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All the Sight I Need

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      All the Sight I Need
      November, 1956
      By Dorothy Janvrin

      When Jim and I were married I vowed that I would not let my blindness interfere with our happiness. I would have as normal a home as possible. Other people were not as optimistic.
      After Jim's discharge from the Army we moved to the little town which was to be our first home. Townspeople were shocked to find the new railroad depot agent had a blind wife, and a pregnant on at that.
      "Imagine a blind woman having a baby," I heard on lady exclaim.
      Well, I could imagine it and I knew I could take care of a baby with God's help. I asked Him to show me how to manage a home and a small child.
      When I finally held our precious little son in my arms, I knew that God had faith in me.
      The first few months were comparatively easy until it came time to feed little Jimmie from a spoon. Jim fed him four days and then turned the job over to me. I found that, tiny as Jimmie was, his mouth was quite easy to locate. If he were hungry, his little mouth just popped open and came to the spoon itself.
      My next problem arose when he started to crawl. The solution was to put bells on his shoes so I could locate him. Sometimes he would sit still in one spot and I wouldn't know where he was. I'd gt down on my hands and knees to search for him. Apparently he though this an amusing sight for it always brought a flood of rippling laughter.
      When Jimmie was two years old he began climbing onto a chair beside me as I prepared meals. One day I was fixing twice-baked potatoes. I had baked them first and after scooping out the insides into a bowl I went to the refrigerator for cream and butter. I returned to the potatoes, mashed and whipped them, piled them back in the shells and then popped them in the oven again.
      "Well, dear," Jim asked as he started to eat his potato that evening, "why did you chop green peppers into the potatoes?"
      "Green peppers!" I cried, "I had no green..." I stopped. I had prepared a salad just before mixing the potatoes and had peeled some cucumbers. Mother's little helper had obviously treated us to a new taste sensation by putting cucumber peelings in the potatoes. Hence the rule of no child beside me while preparing meals. This was to prove very useful in the years that followed when three more children were added to our little clan.
      We had four children in six years: two boys and two girls. I became an old hand at bringing up children. For instance, I taught each child from a very small age to say "yes" and "no" instead of shaking his head.
      The children learned for themselves that Mama was different from Aunt Mary or Grandma, but I never told them why. I intended to tell them I was blind as they each arrived at an age of understanding and started to ask questions.
      Jimmie learned when he started school. That first day he returned home and asked, "Mama, are you the blind lady in town?"
      "I guess I am," I said. "Why?"
      "Well, I heard someone talking about it in school today. What does 'blind' mean?"
      The time to explain had come. I told Jimmie how, when I was five years old, a group of boys were throwing rocks and one accidentally hit me in the eye. The eye wasn't removed and from it the other eye became infected and failed too.
      I was able to finish the sixth grade in public school and then went to the state school for the blind. After graduation, I attended the State University of Iowa and received a B.A. in music.
      "I learned to do things with my fingers instead of my eyes, like reading with m fingers," I explained. "God has given us a wonderfully adaptable body. If one part does not work, another part becomes stronger or more alert."
      "But, Mama," Jimmie said softly, "I wish you could see."
      I put my arms about him and tried to assure him that I was a very happy mother.
      All the children helped me. Each made his own bed and was responsible for cleaning his own room. Once a week, however, I went through all the rooms myself. The children were often surprised when I found things they thought I couldn't.
      I don't mean they took advantage of me. But each did have his turn in trying to see if he could get away with something. With a houseful of wonderful tattletalers, it was easy to keep track of what each was doing. I didn't like this method of knowing, but it was the best way I had.
      When the children were very young they accepted the fact of my blindness; but actually they felt that when the time came for really wanting to see something I could, somehow, see.
      One time I had baked a cake and had covered it with thick coconut frosting. It was on the cupboard cooking and I noticed that as each child in turn would go by the cupboard, the footsteps would falter, stop, and then hurry on.
      "All right, Lorrie," I called out as she paused, "keep your fingers off that coconut please."
      "How did you know, Mama?"
      "That's my secret," I answered.
      That was one time I'm sure the children believed I could see if I wanted to.
      The bigger the children grew, the bigger became my meals. I baked constantly and my cookie jar was continually being raided. Baking cookies became a sure test of hearing. When the appropriate time for the cookies was up I would open the oven and listen. If I heard a crackling sound I knew they were done.
      Listening to the cookies crackle reminded me of God's goodness: of what I had told Jimmie when he was small. That if one part of us is weak or deficient, God will strengthen another part.
      And as the children grew, each added his own way of helping me and his own special joy to my life.
      It took several years of participation in community life before I was accepted as a normal person--not as "the blind lady in town."
      My prayers have been answered.
      I prayed long ago that God would help me to be a good mother to my first baby and four time He has trusted me with His children. In caring for them, feeling their minds and hearts grow, loving them and hoping for their future, I have found all the sight I could ever need.

      Photo-In addition to caring for her husband James and their four children, Dorothy Janvrin teaches piano, organ and voice, sings in the church choir and write music, mostly sacred. She swims at the "Y" twice weekly and enjoys riding her tandem bike (she is shown in the photo with husband James). "Though I need someone to steer," she says, "my bike has given me pleasure and a certain amount of independence."