Future Reflections March/ April 1983, Vol. 2 No. 2

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By Gary Wunder

My earliest memories of home life revolve around two very different characters -- good mom and terrible dad. I can remember waiting in bed for dad to leave and sometimes going to bed before he got home. His working hours were good in this respect as starting his business required him to leave at six in the morning, returning home between eight and nine at night.

It is probably accurate to say that the first few years of my life were spent hating my father. It was only after I came to love and respect both of my parents that I could look back and understand what caused such feelings.

The fact that I was blind made others try to protect me from everything. This provides the perfect situation for children to manipulate adults, and I certainly did my share. Not only was I overprotected, but in fact, I was spoiled. My father was the only exception to this rule, and I simply could not understand why he treated me so differently.

As I grew, I found myself wanting to do more and more. First there was the bicycle which I was certain I could master. Other relatives were skeptical of a blind person riding a bike, but strangely enough, my father was supportive. The same scene was repeated over and over again as I desired to do new things. Even my father must have been a bit shocked when he came home with a motorcycle to repair and sell, only to find I had claimed it as my own.

As I grew older, I began to see that my opportunities to do and try new things sprang from my father's willingness to trust my good sense and judgement. I also began to see that my expanded opportunities came at a cost of respect and good will, and my father was the one paying that bill. Sometimes he was called careless, and sometimes his own father referred to him as "stupid." Even so, he continued to believe he was raising a normal capable son, and he was determined that his son have every opportunity to grow.

At our editor's suggestion, I decided to pose some questions to my father. Below are some of the things I asked, along with my comments.

Gary: What did you think when they told you I was blind?
Father: I knew they switched kids! Your mother cried and was very upset, but I just didn't have any feelings at the time. I just figured we'd make it all right.

Gary: What did you do for me that was different than with my brothers and sisters?
Father: Well, we just let our sighted kids go, and treated you the same. When your blind kid is seventeen months old and you whip him though, everybody says you are a ..., well, they all said I was mean.

Gary: Mean may be an understatement when you consider that one of your friends threatened to put knots on your head if you ever whipped me again!

Gary: Did you have any particular worries or expectations about me?
Father: Well, we figured we'd have you around longer than any of the rest of them (my two younger brothers and a sister). You're on your own, but we still can't get rid of them. I always wanted you to be a lawyer.

Gary: Did you and mom ever have any conflicts about me?
Father: Yes, she thought you never lied.

Gary: I remember well the first time you and mom caught me in a lie. We lived in a house with a sliding door made of glass. When the door was shut no sound could come through. I was on the patio and decided to break some soda bottles on the concrete. After breaking a few, the sliding door opened, and I was asked if I was breaking bottles. Knowing that they could not possibly hear my activity, I said, "No." This is my first recollection of thinking that they must have some special way of knowing things. If I couldn't hear them through that door, how in the world could they know what I was doing? My mother recalls saying, "I thought you couldn't tell a lie," and remembers me saying, "Well, now you know." It was you, always in character, who administered the discipline.

Gary: What advice would you give to parents who have just discovered they have a blind child?
Father: Give him back! Actually, I would say the most important thing is for the parents not to treat their children like they are handicapped. I honestly don't feel its a handicap with everything you have done. You've just lived with it.

Gary: If you had it to do over again, what would you have done differently?
Father: Oh, I really can't think of anything. We're satisfied with the product.

Many of our readers may remember Gary Wunder from his article, "The Joy of Summer," from the April, 1982 issue of Future Reflections. Gary is very active in the National Federation of the Blind and is the immediate past president of the NFB Missouri affiliate. He is a Senior Analyst Programmer and supervisor at the University of Missouri Hospital Recently, he was given the Employee of the Year Award from the university. This is quite an honor in a system that employs about 5,000 people. Gary is not yet a father, but he assures me that he and his wife, Ruthanne, are "working on it."

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