9 Aug 2013

To Braille Or Not to Braille – That Was My Question

“No soul that aspires can ever fail to rise,
no heart that loves can ever be abandoned.”
Annie Besant

Thirty five years ago, on August 8th 1978, a very beautiful soul passed away. My loving mother had fought her cancer with courage, faith and radiant smiles but at forty-three, when she took her last breath upon this earth, the heart of our family stopped beating.

It was her love, as keeper of the flame, that warmed our home. Her smiling eyes had held a reassuring light that I thought would never go out, her laughter was as sweet as the trill of a lark’s song. My mother was the light that illumined our happy path through childhood, her kisses of faith encouraged us to never give up hope and her loving embrace was like being sheltered from the fiercest of storms.

The 1970s was to be a decade of happiness and sorrow for my family as we came closer to the changes looming over a darkening horizon. At the time, though, I never knew a storm was brewing because my mother was so positive, so full of life and good cheer that we kept doing the things we always did together – drawing on lazy weekends in the comfort of our kitchen, decorating pages of my school books.



Love and Art – her legacy

Mum had shown me her beautiful sketches in the school books she had kept as mementos of her teenage years in Madrid. She was only too happy to illustrate to her budding artist shadow, how to use her fine artistry techniques.

As her eager apprentice, I learned the art of shading with colour pencils, how to work with nib and ink, and caught her love for creating delicate illustrations but her sketches were always so much finer than my heavy-handed drawings.
“Precioso (beautiful),” she said with a proud twinkle in her eye when I presented her with the most recent decorated page.

Nothing stays the same

But, by the time I was fifteen, the onset of a mysterious loss of sight prompted my parents to seek a medical diagnosis. After visiting fifteen ophthalmologists and being persuaded to undergo tedious tests during a prolonged stay in hospital, my parents were eventually dealt the shocking blow – their daughter had an incurable eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). All my young dreams of becoming an artist like my mother, vanished.

It was not the time for drawing but a time for resourcing. I had to adopt new skills in order to function in a sighted classroom. By Year 10 I was using hand-held magnifiers to read textbooks and a tape recorder accompanied me to various lessons. I copied the classroom notes using large pads of writing paper with dark black texta pen in order to make them legible. In the evenings, I spent hours meticulously re-writing the same work as neatly as possible into my homework book for marking the next day.

Sometimes, my mother sat by my side and coloured in those parts of my work I couldn’t see, adding her artistic flair to brighten up the pages as well as lighten our hearts.

Then came the Question...

I remember coming home from secondary school one day when mum presented me with a huge sketch pad. “Look inside,” she smiled, “I’ve been busy all day creating a surprise for you.”

As I turned the pages as cautiously as if opening a precious archive, a series of rectangular boxes with purple circles in different spacings, caught my eye.

“It’s the Braille alphabet,” said my mother in a proud tone. “I’ve copied out all the letters in large format so you can see to learn them.”

I was more taken by the beautiful symmetry of her work, the precise lines, the exact gaps between the boxes, the fullness of the circles in their correct formations, more than I could accept the concept of learning Braille.

Looking back now, I realise that the truth was, I wasn’t ready to accept how different my needs were. I could not embrace this reality, even with my mother’s effort to hold my hand and walk the path of change with me.

Bell and Piluca on an Ocean Liner
As a young teenager looking toward a future, having the Braille alphabet tucked into my school bag was rejected and instead, I took a course in touch-typing with my peers at school.
Fortunately, the typewriter became a dear friend to take notes and it has served me well all throughout my life for writing personal journals, story books for my children, and in later years, adapting to using a computer to create zillions of pages for blogs and short stories.

I am sure my mother would forgive my earlier refusal to learn the art of Braille if she could see the images I endeavour to bring alive through the written word. Whereas once my mother and I shared the pleasures of a visual art form, today, I honour her memory in the words I feel inspired to write.

My mother’s legacy of love and art also lives on – in reflections I see within my children’s eyes, in the creative hands of my daughters Claire and Sharon, in the teaching desire of my son, Russell, and in the recent handiwork of my aspiring teenage carpenter, Michael.

But one heart keeps mum’s flame alight more than any other – her beloved husband, Brian, and I thank my father for reminding me that today, it has been a total of 12,803 days and 8 leap years since mum’s passing.

As I searched for a meaningful quote to end this story, an amazing ‘coincidence’ occurred.
Looking through my file of quotations, I selected the following verse and then I set off to visit my father to share the evening with him. We sat together preparing for a few minutes of silence in front of Mum’s altar and after lighting a candle he unfurled a small poster.

“I found this in an old trunk yesterday,” he said, “I’m not sure where it came from. But I think it is most fitting for the occasion.”

 He read the first two words – and I knew my mother was near. It was the very quote I had chosen to use, from the hundreds of verses in my collection.  With a broad smile on my face and eyes alight, we spoke the last words in unison . The flame of the scented candle flickered as these words warmed our hearts...

“Time is –
Too slow for those who wait
too swift for those who fear
too long for those who grieve
too short for those who rejoice
but for those who love
time is Eternity.”

From a sundial inscription


Amanda Socci said...

Absolutely beautiful. A touching, heart-warming story that is so worth sharing. Thank you for taking the time to describe the memories of your mother so beautifully.

I love how you interweave your language. I had no idea you wrote "zillions" of articles. Research time!

maribel steel said...

Hi Amanda, Your kind words were a ray of sunshine for me today and I truly appreciate your comments on three of my stories. It is so rewarding to know that what comes from the heart can bring pleasure to the lives of others...Many thanks, do visit again, and join me in keeping the world in touch...Maribel