I will never be able to thank my Mom enough for learning braille. She knew braille before I did. When I was something like three years old she started taking a braille course offered in Memphis. She made braille important and necessary and an expected part of my life. When I was little, my Mom and I would look through blindness product catalogs to find all the cool stuff that was available in braille. I would be hard-pressed to find a Christmas where there wasn’t a featured gift involving braille. These gifts included but were not limited to a watch in third grade, another one a couple of years later when I destroyed the original watch, my Monopoly game in fifth or sixth grade, and a kitchen timer when I was learning how to cook in junior high school. Somewhere, in one of the boxes that hold some of my life treasures, there’s my own print and braille copy of Go Dog Go. It’s all beat-up from use. My copy of Go Dog Go has braille labels that were written by my Mom and carefully glued to each page. I didn’t appreciate it that much when she made it. It was just another book. But the fact that the book is now in such bad condition is a testament to how important it was to me as a child.
Braille did not come easily for me. I had a terrible time learning to read. I couldn’t keep I and E straight. I reversed D and F, and H and J. I had trouble staying on the right line. Nemeth Code was something from another world. I read well below many of my classmates during my early grade school years. I had to read out loud every day during the summer between first and second grade. My Mom would ask me questions about what I was reading; so I had to try to go beyond just getting the words right. It was boring and frustrating and I hated it. And without it, I couldn’t do my job today. I would have missed out on the sheer joy of reading. I’m still a slow reader, but I have great comprehension which helps to compensate.
My Mom and I still communicate using braille. Even with cell phones and email and all the other stuff that has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life, my Mom will sometimes still braille me a note. When she sent our Christmas box last year, the names on the presents were in braille. Little things like that can mean the world. I can never thank her enough for learning braille.