Saturday, April 14, 2012
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Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie are engaged. People
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The Carroll Center for the Blind is a magical place. It's my passion to tell people about the special people that I meet here everyday. I came across this beautiful post & I just had to share it. -Geno
Deon Lyons – The Little Wooden Truck
I find that being a grandfather has many special rewards that come with the job. Some of these rewards are priceless, and to never be forgotten. This is a story of one of those rewards.
After my first two week initial assessment period was over at The Carroll Center, I found myself staring at a 6 week independent living program that would help me in my rehabilitation quest to regain as much of my life as possible. I did not like being blind, but I was blind none the less.
The first two weeks of assessment I found were rather easy and somewhat boring. I was put in most of my classes those first two weeks with a woman student from Puerto Rico whom I felt was holding back my progress. I realized later on that it was for the best, as I was taught patience and perseverance through it all.
One of my favorite classes was Manual Arts, or Shop class as we called it. My instructor Bill and I seemed to hit it off from day one. He had a quick sense of humor, and seemed to understand mine as well. The first two weeks of this class were more of an assessment of where I was, and where I had come from. I think that I showed sufficient skills in the tactile puzzles and other information gathering techniques that he threw at me. I liked the class a lot and in those 2 weeks I felt very comfortable with it.
After the 2 week assessment period was up and I started my regular 6 week program, Bill asked me what kind of project I would like to work on. I didn’t have a clue. He told me about some of the projects that the other students had done, and were still working on at that time. The class was all set up with every kind of wood working tool under the sun. Wood lathes, miter saws, drill presses and table saws were just some of the wood working machines that were in the classroom.
I was petrified of the machines and tools. It all seemed impossible to me that I would ever get comfortable enough to use these items.
I was paired in my class with a young man named Brandon. He was from Brooklyn, and he seemed very quiet and conserved. He had been in the class for a month or so before I started, and was working on a wood model of a colonial type house roughly 18 inches square. When I entered the class, he was all done with the first floor of the project, and was starting on the walls of the second floor. It was quite the house, or so it felt. I was left for a day or so not knowing what in heck I wanted to make for a project. I did not want all of the generic ones like some of the students were making. Spice racks and jewelry boxes were all fine and dandy, but I wanted something original that would serve a more unique purpose. I sat in my room one night, I believe it was the second or third night of my program. I had no clue what to make and it was driving me crazy to say the least. All of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head. A rare treat for me in those last few months. I remembered that my wife had told me that my grandson Jack had told her what he wanted for Christmas when she asked him. He had told her that he would like to have a toy truck that could be taken apart and put back together again. This swam around in my head all night. I think I even dreamt of toy trucks that night.
I had shop class the next morning and I entered the classroom whistling. Shop teacher Bill couldn’t help notice my upbeat mood. “Mr. Lyons?” he said as I entered the room. “and are we in a good mood for a reason Mr. Lyons?” I proceeded to tell him about my idea of the toy truck. He paused after I finished, and then went to the other side of the classroom. He returned and placed something on the table in front of me. “Would this be the correct size for the frame Mr. Lyons?” he said. I felt the piece of wood on the table in front of me, smiled and said, “Well yes Mr. Bill, I think it is perfect.” “You know Mr. Lyons; I have always wanted to turn this room into Santa’s workshop. Now looks like the perfect time.” He said. I can imagine that my smile showed my joy and complete satisfaction. Finally I had a goal that made me feel very good. It felt wonderful to have his enthusiasm beside me as we both embarked on the quest. The next week was somewhat confusing as I juggled a couple different ideas in my mind for the blueprint. I just couldn’t get the correct picture in my head as to what I wanted the final product to look like. We did manage to come up with a dual layered frame that would serve as side running boards for the truck, as well as supplying it with a more rigid core structure.
Those next few weeks were proving to be some of the more pertinent learning ones that I have ever gone through in my life. With all of the other classes, such as orientation and mobility, Braille, fencing, communications and personal management, adding into the mix with just trying to find out how to be blind in general, well, it was nerve racking at times. Mr. Bill did manage to show me how to use a few of the machines in the class. I did manage to use a miter saw and still have all 8 of my fingers. Smile. I was nervous as all get out the first time I pulled the handle down on that thing. To tell you the truth, I was a petrified wreck. After a few times down through the cut, it felt good to use it, and I think it helped my confidence greatly. I also learned how to use the drill press, the table saw, and measure with tactile rulers and other special instruments. It all seemed to me to be much more time consuming than the old visual ways, but it was all I had to work with, and I needed to make the best of it. The fall was quickly strolling by as the weeks wound down to the end of the program. I had fallen into a routine at the center and my persistent drive and concentration to learn had impressed some of the staff and the other students. All I knew was that I needed to get the most out of this experience as I could. After all, I was staring at a life of being blind. I was staring it right in the face, and although I couldn’t see it, I knew that it was staring right back at me. The last 2 weeks of classes seemed to be flying by, and my time of being able to work on the truck was nearing the end. I still had a lot of work to do on it, as I continued to be baffled as to the final design. Not being able to see what I was doing, or what I was working on, continued to wear at me. With a lot of help from the instructors, the other students, and with the grace of God, I managed to find my way to my pillow each night. Mr. Bill could see my frustration, and spent some of his spare time working on different solutions and models. We both agreed that a peg and hole structure would probably suit a 5 year old the best. The structure would be easy to take apart and reassemble
The last week was a mad dash for the finish line. I ended up on the day before graduation with an unfinished truck and it was breaking my heart. I had convinced myself that if I couldn’t finish it at the center, there was just no way I would ever finish it back home on my own. No way imaginable. On that morning, I sat on the edge of my bed in my dorm room, wondering how or what I was going to do. I was staring an unfinished truck right in the face. As I sat, I prayed for God to guide me through the day and to give me strength to handle whatever He had in store for me. On the day before graduation, that morning I had shop class early during second period. As the bell sounded, ending first period, I smacked my way down the stairs of the main building with my cane, to the manual arts classroom. I spent most of the class in torment as the progress just didn’t match the structure of time that we had left. During the class, I was trying to install the dowel housings for the wheel axles. This required drilling the holes, and then screwing the housings into the underside of the frame. There were four of them, and before I had finished, I had snapped, split, or totally destroyed a few more than four. Shop teacher Bill kept placing new ones in front of me as soon as I started swearing. I think he had made a bushel of them ahead of time, anticipating the difficulty that lay ahead of me. Before the class ended, I had managed to install the four housings, and even though I still had a severely unfinished truck, it did feel rather good. I heard the bell signaling the end of the class, and almost started crying. I frantically grabbed my bag and my cane and started heading out the door, and towards my next class. Bill asked me where in Sam Hill I thought I was going. I returned to my chair at the table. I told him how much I appreciated his help with the truck, and he said, “But Mr. Lyons, we’re not finished yet.” I asked him what he meant, and he told me that he had the afternoon off after 3pm and wanted to know if I would meet him in class to try and finish the truck. I almost kissed him. If I could have seen him to grab hold of him, I would have. The hop was back in my step. The whistle, back in my tune.
I had been told by some of the other students about their finished products and they all seemed really happy and proud of their accomplishments. I wanted some of that. I wanted some of that feeling in the worst way. That afternoon I arrived at the shop at just a little before 3. Other than breaking for supper from 5 to 5:20, we were in the classroom until after 9pm. There were a couple other students that were finishing up their projects, but they were all done by just after supper. Bill stayed with me in the wood shop and helped me finish the truck that night. It was one of the best times I have ever had with anyone. Bill Reynolds is a complete instructor extraordinaire. He has a way of bringing out the best in anyone with his quick wit, his soothing demeanor, as well as his comforting attitude. I could go on and on, but if he ever reads this, I don’t want it to go to his head. After we finished the truck, all I could do was just hold it. I didn’t want to let it go. It was perfect in every way. From the wooden tires to the wooden dowel axles, to the peg and hole side boards for the body and the cab. It was absolutely simply perfect, right down to the wooden engine block that was attached to the frame with two pegs. I wanted to sleep with it, eat with it, take a shower with it and walk out onto the sidewalks of Center Street and hold it up for all the passerby’s to see. It was part of me. It was a representation of the past six weeks. It was my first stab at full independence, and it felt wonderful. I shook his hand and thanked him roughly 142 times before I left the shop and returned to the dorm for the night. I did show a few people who were still in the living area when I returned. They all were wondering what had happened to me. I was rarely seen out of my normal routines.
That night in my room I kept reaching out towards the desk beside my bed to touch the truck. I just had to keep reminding myself that it was actually there in my room, finished. It just didn’t seem real yet. It just didn’t seem possible that it was in my room, completely finished. As I lay in bed, I realized that god had put the solutions to my problem in front of me throughout the day. It was up to me though, to do the work myself. I felt completely exhausted, but the electricity was still churning through my veins. I dreamt of wooden toy factories that night, and of the head toy maker in charge. He looked dramatically similar to my shop teacher, even though I had no clue what Bill looked like. I could picture him in my mind, and in my dream.
The next morning was graduation day. I had finished the program with out many hitches, aside from the truck and my mobility classes. It felt somewhat similar to the last day of school from my younger days. My son Matt was making the three and a half hour trip from Maine to pick me up and take me home. He was going to try and get to the graduation in time so he could film the ceremony. He did get there just in time, and he did get to film the ceremony and take some pictures of it all. We were introduced one by one to go to the podium at the front of the room to receive our certificates of graduation at the ceremony. We were also supposed to say a little something about our time at the Center and what our future may hold. I never have been one to relish in the thought of speaking in front of a room full of people. I really didn’t have as much of an anxious attack as I thought I would, and it went ok. I spoke of the center, and the appreciation I had for my instructors and the overall staff. I told them of having hated the thought of needing to go to the center, and how blind it made me feel. Blind and helpless and scared and all of the other emotions and feelings that had come cascading down on me those first few months. I told the audience that although I hated having to come to Newton Mass, I was completely grateful that there was such a fine facility, such as the Carroll Center, for individuals such as myself to come to. I also spoke of the friendships and wonderful relationships that I had been able to form with my fellow students. The bond that was made between us was a wonderful gift that would surely stand the test of time.
After I spoke and received my certificate, I started returning to my seat, and was held up by Mike Festa, the President of The Carroll Center. He told me that he would like for me to return to the podium and tell the story of my toy truck to the audience. I was caught off guard, but returned to the podium along side him. He went to the table where the manual arts projects were on display, and grabbed the truck and brought it back and handed it to me. “Tell everyone the story of this truck if you please Mr. Lyons.” He said to me. I then told the audience of the story of a four year old boy in Central Maine who had told his grandmother that he wanted a toy truck for Christmas. This wasn’t just any ordinary wooden toy truck though. This was a truck that could be taken apart and reassembled again. The room got all quiet as I spoke and I could picture Jacks face in my mind as I told the story. I got a warm feeling all over and got all choked up while talking. I felt good, but I felt a little strange also. I wondered why they had chosen me to tell my story, and none of the other students were asked to tell theirs. I was told by someone later on that the reason was because my story was so wonderfully simple and unique and warm and full of love and family and a whole bunch of other pure emotions. It was just simply a good hearted happy tale that everyone could relate to and feel good about. I know that no one felt as good as me. No one. After the ceremony, there were pictures taken, and hugs all around. My son took some pictures of me with my fellow students and instructors. A lot of the people at the ceremony were coming up to us and asking if they could have a picture with me and the truck. That felt wonderful. It was truly an uplifting event that I will not forget soon.
Well the trip home with my son signified the start of the rest of my life. I had completed a very hard program and was returning home a winner. It was decided that my Grandson Jack would not get his truck until Christmas. Those few weeks leading up to the holiday were very hard for me. Every time I saw him I wanted to give him the truck in the worse way. I wanted to give it to him the first time I saw him, but I knew it would be better served as it was originally intended for. It was unbelievably hard to hold back my pride and joy from reaching its destination. I did it though, and I was glad. Christmas day came, and Jack received his present that his Nunno made for him. His grandmother Nunna said that he could not take his eyes off of it for a second as soon as he saw it. I showed him how to take it apart on the kitchen table, and within 10 minutes he had taken it apart and put it back together all by himself. I felt so good hearing him tearing it down to the frame. He was mesmerized by the truck, As I was by the experience.
That truly was one of the best memories I will ever have around the holidays. The only other one that comes close is when I stayed up until 3:30 am on a Christmas morning back in 1988, putting together a Lego bulldozer for my son Matt, only to have him get up at 5 and take all of the four hundred and thirty seven million pieces completely apart by 5:10. That was priceless, as was this. My wife and I went to visit Jack and his dad at their home outside of Augusta in early spring 2010. We arrived at breakfast on a perfect day. All the way through breakfast, Jack kept asking me if I wanted to go up to his room after and play toys. I agreed. That was usually the best part of our visits. I loved lying on the floor and playing our favorites, which usually were army men, or dinosaurs. That day was a little different. After breakfast, he grabbed my hand and led me upstairs to his room. Upon entering his room, I assumed the position, on the floor as usual. He asked me what I wanted to play with. I told him it was up to him. He said trucks, and I agreed. I asked him what his favorite truck was. There was a long pause. I could hear something moving very slowly across the floor towards me. I felt a gentle nudge on my arm. I reached with my hand and felt what it was. It was his wooden toy truck that I had made him. I could tell he was smiling as I started to cry. He asked if I was ok. I told him I was just very happy and that I was smiling way down deep inside. He told me he was happy too. It was a perfect moment to a perfect day. One that I will never forget. One that I will treasure forever. One that I hope he tells his own grandson one day, as he hands him the little wooden truck. The End
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Thursday, April 12, 2012
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
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Betty's co-star Valerie Bertinelli just tweeted: Just spoke with Betty and she is VERY upset! @BettyMWhite is NOT her. Don't know how they got verified, but it is not Betty. Please RT! https://twitter.com/#!/Wolfiesmom/status/190140855208787968
It seems as if the account is "real", although poor Betty had no idea it was opened for her!!
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