Future Reflections                                                                         Spring/Summer 2003

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My Role Model

by Tracey Westphal

Reprinted from the Fall/Winter 1997, issue of The Sounding Board, a publication of the NFB of New Jersey.

Editor's Note: In the preceding article, we heard kids talk about how they felt about having a blind sibling. In this article, we hear the perspective of a sighted daughter of a blind father. Here is Tracy Westphal:

When I tell people about my dad, Anthony Teunissen, I sometimes forget to mention that he is blind. I tell them he's a long distance runner, a cross-country skier, and someone who loves the outdoors. I tell them he's the only 46-year-old man I know who owns his own snow sled. Then I say, �Oh yeah, and he's blind.�

That's when they inevitably repeat what I've just said. �He's blind?� they ask. I smile and nod. I love to shatter the stereotype of the blind guy who sits around and does nothing. My dad has his master's degree in social work and works with the kids at his church. He is not afraid to try new things. And when he does sit, it is usually with a book-on-tape beside him.

My father is an inspiration. Whenever I am afraid to try something new, I think of his determination. I think of what it must be like to run down a street or sidewalk seeing only light and shadows. My dad may be blind, but he has vision. He has a better outlook on life than many sighted people.

My father's retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is X-linked and passed on from generation to generation. This means I carry a faulty X chromosome in every cell of my body. And while my vision is not affected, my children's vision could be. Any son I have has a fifty-percent chance of developing RP, and when this sobering fact starts to depress me, I think of my dad.

I think of his hugs and the way he tells me I'm beautiful whenever he hears my high-heel shoes click on the floor. I know having RP makes my father's life very challenging, but it is also very fulfilling. And while my dad may never be able to look upon my sons, he will be able to hold their hands, run with them, ski with them, sled with them, and he will love them. And if my sons do inherit RP from me, I cannot think of a better role model for them to look up to, than my dad.

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