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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

 Inspirational Stories

Blind Brother Teaches Insightful Lessons

by Sharon Randall, Scripps Howard News Service, August 29, 2002


My brother, who was born totally blind and insufferably stubborn, taught me a few things about writing and life. The minute he learned to talk, Joe started asking questions and he wouldn't quit until he got an answer. When he was little, 4 or 5, he liked to watch the sunrise. He couldn't see it, but he would feel it warming his face. Then he'd wake me up to tell him what it looked like. And if he didn't like my answer he'd say, "That's not it, try again." In writing, as in life: You have to ask a lot of hard questions of yourself and of others, and never settle for easy answers, even if it makes your sister really mad. Joe had trouble not just with his eyes but his legs. He didn't walk until he was 7. That's when he got his first taste of freedom: A red tricycle that he couldn't pedal, but loved to push around the yard, even if he ended up in a ditch looking like the loser of a bad fight. "Why don't you stay out of that ditch?" I asked. "I can't," he said. "It keeps finding me. But I crawl around and always find my way out." In writing, as in life: If you want to be free, you have to keep pushing, even if you can't see the road ahead. And if you end up in a ditch, you have to find your way out - or not be too stubborn to yell for help. Being blind didn't spare Joe from being teased on occasion (blind is blind, but brothers are brothers) or from finding ways to reap revenge. Whenever I did any of the usual things siblings do to one another - throw cold water on him in the shower or maybe hide his cane - he never tried to chase me. He'd just bide his time, lie awake at night plotting vengeance, and wait for me to come to him. Then, when I least expected it, he'd catch me in a corner and make me truly sorry for my sins. In writing, as in life: Timing isn't everything, but it's a lot. When something eludes you - say, a plot for a story or a love you fear you've lost - you might want to give it time instead of chasing it. If you wait a while, it just might come to you. When Joe was a young man, tapping around town, going any place he pleased, somebody decided a white cane and a fierce sense of independence were not enough. So they raised some money and sent him off to a seeing-eye-dog school in the hope that he could learn to follow, rather than lead. If they'd asked me, which they didn't, I could have told them it wouldn't work. Joe would never be a follower. Besides, he hated dogs. Said he couldn't stand the way they slobbered on his hands. So when he came home from seeing-eye-dog-school with no canine, only a cane, I for one was not surprised. "How did you find your way around in that place?" I asked. "I didn't," he said. "They made me follow a dog." In writing, as in life: You get to lead sometimes, but other times you have to follow, no matter how much it scares you. You have to learn to trust - whether it's the writer's voice within you or the dog that slobbers on your hand. Finally, some years ago, after my mother phoned sobbing as if someone had died to tell me Joe had run off and married a woman he barely knew, I called him, hoping he'd say it wasn't so. Not only was it true, it was legal. Her name was Tommie Jean, he said, and she was blind like him. He had known her just three weeks, but he had been waiting for her all his life. I didn't know what to say, so Joe said it for me: "It's OK, Sis, don't worry. Even a blind man can fall in love at first sight." In writing, as in life: Anything can happen; everything is possible. You just have to keep writing and stay alive.


(Sharon Randall is the author of "Birdbaths and Paper Cranes" (Sleeping Bear Press). She can be e-mailed at


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