child in the history of mankind, not a princess in a royal house, had a future brighter than mine - until just before my second birthday, that is.

I was struck then with a terrible, burning fever; it was probably meningitis but it was never properly diagnosed. Of course, I don't remember it, young as I was. It should have killed me. Sometimes, later, and more than once, I wished that it had. I survived (if surviving is what you could call it), but when I recovered (if recovery is what you could call it), the world as I had known it was gone forever. I was deaf, and I was blind.

From that point on, on my world began and ended at our dooryard. I knew my cicrumscribed domain by touch, and by smell, and by the changes in temperature, but each place I went was equally dark - dark as midnight in a coal mine - and silent as a stone.

In this oblivion during my early years I ran wild, unchecked by those who loved and pitied me. My parents, of course, did all that they could. My mother never gave up hope of freeing me from the dungeon into which I had been cast. She sought out the leading experts to help me. In New York she found, at last, an ear nose and throat expert, Dr. Julian, who put her in touch with Mr. Alexander Graham Bell. Mr. Bell was doing wonderful things then for the deaf. He advised her to go the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston and seek a teacher for me there.

And there, my mother found me a teacher, a young woman with weak vision and a will of iron. Her name was Annie Sullivan. She was 20.

Annie came to live with us. While my parents had spoiled me, not correcting my terrible behavior and indulging me at every turning, Annie insisted that I be held to standards of the great world around me. She corrected my misdeeds. She challenged my tantrums. I felt she had set out to subdue me and I fought her.

One day, I got into a carriage with Annie. She drove me someplace I didn't know. (I found out later that the ride that preceded our arrival was a sham designed only to disorient me. We had made a big circle from the house to a disused gardner's cottage in my own backyard). There, we stayed together and alone.

In that place, Annie was tireless, endlessly repeating strange motions on the palm of my hand. I raged, uncomprehending, not knowing wny I had been abandoned to this cruel taskmistress, why the kind, gentle treatment I had always known from my parents and the household servants had been snatched away. Annie and I grappled and contended. For days and days we were locked in a combat of wills and sometimes in physical combat as well until, in a moment of utter exhaustion, during one of our tearing struggles, she took me out to the pump and filled my hand with water while signing into my palm: W-A-T-E-R.

Well, then I understood. The code had been unlocked. In that moment, thanks to Annie, her tireless efforts, her enduring, uncompromising belief in me, I rejoined the world from which I had been snatched by a fever before I was two. She had done it.

And so now you have the blogger whose words you see before you now. One who has been rendered able to reach out to the wide world; to write, to travel, to guide others along the way.



OOOPS. Sorry. My bad.

That's Helen Keller's story - not mine! Darn it. I keep getting mixed up about my biography and actual accomplishments and those of internationally famous historical figures. I hope I didn't confuse you too much! Now it's coming back to me.

I didn't actually overcome deaf-blindness and write and best sellers and inspire multiple generations to great achievement or anything like that. Well, I am half deaf. Also, I did break a tooth, part of one, tonight. It just came off in a poppy seed bagel at dinner. And I have had over the years a bunch of dental work - fillings, two root canals, and a crown.

And so, tomorrow, I will call the dentist. I will make an appointment. I will go down to the drill once again - and to the little spinny thing that they put that pumicey toothpaste on and that grinds your teeth in way that seems like it can't be good for them and sounds like a thousand bees have been loosed on your brain. And I will face the little cone shaped paper cup that makes you drool when you try to spit out the little pieces of tooth and filling that have been dislodged by all of that.

Then, I will come back here and tell you all about it.