I am from a family of eight. I have four brothers and three sisters, and I am next to the youngest. From an early age I knew that I wanted to have a wife and children. I knew, however, that I did not want nearly as many children as my own parents had, but then most people don’t. While growing up, I didn’t know many blind parents. In the instances where I knew of a blind parent, the other parent was sighted. So I questioned whether I would be able to raise children.
In my freshman year of college, I found the National Federation of the Blind. I met a blind father with a sighted spouse. I met a blind mother with a sighted husband. I met blind couples who were successfully raising children, but above all I met blind and sighted people who expected more of me than I expected of myself. The members of the National Federation of the Blind made it clear to me that, if I couldn’t live the life I wanted, including having children, it wouldn’t be because of blindness.
My older son was born in July of 1995. Some of my younger sister’s friends commented that it was too bad that I would never be able to see him. I said that I would love him and care for him and be the best dad that I could be for him. Some of those same people had children whose fathers were not a part of their lives.
Sometimes I wondered how different my children’s lives would have been if I had not been blind. But that kind of thinking didn’t last very long. I quickly asked how different my life would have been if my own father had not been forty-three when I was born. What if my father had been a scientist and not a construction worker? That kind of thinking didn’t last very long either. My father was who he was, and I loved him. He provided a good life for all of us. I have family memories which I will treasure for the rest of my life, including many happy memories with my dad.
Blindness is just one of the many characteristics I possess. My children had responsibilities around the house, but so did my brothers and sisters. I worked to be sure that my boys could participate in the activities they wanted to be a part of. Sometimes this meant arranging transportation, and other times it meant making sure I had the money to buy the equipment or supplies they needed.
Occasionally I would use blindness as a teaching tool. One evening, when my boys were quite young, they wanted to go to Burger King. After getting off of the city bus, they said, “Daddy, we need to go this way.”
I said, “No, Burger King is the other way.” They both insisted I was wrong.
After walking for a while, they said we needed to turn around. But, when they finally saw Burger King, they were both very happy. I said, “That should teach you that you need to listen to your dad.”
My oldest son John, (named after my father) will soon finish a four year stent in the United States Marine Corps. He became a Marine through his own hard work, but I helped him get there.
Lucas Just graduated from high school and has been working for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired for the last six months. I am proud of both of my boys.
Blindness did not stop me from being a dad, and it won’t stop you either if you don’t allow it to do so. The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.